The recent public debate over ketchup sold in Canada – and whether the tomatoes used are grown here as well – garnered several headlines earlier this year. Most of the discussion revolved around where those tomatoes were grown, not who was doing the labour required to harvest them, and this article from Maclean’s pulls back the curtain on the issue:

So began the ketchup wars—with Leamington as ground zero, ripe with national pride. It didn’t quite matter that Heinz, cast as the bad guy, remains a huge part of the community, purchasing loads of tomatoes from its old plant (to be used in juices and other products, though not ketchup). Or that good-guy French’s, a U.S. firm, ships a lot of those Ontario tomatoes to Ohio for ketchup production. In the eyes of many, buying Heinz was suddenly akin to treason.

Min Sook Lee read all those headlines in February and March. A documentary filmmaker, she had been busy chronicling another side of the ketchup frenzy, an angle nobody bothered to mention: the migrant, temporary labourers—thousands of them—who toil in the vast greenhouses and sprawling farmers’ fields of Leamington, picking and packaging the vegetables we eat every day, tomatoes included. “I am keenly aware of how Leamington has been drumming up a lot of nationalist fervour,” Lee says. “I think that myopia has to be interrupted.”

poster_harvesting_freedom_J4MW_january2016_MWSN is proud to support Harvesting Freedom, a campaign from Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW). It includes a call on the Canadian government to finally allow migrant farm workers in Canada to access Permanent Immigration Status. From the campaign’s website:

The Campaign starts in January of the 50th year of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers program and will include a Pilgrimage from Leamington to Ottawa in time for Thanksgiving season on October 2nd and 3rd, 2016. The Pilgrimage will highlight the reliance on farm workers across its route as it crosses Southern Ontario and will culminate with a clear message to the Federal Government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: Justice is 50 years overdue.

The campaign was launched January 25, 2016 in Ottawa with a group of farmworkers hand-delivering Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a giant 50th Anniversary party invitation. The Prime Minister is hereby invited to RSVP and bring justice to the thousands of farmworkers who have put food on Canada’s tables for the last 50 years without any chance to lay roots in the country. Justicia for Migrant Workers and the Harvesting Freedom Campaign will be organizing a series of actions throughout the year to raise awareness and put pressure for the government of Canada to do what’s right.

They are calling for support via a petition and donations; we encourage you to check out their website and support this important campaign.

 

December 18 was International Migrants Day – the Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada (CMWRC) posted this message in commemoration of the day:

The whole world celebrates International Migrants Day today. 25 years ago, on December 18, 1990, the United Nations General Assembly signed and adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

Today, exactly 25 years later Canada, an active recruiter of migrant workers, has still not signed this covenant. As of 2013, there were over 176, 613 temporary foreign workers; 284, 050 international mobility program workers, and hundreds of thousands of migrants on other work permits living and working here precariously. On this day, and every day, we call upon the new Federal government to address the core issues that migrant workers face. It is time for Mobility, Voice and Equality for Migrant Workers.

You can read their entire statement here.

If you were at the Osborne Village Canada Day celebrations, you might have seen members of the MWSN – we were distributing a short quiz in conjunction with Migrante Manitoba that managed to get some much-needed media attention on Canada’s unfair immigration system.

From the article:

“People used to come here with nothing and be willing to work very hard and they’d prosper, and their children would get an education and make huge contributions to society,” said Thomas Novak with the Migrant Worker Solidarity Network in Winnipeg.

Members of the group advocating for temporary foreign workers and Migrante Manitoba were in Osborne Village on Canada Day quizzing passersby to see if their ancestors would be allowed into Canada today.

Of the dozens who took the test early in the afternoon, only two had ancestors who would now be eligible, Novak said.

“Today, they can only come as temporary workers. We separate them from their families for two years then send them back….

“If they’re good enough to work here, they’re good enough to live here,” he said.

MWSN Immigration Quiz 2014_Page_1Take the quiz!

Want to find out if your ancestor would currently be eligible to immigrate to Canada? You can download and complete the quiz yourself and find out if your ancestor would be eligible to immigrate to Canada using today’s rules.

You can download the quiz here.

Photos from the Canada Challenge

Check out some of our fantastic participants below!

 

The Canadian Council of Refugees released a series of report cards in May summarizing and evaluating the approaches of the provincial and federal governments on protecting the rights of migrant workers in the “low-skilled” streams of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Province by province, they examine progress in introducing protections and supports for migrant workers.

The entire report can be found here on their website, and the Manitoba-specific section can be found here. Note that the report cards were produced prior to the announcement that the provincial government would expand provincial health-care coverage to include workers in the province through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

The Migrant Worker Solidarity Network is happy to have been able to contribute to the report.

Migrant-Voices-Release-1

Migrant-Voices-Release-3The Migrant Worker Solidarity Network released our report, Migrant Voices: Stories of Seasonal Agricultural Workers in Manitoba, in May of 2013. This report, done in conjunction with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, was successful almost before it was even launched – at the official release, provincial Immigration Minister Christine Melnick announced that the government was going to extend provincial health care benefits to all workers coming to Canada as part of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP).

Migrant-Voices-Release-5Migrant-Voices-Release-2Needless to say, the Migrant Worker Solidarity Network is very pleased at this development, and applauds the governments support for migrant workers in this province.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Migrant Worker Solidarity Network and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Manitoba are proud to release Migrant Voices: Stories of Seasonal Agricultural Workers in Manitoba. The report was released today, May 15th, at an event at the Manitoba Legislative building.

Migrant Voices is based on interviews conducted with migrant farm workers in Manitoba during the summer of 2011. About 400 workers come to Manitoba every year, mostly from Mexico, to plant and harvest much of the produce grown in Manitoba.

You can download a copy of the report here.

Public launch of Migrant VoicesThe MWSN, in collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Manitoba, will be launching a report on May 15th, 2013.

Come to this event to hear about the experience of migrant farm workers in their own words. Learn about our recommendations on how to improve the conditions of these workers, including a call on the Manitoba government to provide public health care for seasonal agricultural workers during the period they are working in Manitoba.

“Migrant Voices” is based on interviews conducted with migrant farm workers in Manitoba during the summer of 2011. About 400 workers come to Manitoba every year, mostly from Mexico, to plant and harvest much of the produce grown in Manitoba.

You can download a PDF of the event poster by clicking on the image to the left – please distribute the poster within your networks as you see fit.

For more information, please contact us at info@mwsn.ca.

mexican_migrant_farm_workers_event_march_5_2013

Mexican Migrant Farm Workers – Their Role in the Manitoba Economy

A presentation by:

Lynne Fernandez
Errol Black Chair in Labour Issues

Jodi Read
Migrant Worker Solidarity Network

Tuesday March 5
1PM – 2.15PM Tier 307

Organized by:
The Dept. of French, Spanish & Italian
Labour Studies Program

For more information:
204-474-9313 or
enrique_fernandez@umanitoba.ca

Jodi from the MWSN was quoted in the Winnipeg Free Press in this article:

Migrant workers ‘invisible’

WCB doesn’t track injuries by nationality

Saying goodbye to two young children and leaving to work in a foreign country for six months isn’t something most Canadians have to do.

Explaining to your spouse and children that as much as you’d love for them to join you, strict immigration laws ensure they probably never will, is also something most Canadians avoid.

This is the reality migrant farm worker 44-year-old Luis Galvain faces each year.

Jody Read, a member of the Migrant Worker Solidarity Network, said some workers are paid for the amount of vegetables they pick, instead of an hourly wage.

Last summer, she said one migrant farm worker had his hours cut and was suspended for two days after he told the farm’s management workers could not meet the quota of vegetables and were making less than minimum wage.

“Migrant farm workers are invisible and get treated as such,” Read said.

You can read the full article here.

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