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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.”

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!

 

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.

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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.

Many migrant farm workers in Manitoba are working directly in the path of the floodwaters in Manitoba, and have had their livelihoods harmed by the flood as much as any other resident of the area. Since the money these workers make goes home to their economically-depressed countries of origin to help support their families, the flood probably has a greater negative impact on these workers than on the average Canadian.

The Winnipeg Free Press recently ran an article on the impact of the flood on migrant workers in the province; Jennifer deGroot, a member of the Migrant Worker Solidarity Network, had her letter to the editor published as Letter of the Day in the Winnipeg Free Press about the challenges these workers face in Canada and the need for them to be covered by any provincial flood compensation scheme. You can find the text of the letter below. Read the rest of this entry »

CBC News is reporting that the UFCW is presenting allegations that the Mexican consulate in Vancouver collaborated with employers in union-busting. Based on leaked documents from the consular office, it appears the consulate blocked pro-union migrant workers from returning to Canada for this growing season and has been threatening workers with deportation if they join a union.

From the CBC.ca article:

A Canadian union accuses Mexican consular officials in Vancouver of blacklisting and harassing Mexican farm workers who voted in favour of forming a union at two Surrey, B.C., farms.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union told a Vancouver news conference Tuesday it has filed complaints about the alleged activities with the B.C. Labour Relations Board.

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From the April 19th Winnipeg Free Press, a news article about the health risks faced by migrant farm workers in Canada.

UPDATE: You can find more information about the report in this news article at ScienceDaily; the UFCW has also issued a press release on these reports.

From the WFP/Canadian Press article:

Many migrant farm workers who come to Canada every year are not given proper safety training, live in hot and cramped quarters, have no access to clean water and see their health suffer as a result, say two new research papers.

Researchers found that many workers from Mexico, Jamaica, the Philippines and other countries develop ailments linked to the gruelling work they do on Canadian farms, largely in British Columbia and Ontario.

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