information and education

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Earlier this year, the MWSN submitted a written brief to a House of Commons committee regarding the federal government’s review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

The brief discussed our concerns on the structure of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, the precarious position it places migrant workers in, and has a series of recommendations that would help to improve the rights, health, and status of migrant workers across Canada.

You can read our written brief to the review here.

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.”

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.

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.

El Contrato, the documentary that follows a group of Mexican migrant farm workers as they travel to Canada to work in the  Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) in Ontario,  is available online courtesy of the National Film Board (NFB). You can watch it for free here – anyone interested in migrant farmworker issues should definitely give this one a look, as it opens the lid on the lives and working conditions of some of the workers who pick the food we eat.

Mud and Water Radio, a local radio show, recently ran two interviews on migrant worker issues. You can find both interviews online at their website, or click on the links below.

 

Gustavo Mejicanos of the Agricultural Workers Alliance on labour issues for Manitoba farm workers. Download

Thomas Novak of St. Ignatius church on Canada’s temporary foreign worker programs. Download

Thanks very much to Mud and Water Radio for airing these important interviews! Mud and Water Radio runs weekly and broadcasts about current affairs and the arts. You can listen in on Mondays at 5:30 pm CST on CKUW 95.9 FM, or download their interviews off their website – there’s lots of other interesting interviews to listen to. The radio program is run by folks behind the Mud and Water online magazine.