Monday, March 14, 2016

About 17,000 seasonal workers coming this year

Approximately 17,000 seasonal workers from Mexico, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad-Tobago and the Eastern Caribbean States are expected to be placed at Ontario fruit and vegetable farms this season, says Ken Forth, president of the Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services.

They will work at about 1,450 farms where the owners have been unable to find Canadians to do the work.

I find this hard to believe, especially given the recent arrival of 25,000 refugees from Syria. But, then again, the Syrians have choices about where they will work; those brought in under the seasonal worker program have only one choice - to stay and work, or be shipped back home. They cannot change employers.

It is, to my mind, close to slavery. Most - but probably not all - of the farmers treat their workers well. 

If they are good enough to work here, they should be good enough to be allowed to be landed immigrants and then Canadian citizens. My father came to Canada in 1928 under a farm worker program. The farmer paid his passage from Germany and he, in return, worked for a year at half wages.
This is the 50th anniversary of the Seasonal Foreign Workers Program that the federal government began in 1966 with 263 workers from Jamaica.

“We’re extremely proud that we’ve been able to help our horticultural industry thrive and grow over the past half century,” says Forth.

“Ontario produces some of the highest quality fruits and vegetables in the world. Without the supplemental labour they hire through SAWP, many of our growers just wouldn’t be able stay viable.”

The program provides Ontario farmers a steady source of reliable, skilled and professional labour, says F.A.R.M.S.

“At the same time, the program has given seasonal agricultural workers employment, benefits and educational opportunities not available to them at home.”