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What is Canada doing to fruitpickers?
A JAMAICAN agriculture worker has died on a farm in Canada, months after workers complained about the poor working conditions.
The news raises fears about the dangers faced by Caribbean migrant fruit and vegetable-pickers workers on UK farms following an investigation by The Voice into strawberry slavery.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Security confirmed the death of the 32-year-old at a farm in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada. On May 26. According to a report, the death was due to natural causes.
However, injuries suffered by Caribbean migrant labour have been recorded before, in Canada and the UK.
In March, another Jamaican seasonal farm worker died after collapsing at a farm in Canada.
Roy Walker, 68, left Jamaica on march 17 for his annual trip to work on Sheridan Farm, but less than a week later he died.
Workers who have spoken out, say their experiences on the farms are similar to systematic slavery or that they are treated like mules.
Best country in the world
Since its founding, Canada has relied heavily on racialized and gender-segmented workforces to fulfil labour needs in core sectors of economic production. Today, the agricultural sector is one of the industries in which this pattern can be seen most clearly. Under the so-called Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), Canada employs tens of thousands of workers from Mexico and the Caribbean annually on farms and other agri-food production sites.
But despite their decades of contribution to the Canadian food system, workers under this programme are kept in a state of precarity by a policy framework that denies them basic labour protections, prevents them from settling permanently in Canada, and keeps them dependent on the goodwill of their employers. These characteristics are what have led many academics and rights groups to compare this labour model to a modern form of indentureship.
The SAWP has its origins in the Commonwealth Caribbean Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, which was created in 1966 in response to demands from Canadian fruit and vegetable growers who were facing a shortage of Canadian workers willing to provide low-wage manual farm labour. The programme started with 263 workers from Jamaica, and has since expanded to include Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico and eight eastern Caribbean countries. Today, around 60,000 workers come to Canada every year through the programme, as well as through the agricultural stream of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP).
Modern day slavery?
Massa is good people .... come in Canadian handles
In August 2022, two Jamaicans employed under the program drew international attention after they emailed Karl Samuda, Jamaican minister of labour and social security, described the program as systematic slavery and made allegations of abuse.
Why it matters: Two Jamaican workers affiliated with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change alleged they were treated like mules and punished for not working fast enough on two Ontario farms.
From our own assessment, we were able to observe a deep sense of pride and fulfilment among the vast majority of farm workers, the independent task force report reads. There is no evidence to bear out the claim that the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) is akin to systematic slavery.
Bill George, labour committee chair for the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, welcomed completion of the Jamaican governments fact-finding report.
We recognize there is always more that can be done to ensure all workers have the opportunity for a positive and safe working experience while they help our farms grow fruits and vegetables for the Canadian public, said George.
However, the report clearly shows that (sic) can be done with specific targeted measures rather than assigning hateful and broad labels to all the hardworking farmers and their employees in the program.
Not so fast they say
The report concluded there is clearly no evidence to support the assertion that the conditions are similar to systematic slavery.
However, members of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change claim the report doesnt include all of the facts.
The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change hosted two online meetings for the fact-finding team where over 300 workers participated including farmworkers from at least seven fruit farms in the Niagara Region, Kit Andres, an organizer with the group in the Niagara Region, said in an email to The Lake Report.
The two meetings were held in September and October and five members of the fact-finding team were present at the October meeting.
In these meetings, Jamaican farm workers unanimously condemned their mistreatment and demanded change, Andres said.
Workers described being treated poorly by bosses, living in rat- and cockroach-infested houses and being afraid to speak to their employer.
Very sad- explains the man with the wood deck
King fruitpicker any comment?
Take the fruitpickers to toronto carnival
Sarge and narper in love?
The basic premise of the fruitpicker programme is racist
In the 1960s, Canadian immigration officers who interviewed applicants for temporary work visas to Canada still described Negro males from the Caribbean as childlike, indolent, lazy and stupid (Satzewich 1991: 136), while Caribbean women were depicted as immoral and sexually promiscuous. In addition, Caribbean workers were seen as biologically unsuited for Canadas cold climate and as contributing to racial tensions in Canadas rural communities. For these reasons, they were invited only as temporary workers, under strict mobility constraints, rather than as permanent immigrants and future Canadians
Bauder, H. (2007). What a difference citizenship makes! Migrant workers in rural Ontario. Our Diverse Cities, 4, 95-98.
They should teach them to speak and write
A fruitpicker is not an engineer
He claims he knows AE (Archie) Hamielec from McMaster Chemical Engineering and worked with him scaling up a process plant in China. Archie had two sabbaticals- one to Russia then to China- he spent too much time analyzing communism. After 70s the man was a shell of himself
Here is his CV put together by McMaster staff.
This man is a fraud
He is lying again