Toronto – May 9, 2022 – The latest research findings from Pro Bono Student Canada (PBSC) at Osgoode Hall Law School, in partnership with UFCW Canada, reveals how the lack of effective union representation continues to leave migrant agricultural workers in Canada vulnerable to exploitation.
The report follows a scathing rebuke by Canada’s Auditor General, who found glaring holes in the country’s enforcement regime, which is tasked with keeping migrant workers and the Canadian public safe.
In the report prepared by PBSC, Osgoode Hall Law School students found ways the agricultural industry stacks the deck in their favour, while workers and their advocates are left sidelined. The report details ways in which the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) is negotiated between sending nations and Canada, who is almost exclusively represented by the Canadian Horticulture Council (CHC).
The influence of the CHC cannot be understated in the development of the SAWP, as they essentially represent the interests of the Government of Canada when negotiating the program. Much of the vulnerability migrant workers experience can be traced back to the lack of representation in these negotiations, as the outcome is a reflection of discussions between the governments of sending nations and the CHC.
The report concludes with recommendations that will see unions and advocates represent the interests of migrant workers in these negotiations instead of the lopsided arrangements that exclusively favours industry. The report also highlights some provincial and international models that if applied federally can reduce the power imbalance that continues to leave migrant workers vulnerable. To read the full report, click here.
For three decades, UFCW Canada has worked in collaboration with the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA) to lead the fight for migrant workers’ rights in all sectors. To learn more about this advocacy and the reforms that are urgently needed, see UFCW Canada's report, The Status of Migrant Farm Workers in Canada, 2022.