The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) released a report today that paints a troubling picture of life for the workers on Canada’s farms. The report was compiled from complaints made on behalf over a thousand migrant workers.
The report provides a snapshot of farms with large COVID-19 outbreaks, the largest of which is Scotlynn Farms in Ontario. The report details squalid and crowded living conditions, lack of sanitation, wage theft, surveillance and intimidation of workers. Matters were exacerbated with the Covid crisis. Edgar, who works at Scotlynn, and is currently in a hotel with workers who have tested positive spoke at the press conference launching the report. He said, “They treat us like robots. They only care about the work we do and the money they make because of our labour. Scotlynn Farms is saying that they took care of us, but when the first worker fell sick here, they didn’t do anything. We workers got together and called the ambulance.
“The federal government has given nearly a billion dollars to agri-food businesses, while migrants who actually grow the food are falling sick and dying,” says Sonia Aviles, an MWAC organizer who staffs one of the hotlines where the complaints were made. The money was supposed to be used to cover migrant’s wages while they were in mandatory 14-day isolation on arrival in Canada. The report alleges workers in some cases didn’t see the money. One of the key demands by the workers is to be given permanent residence status so they can pursue their legal claims.
Migrant workers accounted for 41.6% of all agricultural workers in Ontario, and over 30% of the agricultural workers in Quebec, British Columbia and Nova Scotia in 2017. Asked about the report at his daily news conference, Prime Minister Trudeau said, “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says migrant workers play a crucial role in Canada’s food sectors and the government must do more to protect them.”
The full report is here.