“‘Migrant Dreams’ broken as workers face exploitation on Ontario farms” (CBC The Current, Apr. 28, 2016)
In her documentary to be premiered Sunday (May Day – International Workers Day) at the Hot Docs Festival local film-maker Min Sook Lee follows a group of seasonal migrant workers in Leamington, southwestern Ontario, who end up indebted to their recruiters and unable to claim labour rights – including a safe working environment – from their employers. Interviewer Anna Maria Tremonti discusses the stories of these Indonesian and Jamaican farmworkers, as well as the social and political issues raised, with the director of “Migrant Dreams” and Evelyn Encalada Grez, community worker with Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW).
Min Sook Lee directed also the award-winning 2003 documentary El Contrato on a poverty-stricken father from Central Mexico, along with several of his countrymen, as they make their annual migration to southern Ontario to pick tomatoes in working conditions no local would accept.
While there has been considerable debate in recent years about reforming the temporary foreign worker programs because of perceived impacts on Canadian workers, campaigns by many groups including the Coalition for Migrant worker Rights Canada [see their Mar. 2016 open letter] stress such reviews must address the rights, social conditions and labour protections of migrant workers themselves and put their voices at the centre. The need for labour protection was highlighted again this March in the discrimination complaint against the WSIB launched by injured worker Robert Sulph at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
- UFCW Canada and the Agriculture Workers’ Alliance (AWA). 2015 Oct. The Status of Migrant Farm Workers in Canada
- Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. 2015 Oct. Migrant Workers & Ontario: Briefing Note for Members of Provincial Parliament (The Changing Workplaces Review)
- Hennebry, Jenna L. & Gabriel Williams. 2015 Apr. “Making Vulnerability Visible: Medical Repatriation and Canada’s Migrant Agricultural Workers” CMAJ 187(6): 391-392
- Migrant Worker Health Project (website). Background on Migrant Farm Workers in Ontario