Students host Migrant Farm Worker Awareness Week

Published March 26, 2012

Ripe for the picking. The migrant workers who harvest our agricultural crops are frequently exploited. Photo: David Luther Thomas

Got food? Thank a Farm Worker! And next week, which is Migrant Farm Worker Awareness Week 2012, is a good time to do it. A series of public education events will take place at Ontario’s University of Guelph, March 26th to 29th, but there are ongoing campaigns to get involved in (go to: or

Organized by Guelph students in their final year of sociology and international development studies, the promotion aims to increase awareness of the men and women who grow and harvest our food, as well as their adverse working and living conditions.

The event is being launched in partnership with the U.S-based Agriculture Workers Alliance and Students Against Migrant Exploitation, and runs in conjunction with more than 100 events in the U.S. as part of National Farmworker Awareness Week.

Through art, film and panel discussion, the students hope to shed light on the workers’ struggles to secure just living and working conditions and fair treatment under the law.

Many of them seasonal workers from other countries, these casual labourers are often invisible-until they fall casualty to some tragic accident. Last month, for example, 10 migrant workers from Peru lost their lives when the 15-seat van in which they were being transported collided with a truck, whose driver also died. The driver of the migrants’ van was not licensed to operate such a large vehicle. In 2010, two Jamaican migrant workers died after exposure to toxic fumes on an Ontario farm.

These casual labourers typically enter Canada from Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America for up to eight months at a time under the federal Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program. They face social isolation, tough working conditions, poor food and accommodation, restricted access to health care and little legal protection.

“We are so pleased to partner with the University of Guelph to raise awareness among students and the general community about farm workers’ crucial role in food production and their struggle to secure basic human and labour rights in Canada,” says Stan Raper, Canadian coordinator for the Agriculture Workers Alliance.

The Guelph awareness week will feature the Canadian premiere of Eva (Desperate Housewives) Longoria’s film The Harvest, a compelling documentary about U.S. farm workers. The week wraps up Thursday with a panel discussion on migrants in the Canadian food system. Expert panelists from the farming community, the labour movement and the Ontario government will share their views and take questions from the audience.

For information on what the faith-based community is doing in this area, contact Alfredo Barahona at Kairos Canada in Toronto: [email protected], 416 463 5312, ext. 251.


  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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