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Migrant Farm Workers Continue To Face Exploitation, Poor Conditions

A busy harvest season at a Quebec strawberry farm highlights the many injustices that migrant farm workers in Canada continue to face, CBC reported.

Migrant Farm Workers Continue To Face Exploitation, Poor Conditions
Tim Mossholder/Unsplash.

From CBC: An interactive news piece published by CBC Monday investigates how a busy harvest season at a Quebec strawberry farm highlights the many injustices that migrant farm workers in Canada continue to face.

  • At the farm, CBC noted, workers were expected to pick four million strawberries this season during a string of heatwaves that ripened the fruit seemingly all at once, with some work days stretching for as long as 18 hours.

A worker named Oscar told CBC: “We endure so much abuse just so we can give a good future to our children, our families."

  • Dozens of migrant farm workers also highlighted poor living conditions, leading some to call the Quebec farm “the prison.”

Advocates said these poor conditions are typical, and emblematic of the deeply exploitative nature of Canada's temporary foreign worker programs.

  • Some workers described being made to work as late as midnight after starting a shift at 4 or 5 a.m.: “It was very hard. We felt pain. You could hear people moaning from the pain in their backs," one worker told CBC.

The brothers who own the farm — Jérémie, Jonathan and Olivier Pitre — told CBC that allegations of poor working and living conditions stem from “misunderstandings,” and that they're building new facilities to reduce the number of workers having to sleep in each room.

  • Edward Dunsworth, an assistant professor at McGill University, explained to CBC that farm owners hire migrant workers instead of locals because the farms are typically based in remote rural locations and pay minimum wage for gruelling work, meaning locals are unwilling to take the jobs.

As well, CBC noted, the workers' permits for entry into Canada are tied to a single employer upon whom they rely to be nominated every year.

  • Dunsworth said: “It just really creates a disincentive against complaining or being sick, or having any other, you know, human needs.”

A worker advocacy group is calling for open permits that would enable workers to change employers within sectors.

Read CBC’s full story published Monday here.

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