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Welcoming migrant farm workers

To the Editor;

Each year hundreds of migrant farm workers travel from their home country to work on farms in the Thompson-Nicola. These essential workers are important members of our local food system but also of our community. As a new growing season begins, I ask your readers to think about how we can welcome these workers as they arrive and begin growing the food that sustains us all.

Migrant farm workers come from several different countries including Mexico, Guatemala and Jamaica. They are usually employed under an employer-specific work permit that lasts from a number of months up to two years. During this time, they pay Canadian taxes, EI and CPP while filling a labour shortage that has been identified by the federal government though a Labour Market Impact Assessment. While migrant farm workers are in Canada, they cannot bring their family and face a number of unique challenges. From isolation, to difficulty accessing services, to a lack of recourse in situations of abuse; there are many changes needed in the federal programs under which they work. Furthermore, the COVID-19 has had a particularly devastating impact on workers across the country who often live in communal bunk-houses and face many barriers when it comes to accessing healthcare.

Within this context, many farm workers and advocates are pushing for change. Permanent status upon arrival in Canada, freedom of mobility between employers and workplace rights on par with Canadians, are at the forefront in calls for something better. The challenges that workers face are often structural, but any meaningful change will require a collective shift in our community as well. As those of us who live on this land with permanent immigration status, we need to include these voices in our community planning, our local food movements and our thinking about what justice looks like in the Thompson-Nicola.

So, as we move into spring, let’s have a conversation as a community about how we can honor the work that these workers do. Let’s talk about how we can stand together while they are here and let’s find ways to connect so that we can all grow together.

Mitch Ward

Migrant Worker Outreach

Kamloops Immigrant Services

___________________

news@starjournal.net

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