The Temporary Agriculture Worker Visa Essay

Submitted By natashaj7
Words: 4178
Pages: 17

The 'Temporary Agriculture' Worker Visa

“When we drive around farm country we sometime see people working in fields. People who may not look like us. They are very anonymous. We don’t really know much about them. We don’t really think about them. But I think we should be thinking, ‘Who are these people? Why are they here? What are they doing? What are their working conditions like? And this apple that I’m eating today that was in my lunch bag — how did it get to me?’ ” (Pietropaolo, 2009). Canadians are very quick to look elsewhere to find social issues and injustices, quick to point the finger in the other direction at poorer, less ‘developed’ countries. Yet beneath these pointing fingers lie stolen lands glutted with injustice, worked by underpaid, exploited, and segregated workers. Over 28, 000 of these workers in fact, return annually to Canada under the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (CSAWP) to work in the fields, orchards, and greenhouses under contracts that are rarely followed by their employers (J4MW, 2010). These workers have no voice when arriving in Canada, and are left completely vulnerable to exploitation without external help. A fundamental role for advocates of social justice is to give a voice to the voiceless, and these workers are prime examples of a voiceless group of people, being silently exploited in the backyards of Canadians. Through a critical theorist lens, this paper will discuss how the CSAWP program was established and able to grow, the current injustices workers face with respect to racism, health and safety issues, and work insecurity, as well as recent victories in the program and its prospective future. The CSAWP program has used instances of both external and internal colonization to begin and continue to function as a governmental program. Its purpose is to legally bring foreign workers to Canada, which are primarily coming from Central America and the Caribbean. It began bringing in Jamaican workers in 1966 and has expanded throughout Canada to include operations in Alberta, Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, British Colombia and Ontario (Ontario receiving 90% of the workers) (J4MW, 2010). The program was established to fill the need for agricultural workers in Canada, as this is labor intensive, heavy, and time consuming work that many Canadians are not willing to do. Workers are therefore brought in to work 10-15 hour days with not overtime or holiday pay (J4MW, 2010). The workers sign contracts, often in English, outlining their terms of work, and employment lengths ranging from three to eight months (J4MW, 2010). Once their work term ends, they are given an employer evaluation and sent back home. A negative evaluation given by the employer can result in suspension from the program, or even banning from the program.
On the workers’ side, they must leave their homes and families to find work abroad because much of their source of income was taken from them, by these same colonizers for which they must go work for abroad. Through free trade agreements and Structural Adjustment Programs, corporations from the Global North have been able to claim land and resources from countries in the South, taking what was the livelihood of these agriculture workers. For instance, one of the reforms by the SAP’s, “Article 27 in the Mexican Constitution privatized ejidal land that was protected as commonly held land among farmers” (J4MW, 2010). As a result large North American corporations took these lands and pushed small landholders off the lands (Ross, 2001), dispossessing struggling small farmers from poor rural regions (J4MW, 2010), and overall devastating the economies of the Global South. Now these farm workers no longer had any land or jobs, but still needed a way to survive and provide for their families. The CSAWP took advantage of this opportunity by not only taking these resources from the countries of the South but also providing