Images of Ontario’s local food movement include luscious peaches and ripened tomatoes. However, what this image leaves out is the huge number of migrant workers who travel to Canada for short-term labour during picking season. Ontario employs 60% of all of Canada’s migrant workers who, according to a CBC news article come primarily from Jamaica and Mexico. The majority of Migrant workers are men who rely on their seasonal labour to support their families in their home countries.
Historically, migrant workers are paid the “prevailing wage” for agricultural work. In Ontario that wage was $10.25 an hour in 2011. Now, the Canadian government is legislating that migrant workers will make 15% less than Canadian citizens. In other words, folks from outside Canada will make 15% less for the same work as their Canadian counterparts. Chris Ramsaroop from the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change believes:
“Paying some people lower wages simply on the basis of their citizenship is fundamentally against human rights and legitimizes further abuse against migrant workers.”
Buying local food is about supporting local economies so that Ontario’s farmers can make a fair, living wage. Migrant workers should be entitled to a fair wage the difficult work they do on farms across Ontario. It’s their work that makes the local food movement and all of access to fresh, seasonable produce possible.
There are a number of protests planned today (Thursday) to let the government know that this kind of discrimination is simply unfair. Check out Migrant Workers’ Alliance for Change’s facebook page for more information on tomorrow’s demonstrations.
If you believe in fair food consider how you can help create a system that’s fair for all.