Are Migrant Workers In Canada Safe?

Did it take a horrific crash outside Waterloo, Ontario on Monday to bring human rights concerns about migrant workers in Canada into focus?

11 people were killed in the terrible accident, where a 15-passenger van carrying migrant workers collided with a truck at an intersection. The driver of the truck was killed, as was the driver of the van and 9 of the passengers  – all migrant workers employed by Brian’s Poultry Services in Mildmay, Ontario. These workers all came to Canada under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, which gives workers permission to enter the country to work when farmers and other agricultural businesses cannot find Canadians to hire for the tedious and often dangerous work. Most of the workers were breadwinners for their families at home in Jamaica, Mexico, Barbados and several other countries. Some of the workers who died hadn’t even been in Canada long enough to collect their first paycheck.  Yesterday, the fault of the accident was laid solely on the driver of the van — a migrant worker himself, who did not carry an appropriate license to drive the multi-passenger vehicle.

24,000 migrant workers come to Canada every year, mostly to fill vacancies in the agricultural labor workforce during seasonal periods. And while they theoretically are protected by the same labor laws as protect all other Canadians, the reality is that they are largely at the mercy of the farm owners, who could simply choose to send the laborer back to their native country if they complain about treatment. In a policy paper from the Justice For Migrant Workers organization, workers made a host of complaints about conditions they encounter, including working 12-15 hours without overtime or holiday pay, being denied necessary breaks, being ordered to use dangerous chemicals/pesticides with no safety equipment/protection or training, being crammed into substandard housing with leaking sewage and inadequate washrooms, and exclusion from basic human rights legislation such as Health and Safety Legislation and most aspects of the Employment Standards Act.

This accident, where a person unqualified to drive a 15-passenger van in the first place — let alone during a Canadian winter — was in charge of their lives, highlights the fact that we are allowing people to take jobs in Canada under a set of rules — rules that are largely unenforced, leaving these people unprotected.

24,000 migrant workers in Canada. And they’re processing the food that goes on your plate. Isn’t it in your own best interest to ensure the people who process your food are treated fairly and safely?


Related Stories:

Immigrants Founded Half Of The Top U.S. Start-Up Ventures

Indiana Unions Plan To Occupy The Super Bowl

Abuse at Butterball Turkey Factory Farm


Photo Credit: Natalie Maynor on Flickr.


Felicia A.
Felicia A.5 years ago

i think the govt needs to assist the migrants worker. they also have rights please help.

Michael MacDonald

more apathy in the long run.

Michael MacDonald

Once again, this makes me ashamed to be Canadian.
Migrant workers are getting it even harder with the way that the conservatives have changed the laws for them.
Now, it's even harder for them to become citizens and even harder for them to bring their families over.
I think that bad working conditions and temporary citizenship are inter-connected seeing as these workers are scared to speak up due to the risk of being sent back home.
That wouldn't be an issue if they had citizenship.
Anyways, that's my point.
I represent Canadian values better than any of these conservatives
and I completely support these migrant workers.
That's the actual Canadian value.
We have a history of supporting everything from people coming here from war torn countries to freeing slaves from the states with the underground railroad.
Those are actual canadian values and the sooner we get another liberal or NDP government in, the sooner you'll start seeing us honor those values again.
Our conservatives are just as bad as republicans if not worse
so you can get an idea of why you keep hearing so many awful stories about us right now.
@Ariel P.
you're comment is extremely counter-productive.
of course I don't support clubbing baby seals.
Most of us don't,
but just downright badmouthing an entire country (even the good people within it)
just turns everyone against you.
Aim your disdain at the people within my country who are responsible for this sort of thing or else you're just causing m

J.L. A.
j A5 years ago

Are migrant farmworkers safe in other ways either? Like sufficient shade, water and not being exposed to toxic chemicals?

Ariel P.
Ariel P5 years ago

24,000 migrant workers can find work in Canada because Canadians are too busy clubbing baby seals to death to work on farms......

Mpa Mpa
Mpa Mpa5 years ago


Vicky Pitchford
Vicky P5 years ago


Denise L.
Denise L5 years ago

I am curious if migrant workers get the minimum wage. I'm guessing they don't but really don't know for sure.

Kristina C.
Kristina C5 years ago

Migrant workers are never really safe regardless of their staus being legal or illegal - not in Canada or in the U.S. Migrant worker are often undereducated and are paid accordingly. They don't have a choice but accept the wages that are offered. Children of migrant workers often travel with them and miss valuable school time that could give them a chance to get away from the circle of poverty and the work of their parents - but it is not happening. Migrant workers do not have health insurance or any other benefits. They are often receive cash (under the table) wages and don't get a chance to pay into unemployment funds - and are therefore not eligible.
Migrant workers are just a small step up from former slaves in my book - and shame on the corporate food companies that exploit them over and over throughout the years -w ithout offering fair wages, housing, benefits and protection.

Please sign my petition:

Berny P.
Berny p5 years ago

Yesterday, the fault of the accident was laid solely on the driver of the van — a migrant worker himself, who did not carry an appropriate license to drive the multi-passenger vehicle.