The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program: Looking at Mexican Participation Through a Magnifying Glass

Title: The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program: Looking at Mexican Participation Through a Magnifying Glass
Authors: Cruz-Lopez, Irma F.
Date: 2013
Abstract: Mexican migrant workers have been coming to Canada since 1974 to work in agriculture as participants of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP). Presently, Mexicans constitute the majority of SAWP workers. As well, Ontario is the main receiver of these workers followed by British Columbia and Quebec. Accordingly, the scope of this thesis mainly encompasses Mexican workers in Ontario. However, the thesis also includes Mexican SAWP workers in Quebec and British Columbia. This thesis reveals two main issues: (1) that all SAWP workers, particularly Mexican workers, lack key legal rights and protections relating to labour relations, employment, health and safety standards at the structural level of the SAWP; and at the federal, provincial, and international levels. (2) Even when they have rights under legislation relating to the above-mentioned subject matters, Mexicans, especially, lack the capacity to access them. Thus, they become ‘unfree labourers’ who are placed in a perpetual state of disadvantage, vulnerable to abuse and exploitation once in Canada. To describe the issues above, the thesis is divided into five chapters addressing the following: Chapter 1 presents the historical context behind the SAWP as well as the Mexican workers’ circumstances that attract them to participate in the Program. Chapter 2 examines the applicable constitutional and federal framework for SAWP workers. In addition, it highlights key federal exclusions placed on them, which originate in the federal immigration and employment insurance legislation. Chapter 3 concludes that Ontario does not protect its agricultural workers from unfair treatment and exploitation in the workplace; rather, it perpetuates such practices. This reality is intensified for SAWP Mexican workers. Particularly, chapter 3 analyses a constitutional challenge to the Ontario legislation excluding agricultural worker from its labour relations regime; said challenge is based on ss. 2(d) and 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Chapter 4 maintains that similarly to workers in Ontario, SAWP workers in Quebec and British Columbia also face extreme disadvantages due in great part to the lack of or limited legal protections. Finally, chapter 5 asserts that due to its implementation in the Canadian framework, international law is inadequate to protect domestic and SAWP workers’ rights. While each chapter identifies tangible drawbacks or anomalies, which affect SAWP workers negatively, the thesis also provides recommendations to alleviate said weaknesses.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -