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Report/Press release

Migrant Voices: Stories of Agricultural Migrant Workers in Manitoba




Lynne Fernandez, Jodi Read, and Sarah Zell



Each year approximately 400 Mexican men, migrant labourers under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), work on farms in Manitoba. These labourers perform physically strenuous work on vegetable farms and in greenhouses, jobs that most Canadians prefer not to do. Workers spend up to eight months in Canada, returning year after year for the agricultural season. They live and work under precarious conditions that often foreclose the possibility of accessing the human rights protections provided in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Workers regularly toil twelve hours per day, six to seven days a week, and they live socially isolated from Canadian society. This report highlights the stories of these labourers and invites readers to bear witness to the aspirations and transborder lives of these Mexican men working on Manitoban soil.

Research for this report was undertaken and coordinated by the Migrant Worker Solidarity Network (MWSN), a Winnipeg-based organization that advocates on behalf of Manitoba-based migrant workers, specifically those employed under the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). Formed in 2008, MWSN is an organization with members from diverse backgrounds—individuals representing health and labour organizations, a policy research institute, churches, and Latin American solidarity groups. MWSN’s fourfold purpose in Manitoba is to: 1)
develop relationships with the migrant workers who produce our locally grown food; 2) provide personal support to workers while they are in
Canada; 3) advocate for improved working and living conditions for migrant workers; and 4) educate the broader public on the realities that migrant workers face (deGroot 2012; MWSN 2012). The group meets monthly to discuss strategies to accomplish these goals. Since 2008 MWSN members have been interacting regularly with migrant workers during the height of the agricultural season from May through October. Members give presentations to local community groups, nonprofit organizations, churches, and labour unions. The group has met with provincial government representatives in an effort to advocate for better working and living conditions for the workers—and in particular for migrant access to provincial health care. MWSN also educates local growers and interested community members by participating in a yearly food security conference.
This report is the result of an interview project, Las Voces de los Migrantes, which MWSN designed and implemented to record the stories
and experiences of Manitoba-based migrant workers labouring under the SAWP. Las Voces de los Migrantes was also undertaken with the broader aim of promoting a more equitable and sustainable system of production and trade.

Number of pages


Responsible institution

Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives

File Attachments


Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers, General farm workers, and Nursery and greenhouse workers

Content types

Policy analysis

Target groups

Public awareness, Researchers, Unions, and NGOs/community groups/solidarity networks

Geographical focuses