National | Letters

Migrant Workers are Essential and Permanently Needed to Maintain Food Production in Canada

The National Farmers Union (NFU) is optimistically awaiting the Ministry’s proposal to expand the economic immigration stream to allow workers of all skill levels pathways to permanent residency. We were particularly encouraged to see that Parliamentary Motion M-44 specifically mentioned creating pathways to permanent residency for essential agricultural workers.

The NFU is Canada’s national farm organization committed to family farms. Promoting agroecology and food sovereignty for 50+ years, the NFU does not waver in our vision for farmers, eaters, and the earth, embedded in social and economic justice in Canada and internationally.

Seasonal agricultural workers have provided invaluable economic and social contributions to Canada for over 67 years now. To continue to deny them access to the privileges and rights of living in this country in the face of their monumental contributions to our economy and our farm businesses is unjust.

Just this past month Garvin Yapp, 57, a Jamaican migrant farmworker, died while working on an Ontario farm. Yapp had been employed seasonally in Canada for the past 35 years but was never offered the option of becoming a Canadian citizen.

Given that migrant farmworkers annually account for up to 20% of all agricultural labourers in the country, it is clear that they are essential and permanently needed to maintain food production in Canada. Without citizenship, and arriving under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) or the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), they are denied many of the labour and mobility rights that Canada upholds internationally as the conditions for a free and democratic country.

Ensuring agricultural workers are part of an economic immigration stream will go a long way to lessening the sector’s reliance on unjust and unsustainable temporary foreign worker programs.

As the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship considers the expansion of the economic immigration stream in response to Parliamentary Motion M-44, the NFU encourages the Ministry to ensure that any expansion creates pathways for permanent residency for the 50,000+ skilled foreign agricultural workers who make Canada their (temporary) home every year.


Jennifer Pfenning
Farmer, Chair of the NFU’s Migrant Worker Solidarity Working Group

NFU Letter to MP Sean Fraser – Signed