National | Media Release

Workers rights, employer vigilance needed to stop human trafficking, says NFU

The National Farmers Union (NFU) stands against the exploitation of undocumented workers, including those who are preyed upon by international labour traffickers.

As farmers, and as human beings, we are horrified by the recent news of human traffickers exploiting 64 undocumented Mexican workers, forcing them to live and work in appalling conditions, including on Ontario farms. The traffickers offered the labour of these people to farm employers that grow the food that feeds our cities.

This story should not be dismissed as a small, isolated incident. Increasingly, farmers from coast to coast have been approached in-person, via email, or by phone by aggressive recruiters promising an easy solution to get much needed labour for fields and greenhouses. Workers are offered as if they were a commodity, “As many as you need, eager to work”.

It is incumbent on employers across all sectors to take active steps to avoid supporting this kind of injustice. As farmers, we need access to ag-specific human resources training that will help us differentiate between legitimate businesses that offer legal and rights-centered employment solutions versus  those engaged in illegal human trafficking. Ontario’s Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy, 2020-2025 needs to include specific support to help employers and concerned citizens identify and report the trafficking of undocumented, low-wage workers.

The NFU appreciates the reality that people seeking to better themselves and/or escape often life-threatening economic, political, and environmental conditions in their home countries will pursue unsafe routes into Canada. While the NFU supports criminal charges and hefty fines for all those involved in the trafficking and exploitation of undocumented workers (from recruiters to low-wage employers), what these workers deserve (and immediately require) are full rights of residency. Conditions that enable human trafficking will persist so long as Canada lacks viable routes to permanent residency for foreign workers in low-wage occupations. At the NFU’s National Convention in November 2022, members resolved to support migrant-led movements to win full and permanent immigration status for all migrants, including undocumented people.

This latest example of the exploitation of people’s desperation underscores the need for action to: a) ensure employers are given the tools to identify and report human traffickers; and b) enhance and strengthen human rights in Canada by affording all workers permanent residency rights so they are empowered to leave coercive and abusive work situations.

Learn to identify warning signs of human trafficking. To report a potential human trafficking case, call the Canadian human trafficking hotline 24/7 at 1-833-900-1010.