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Researcher / Research team

Vasanthi Venkatesh


University of Windsor law professor Vasanthi Venkatesh pointed out that the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program was meant to be a temporary initiative when it was launched five decades ago.

“In the 1960s, Canadians were against the importation of labour. That’s why Canada had focused on the permanent residence,” said Venkatesh.

“People thought (the seasonal agricultural program) was not going to last and it was just a stopgap measure because we were an immigrant country and not a labour importation country.”

While employers use the sector’s seasonality to justify using migrants for temporary jobs, Venkatesh said the workers pay a huge social cost in the form of family separation and relationship breakups. The program has done little to address the perpetual poverty in the migrants’ home countries, which simply rely on remittances from the workers, she added.

To better protect the workers, said Venkatesh, Canada should issue what’s called “open worker permits” that allow them to work for any farm “to balance the uneven power” between workers and employers.

“It’s a question of control by employers on how workers have to work,” she said. “Like someone brought in by Google and moved to work for IBM, it’s still going to benefit the whole sector in the country because of the skills the person brings in.”




Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers and Natural resources, agriculture and related production occupations - general

Target groups

(Im)migrants workers

Geographical focuses

Canada, United States, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, British Columbia, Other provinces, Federal, Nova Scotia, and National relevance