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Journal article

‘Domestic transnationalism’: legal advocacy for Mexican migrant workers' rights in Canada




Laura MacDonald and Christina Gabriel


Every year thousands of Mexicans travel to Canada to work in Canadian fields and greenhouses under the Mexico-Canada Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. While the programme is often praised, it has also been the subject of persistent criticism about its failure to meet certain human rights standards. In this article, we examine the legal strategies civil society advocates of migrant workers have adopted to promote migrant workers' rights in Canada. Specifically, we examine legal struggles undertaken by the United Food and Commercial Workers union to challenge Ontario government legislation that does not permit collective bargaining by farmworkers in the province. We argue that this case demonstrates that despite the fact that many of the workers involved are transnationalized, appeals to international bodies or to international human rights standards have been of limited utility in promoting their rights. Despite frequent arguments about the increased relevance of international human rights and citizenship norms and transnational human rights advocacy, in this case the national and sub-national scales remain predominant. The result, we argue, is a form of ‘domestic transnationalism’, in which domestic political actors engage in advocacy within domestic legal institutions to promote the rights of a transnational mobile labour force.

Journal title

Citizenship Studies





Page numbers


File Attachments


Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers

Content types

Policy analysis and Statistics on work and life conditions

Target groups


Geographical focuses

Ontario, México, and National relevance