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Migrant seasonal agricultural labour: Race and ethnic relations in the Okanagan Valley




Lloyd Lee Wong


This thesis examines the race and ethnic relations between migrant seasonal agricultural workers in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Canada, from the turn of the century to the present. This analysis includes Chinese, Doukhobor, Japanese, Indian, and French agricultural workers. The research problem is one of determining the nature of race and ethnic relations between these groups and the predominantly English host community, where it was hypothesized that racism, ethnic prejudice, and ethnic discrimination would be prevalent. Historical research was conducted using existing local literature and archival data from local museums and newspaper companies. Survey research was conducted on contemporary migrant seasonal agricultural workers and consisted of a questionnaire. The thesis begins with a description of the Okanagan Valley and a literature review of agricultural labour in Western Europe, the United States, and Canada. Segmented labour markets and, race and ethnic relations provide the theoretical framework for the study. The secondary labour market explains the concentration of racial and ethnic minorities in agriculture. A theoretical model of French-English ethnic relations explains the ethnic discrimination of French migrant seasonal agricultural workers. The historical research findings show that racism was experienced by Chinese and Japanese workers, and ethnic discrimination was experienced by Doukhobor workers. The survey research included a general documentation of demographic and social data for current migrant workers, and these data indicate they are similar to workers elsewhere. The housing and working conditions of these workers are poor. Workers are exposed to dangerous chemical pesticides. The main survey research findings centre on the ethnic discrimination experienced by French migrant workers. This discrimination occurred primarily in their leisure activities, and to a lesser extent, in the area of employment. There was no evidence of a split-labour market on the basis of wages alone. The thesis ends with a discussion on the possible legislative and social policy implications of the findings in the areas of health and safety, and racial/ethnic prejudice and discrimination. There is a discussion of discrimination and the law, educational programs, and the necessary changes in community processes and structures.


York University (Canada)

Place published



Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers

Regulation domains

Newcomers integration programs and Access to permanent status

Geographical focuses

British Columbia

Spheres of activity

Agriculture, Anthropology, Cultural and ethnic studies, Management of human resources, Political science, and Sociology