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Plus ça change?---A comparative analysis of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program and the pilot Foreign Worker Program for farm workers in Quebec




Sofia Lowe


For the last 40 years, migrant farm workers from the Caribbean and Mexico have been recruited to work temporarily on Canadian farms under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP). In 2002, the pilot Foreign Worker Program (FWP) for low skilled migrant workers was initiated in the province of Quebec and under this program began the recruitment of Guatemalan migrant farm workers. Since the program's start, the number of Guatemalan migrants has nearly tripled and there seems to be a decline in the number of workers hired under the SAWP in Quebec. This paper examines the FWP's development, set-up, consequences and operation alongside the SAWP and shows how the Canadian state is expanding the number and flexibility of temporary worker programs. This paper draws attention to the neo-liberal context of migrant farm labour in Canada, pointing to the ways in which Canada's federal policies governing seasonal agricultural migrants and the agricultural labour market are exploitative and racist. Key Words . migrant; agriculture; seasonal; temporary; racism; foreign labour; Foreign Worker Program; Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program


Ryerson University (Canada)



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Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers

Content types

Policy analysis and Documented cases of abuse

Target groups

Policymakers and Researchers

Regulation domains

Right to change employer, Right to choose place of residence, Right to unionize, Labour standards, Health and safety at work, Newcomers integration programs, Health care & social services, Access to permanent status, and Family reunification

Geographical focuses

México, Quebec, Guatemala, and Other Caribbean States

Spheres of activity

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