If you shop at local grocery or department stores, especially on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, you may have noticed a number of people purchasing food and other merchandise. These may be international farm workers from other countries, who have come to Canada to work in the orchards, fields, greenhouses, mushroom farms and other agriculture businesses in Chatham-Kent.
These workers come from Jamaica, Mexico, Thailand, as well as other Caribbean countries.
There are a number of government programs allowing international farm workers into Canada. These programs have stipulations on the length of time these workers are in Canada and they also at some point must return to their home country for a number of months. These programs are administered through our federal government.
There are work agreements which cover all aspects of employment, just as we have work agreements or contracts with our employers. The agreement is reviewed with the worker who is requested to sign it prior to departing for Canada. The agreement is a four party agreement between the worker, the employer, the foreign government, and the Government of Canada.
Selected workers must be at least 18 years of age and undergo a medical exam by a health professional approved by Canadian government health authorities. They must be capable of performing agricultural work and are also screened for any criminal record.
Seasonal housing is provided free by the employer, which includes the cost of all utilities and annual maintenance. The housing facilities are inspected yearly by the Municipality of Chatham-Kent Fire, Public Health, and Building services. Many of our international farm workers come to Canada under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) and are covered under OHIP as soon as they arrive in Ontario.
All international farm workers are subject to regular payroll deductions for Income Tax, Employment Insurance, and contributions to the Canada Pension Plan.
Many people believe these workers are taking jobs away from Chatham-Kent citizens. This is not true. Our local employers must attempt to hire domestic labour before they can apply to bring in workers from outside of Canada.
The truth is that many people in our community who need a job and are able to work will not work in our orchards, fields, greenhouses or mushroom farms. Some of these jobs are tough, but it is still a job. I am saddened to say we live in a Canadian society where too many people feel they are entitled to earnings without having to work. Because of this, many of our agricultural employers are forced to bring in people who are willing to work.
Most of us have not lived in another country for any extended period of time. These workers are so far away from their homes and loved ones. They are here in our country and are working hard in our agricultural sector in order to send money back home to their families.
We all should make them feel welcome. You can be an ambassador right here in Chatham-Kent by saying hello, extending your hand in friendship, and thanking them for coming and living to our community.
Think about this – God provides the power we need to persevere.
Just some food for thought.
Remember that here in Chatham-Kent ‘We Grow for the World’. Check out our community’s agricultural website at: wegrowfortheworld.com
Kim Cooper has been involved in the agribusiness sector for over 45 years. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow him on Twitter at ‘theAGguy’