Celebrate grape and wine season by thanking a migrant vineyard worker!

Before a bottle of wine reaches you at the store or a glass of wine is set on your table at a restaurant, the grapes are grown, harvested, and processed by migrant vineyards workers from Mexico, Vietnam, and Caribbean countries.

We are separated from our families for over half a year and miss out on family birthdays, graduations, and funerals. It’s heartbreaking to be away for so long and the days can seem never ending. Your support during the season encourages us to keep pushing through. We want to hear from you!

Get the Facts: Family Open Work Permits for Farmworkers

You deserve to be together with your family – all migrants do! Sadly, the Canadian government keeps us separated by denying us permanent resident status. One way the government promises to unite migrant families is through measures like open work permits for family members.

What is the Family Open Work Permit?

For years, migrant workers like you have been speaking up and taking action together about family unity. In 2022 the Canadian government was pressured to allow more spouses and adult children dependents of some migrant workers to get open work permits in the country. (Read the government announcement here.)

This expanded government measure has 3 phases:

  1. Phase 1 started January 30, 2023 which is for family members of workers in the high-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the International Mobility Program. Farm workers are excluded.
  2. Phase 2 will expand to family members of workers from the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, after consultations with bosses. This phase will still exclude farm workers.
  3. Phase 3 is consultations with bosses in the agricultural industry to see if including family members of farm workers will benefit them and their business. It is not guaranteed that farm workers will be included after the consultations.

You can see how farm workers are shut out at every phase, this isn’t fair! That’s why we’re uniting together to take action and win change to the unfair system. Join us: Send a WhatsApp message to 905-324-2840 for more information about how you can make a change with us.

Who can apply?

  • Family members of workers in high-wage streams of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the International Mobility Program

Not sure if your job qualifies as high-wage? You must be earning what’s called the “median hourly wage” or higher, which depends on what province in Canada you work.

Current wages for farmworkers in Canada are as low as $13/hour and we deserve so much more! That’s why we’re also fighting for higher wages, so our families will have more opportunities.

Do you agree that your family deserves more? Send a WhatsApp message to us at 905-324-2840 to learn how you can join our fight to win a better life!

Who cannot apply?

  • Farm workers in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program and the Agricultural Stream (Ag-Stream) of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program
  • Fishery workers who are not in the high-wage stream
  • Any migrant worker in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program who is paid low wages
  • Migrants with Open Work Permits for Vulnerable Workers who are paid low wages
  • Migrants with work permits who are also refugee claimants or H&C applicants
  • Migrants without papers/immigration status

To read the full requirements, tap this link: migrantworkersalliance.org/familyworkpermit

So many people are shut out of this measure, it’s not fair.

That’s why migrant workers are uniting together to take action and win change, including permanent resident status for all, so that we can all be together with our families!

Migrant Welcome UN Slavery Rapporteur Call for Permanent Resident Status for All

Media Contact: Syed Hussan, 416-453-3632, hussan@migrantworkersalliance.org 

Migrant Welcome UN Slavery Rapporteur Call for Permanent Resident Status for All

Toronto, September 6, 2023 – The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) welcomes the statement in Ottawa from United Nations Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery Professor Tomoya Obokata today in which he called for “paths to longterm or permanent residency be open to all migrant workers”. 

The UN Rapporteur was in Canada on a country mission where he met with migrants including 40 members of (MWAC), Indigenous people, people with disability and incarcerated people, persons of African descent and other groups facing exploitation. In his End of Mission press conference today, Professor Obokata said that  was “disturbed” that “certain categories of migrant workers are made vulnerable to contemporary forms of slavery in Canada by the policies that regulate their immigration status, employment, and housing in Canada, and he is particularly concerned that this workforce is disproportionately racialized, attesting to deep-rooted racism and xenophobia entrenched in Canada’s immigration system”. 

He also reiterated that “Newcomers who enter Canada outside of TFWP experience similar precarity. International students who work in excess of the permitted 20 hours per week, asylum-seekers awaiting their work permits, undocumented migrant workers, and those that have lost status are vulnerable to many of the same abusive practices, as they may not report abuses for fear of deportation. Employers who are aware of their status may exploit them under threat of denouncing them to immigration authorities.”

The UN Rapporteur also echoed a call for regularization of all undocumented people, a call that was also made in June 2023 by the UN Rapporteur on Migration.

“The United Nations Rapporteur has yet again stated what we all know, and migrants have been saying for decades – a two-tier system of immigration where over 1.2 million new temporary permits are being issued each year breeds exploitation, exclusion and violence. All migrants, including undocumented people, migrant students, workers and refugees, must have permanent resident status to protect themselves and ensure a fair society,” said Syed Hussan, executive director, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

Prime Minister Trudeau promised regularization of undocumented people and permanent resident status for migrant students, workers and families in a mandate letter commitment in December 2021, 20 months later, migrants continue to suffer. 


Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change is a migrant-led, membership based organization of farmworkers, fishery workers, careworkers, undocumented people and current and former international students uniting for immigration and labour justice. 


Amplify Migrant Farmworker Voices in New Heat Stress Regulations

Under pressure from migrants, the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills Development has proposed changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to add heat stress requirements.

These heat stress requirements are an important step forward but have two major gaps: there are no avenues for migrants to make complaints safely when employer don’t follow the requirements; and they don’t apply to migrant farmworker housing. In addition, a number of the requirements are vague and subjective and too many are not mandatory.

Even then, we can be certain that big business lobby groups will oppose even these requirements, unwilling to make any changes to protect the lives and health of working class migrant farmworkers.

This is why we at the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) are speaking up, and we need you to join us!

67 migrant agricultural worker leaders in MWAC jointly identified demands on behalf of 1,454 migrant farmworker members in Ontario.

We are calling on organizations across Ontario to write letters in support of these migrant demands using the template above!

Migrant demands include:

  • Proactive enforcement, migrant worker specific anti-reprisal mechanisms and protections
  • Migrant farm worker housing included in heat stress regulations
  • Mandatory 10 minute paid break in a cool shaded area, every 2 hours during heat and humidity warnings added to regulations
  • Mandated access to hazard pay during heat and humidity warnings
  • and more…

Migrant farmworkers want better protections, not only from heat-related illness, but also from reprisals that come from speaking up for labour and human rights. These reprisals include eviction from employer-provided housing, job termination, deportation, and being banned from working in Canada in the future. Without permanent status, migrant workers are denied the power to protect ourselves from employer retaliation and abuse. Denial of permanent resident status also means exclusions from basic services like healthcare

Migrant farmworkers: You have a voice, let’s get loud for status for all!

Take action using this form and let Prime Minister Justin Trudeau know that the world is watching! Let’s unite together and make sure Canada does the right thing and grants permanent status for all – including people without papers and those who arrive in the future.

Your message will only be sent once you hit the red “ADD YOUR NAME” button at the end.

Note: Your name and contact information will be kept confidential. This form is created by Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, a migrant-led worker rights organization whose leaders and members are migrant farmworkers, care workers, international student workers, and undocumented workers. Learn more about us by tapping the link here: migrantworkersalliance.org

Family Work Permits for Agricultural Workers

1,279 migrant farm workers participated in a survey on family work permits.

98.3% of survey respondents said that the government of Canada should allow all migrants, including those in agriculture, to be together with their families and receive work permits.

93.45% believe seasonal workers (8 months or less contract) should be able to have family with them in Canada. There should be no exclusion for seasonal workers.

89.53% of survey respondents said that they would rent accommodations for their families.

Workers clearly know the options available to them and the potential difficulties they may face. 58% of respondents noted that finding housing would be difficult, and 55.16% noted difficulty with the high cost of rent. Just under 50% of respondents were also concerned about getting jobs for spouses and children. Over 40% were also concerned about access to healthcare, and access to schooling and cost of travel.

When asked Would you bring your family if you were not sure you could support them or afford it? An incredibly high 97.3% of the respondents said No.

This shows that workers will not choose to bring their families if there are any concerns about getting rental properties, or paying for their travel or housing. Even if a program was created, workers would make individual choices based on their circumstances before deciding to apply for work permits.

93.02% of survey respondents want permanent resident status on arrival because it’s the only way migrants can access essential services and protect themselves against abuse.

In short, migrant farmworkers are united in their call for family work permits and permanent resident status for all.

These submissions are jointly made by Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), RATTMAQ: Réseau d’aide aux travailleuses et travailleurs migrants agricoles du Québec, Cooper Institute, Sanctuary Health and RAMA.

For further information, please contact info@migrantworkersalliance.org.

What is the Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers?

  • It is the last resource for workers who hold a closed work permit (employer-specific) and who are at risk of experiencing abuse or are already experiencing abuse with the employer they currently have a contract with 
  • Workers can apply while they are still working with the employer as well as after they have left the farm or workplace Note: The sooner you apply after leaving the farm, the better as IRCC might question why you didn’t apply right away.

How do we support you in this process?

  • We support you to prepare part of the application then we will refer you to a partner organization to finalize the application at no cost to you.  When possible we can refer you to a local organization in the province you are living wheter that is the province where the farm is or the province you are currently living.  .
  • We can assist you in writing your narrative if you have literacy limitations (your case can take a bit longer)
  • We write a letter of support for your case and follow up with you during the process until your case concludes (approved or refused) . We might be able to continue supporting you if you are refused depending on your case and if our partner organization makes a case for workers to reapply.
  • You need to write a narrative. This is a letter explaining  with as many details as possible including  who, when, where , how.  The more details the better, you need to paint  a picture for the immigration officer who will review your case and who might not be familiar with the conditions at the farm or workplace so it is important to give details and express your feelings in this letter. Use expressions like: I felt sad, angry, disappointed, etc.
  • Provide evidence: We need at least 3 pieces of evidence which can include, photos of you at work,  copy of work contract, paystubs, photos of working conditions, housing conditions or short videos preferably 1 minute or less, doctors notes, text with employer or human resources (HR), letter of support from witnesses such as friends and acquaintances, anything you can think it will support the details on your letter
    • You need to provide the following documents:
      • Copy of current work permit (If your permit has already expired you are not eligible to apply)
      • Copy of passport and visa (passport needs to be valid for at least a year  if is less than a year, you need to renew it before you can apply), but is your situation is dire and you need to leave your employer, you can apply for the open work permit, but it will only be approved for however many months you got left on your passport.
      • An active email address and best time to reach you.

How long does the process take?

  • The process can take anywhere from 1-3 months depending on many factors including if your narrative and supporting documents need to be translated
  • Your availability to provide documents and follow up on your case 
  • If the organization we will refer you to has a waiting list.

Important things to consider if you decide to apply:

  • You might no longer be able to participate in your country’s farm work program (Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program) as your liaison officer or consulate official might say you breached your contract by leaving the employer. This is not fair  and migrant workers like you are fighting for solutions to these unfair rules. If you want to know more on how you can join, let us know and an organizer will follow up with you. 
  • You need to have a plan if you are leaving your employer we are not able to support you  finding housing and it can be difficult and expensive. 
  • Make sure to put some money aside if you decide to leave your employer so you can support yourself while waiting for your permit to be processed.
  • Have a plan B in case your Work Permit is  refused.
  • An open work permit allows you to work in any job, anywhere in the country for any employer. You will not be part of a program that will connect you with an employer. 
  • Keep in mind that you will need to look for a job yourself. There are agencies that could help you with job search, but MWAC does not find employment for workers.

If you have read this document and think you qualify for the open work permit for vulnerable workers , please get in touch with us!

Farm Workers 905-324-2840 

Fishery workers 506 251 7467

Send a message with the code “Open Work Permit”, your full name, and the city you currently are and we will get back to you after September 5th as we currently have a waiting list for new cases.

For more details of what is considered  abuse, what types of evidence, who can apply  etc,  see the IRCC website: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/work-canada/permit/temporary/vulnerable-workers.html

Migrant food and farm workers support Metro workers on strike!

Last year alone, Canada’s 3 largest grocery stores took $3.6 billion in profit. That money belongs to workers, including migrants like you – people who grow, harvest, transport, and sell food. Right now nearly 4,000 workers at Metro (which also owns Food Basics) are striking for better wages & work hours and job security – things that all of us deserve! Sign below to show your support for workers taking action to win a better life for all of us.

Seasonal Farmworkers: Do you know your rights?

If you’re a seasonal migrant farmworker in Canada, it can be difficult and confusing to learn about your rights. This guide will help you and if you have any questions about your rights, send a WhatsApp message to 905-324-2840 with your issue and location.

As you read through this guide, you may see that you don’t have as many rights as you were promised. Farmworkers are excluded from many basic labour rights that workers in Canada have fought for and won. It’s not fair! Everybody deserves equal rights, fair treatment & wages, and safer workplaces. That’s why farmworkers like you are uniting together with other migrant workers to take action and win a better life for you and your family!

What are your rights and where can you find them?

For seasonal agricultural workers, there are 3 main places where you can read about your rights:

  1. Your contract (Federal)
  2. Labour laws (provincial)
  3. Housing guidelines (provincial + municipal)

Your contract gives you rights

If you came to Canada under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program through your home country’s Ministry of Labour, you have a contract that both you and your employer have signed. It’s your right to know what’s in your contract and to have your own copy. If you don’t have a copy of your contract, let us know. [Tap this link to view an online version.]

Here are some of your rights according to your contract:

  1. Clean, adequate living conditions (Section 2, Part A, #1);
  2. Access to adequate washing machines; or free transportation to a laundry facility (Section 2, Part A, #2);
  3. 1 meal break of at least 30 minutes after 5 consecutive hours of work, and 2 rest periods (10 mins each) in mid-morning and mid-afternoon (Section 2, Part C, #13);
  4. 1 day of rest after working 6 days in a row; if not possible, your boss must ask your permission to delay your day off to a later date (Section 2, Part C, #14);
  5. After working for the same boss for 5 years in a row, you are entitled to a recognition payment of $4.22/week for a maximum of $135, payable at the end of your contract (Section 3, #4);
  6. Health coverage (Section 6);
  7. Safety training and protective equipment at no cost to you (Section 9, #5);
  8. Free transportation to do your shopping once per week (Section 9, #7).

Labour laws give you rights

Canada has 10 provinces and 3 territories. Workers on the seasonal farmwork program mainly work in the provinces of BC, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. The Canadian government is responsible for things like your work permit, contract, and other immigration-related matters, and the provincial government in the province where you work determines things like your labour rights. That means your rights may be different depending on what province you work in.

Farmworkers are generally excluded from basic labour standards – including the right to overtime pay and holidays & holiday pay. In Ontario, farmworkers are excluded from maximum hours of work and time off in between shifts. This is unacceptable! Reach out to us today to learn how farmworkers like you are pushing back against unfair labour laws.

Here are 3 of your rights under provincial labour law (Ontario):

  1. The right to work free from harassment and abuse (from your boss, supervisor, or coworkers);
  2. The right to regular payment of wages;
  3. The right to equal pay for equal work (your boss cannot discriminate against you and pay you less than somebody else on the farm for doing the same work)

[Tap this link to read more from the Ontario Ministry of Labour website]

If you are being treated unfairly at work or not being paid properly, message us on WhatsApp at 905-324-2840 for support.

Housing Guidelines Give You Rights

Like the labour laws, housing guidelines may be different depending on which province you live in and work. Your contract guarantees you the right to “clean, adequate living conditions”, and the housing guidelines go into more detail about what the government thinks that means.

These housing guidelines are used by the Public Health department in your area to inspect the bunkhouse and pass it. If you’re not sure where to find the housing guidelines, message us on WhatsApp with your postal code (a combination of letters and numbers that will be on your paystub or workplace address).

Using Ontario guidelines as an example, here are some of your rights:

  1. Safe, clean housing free from rodents;
  2. Clean blankets, sheets and pillow cases must be provided by your boss;
  3. Safe water supply for drinking, washing, and cooking;
  4. Employer must provide kitchenware (utensils, plates, bowls, etc), cookware (pots & pans), and cooking utensils

[Tap this link to view an online version of the housing guidelines in Ontario.]

Send us a message on WhatsApp at 905-324-2840 and we can walk through the checklist with you, or visit the farm at your request.

You Deserve More, Let’s Unite to Win!

As you can see, these options are not good enough. You deserve the power to protect yourself and fight for equal rights. That’s why migrant farmworkers like you and other migrant workers are uniting together to fight for permanent resident status for all. Without permanent status, the boss can threaten you with being fired, losing your housing, getting sent home, and being blacklisted from the farmwork program. Enough is enough!

On September 17, migrants and our supporters are taking to the streets across Canada to win permanent status for all, including people without papers. Invite your friends and family in Canada to take action with us by sending them this link: migrantrights.ca/events/sep17. United we are stronger!