Publication Date

2004

Abstract

Every year thousands of migrant workers from Mexico and the Commonwealth Caribbean come to Ontario, Canada to participate in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers (SAW) Program. Participants who join the program must leave behind family, friends and social ties for a chance to earn an income higher than they could ever hope to earn in their home communities. Migrant workers who join the program are primarily employed in rural Ontario communities to work in greenhouses, tobacco fields, fruit farms and canneries. This study responded to the lack of existing research pertaining to the impact the SAW program is having on the rural communities of Ontario. This study explored the question: “What is the awareness, perception and attitude of host community members regarding the presence of seasonal migrant agricultural workers who come to their community each year for employment?” Data was gathered by conducting twenty structured telephone interviews of a random sampling in the town of Exeter, Ontario. The study concludes that the residents of Exeter, Ontario are aware of the existence of migrant workers in the community but rarely form any type of relationship with these workers. The study also concludes that residents in the town of Exeter have a mixture of positive and negative perceptions of the migrant workers in their midst. The most significant finding was that the data revealed community members engaging in processes of stereotyping and racialization. The study recommends that programs be designed to educate and engage the residents of host communities about the presence and the plight of migrant workers participating in the SAW program. This should be combined with efforts to integrate migrant workers into host communities and advocate for changes to the program that would be make this integration feasible.

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