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The conditions under which migrant and immigrant farmworkers live and work in B.C. are as bad as in any Third World country, activists said at the release yesterday of a study called Cultivating Farmworker Rights.”  The study, by Arlene McLaren, economist David Fairey of the Trade Union Research Bureau and Mark Thompson of SFU’s Sauder School of Business, is part of a joint initiative between SFU and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Anyone reading this report on BC farmworkers cannot help but be shocked and deeply shamed by the treatment of this particular segment of the workforce.  While it is certainly not news that the agricultural sector has been marginal for many years, nothing can justify the appalling conditions outlined in this report.  It is truly unconscionable. 

I understand that the provincial government abandoned the oversight of this sector a number of years ago. Clearly that was a mistake. It is obvious that the sector is not about to implement practices consistent with Canadian labour ethics and standards and is certainly not interested in governing itself. I hope to see an announcement very soon that this will be changing.  We in Canada have benefited from low prices for produce from all sources for a very long time. Perhaps it is time for us to acknowledge that we have been living off the suffering of this seemingly invisible workforce both in Canada and abroad and start paying the REAL cost of goods.By the way, the response by Labour Minister Olga Illich was a stunning PR fumble. Did she really think that stating that “Other provinces treat farmworkers in exactly the same way,” and arguing B.C. is no worse than Alberta or Ontario somehow makes it alright. Olga – wash your head out with soap!

  

Resources:
B.C. farm workers endure ‘pain, suffering and exploitation’: Report – Province newspaper article on the Canada.com site
About the Trade Union Research Bureau – on the Vancouver Public Library site – .PDF format

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