Canada’s migrant agricultural workers deserve full and equal rights. Here’s why

By Janet McLaughlin

Earlier this year, a quiet decision by Loblaw to remove French’s brand ketchup from its shelves was met by an unexpected firestorm of protest from angry consumers. In the weeks following, the brand rose from relative obscurity into superhero status over its local tomato origins. Over the course of 24 hours, Canadians told Loblaw loud and clear that they wanted local Leamington, Ont., tomatoes in the popular condiment gracing their barbequed eats this summer. A surprised Loblaw management team quickly reversed its decision.

Supporting local agriculture makes sense. Buying food produced close to home generates positive ripple effects for local economies, lowers greenhouse gas emissions and promotes Ontario’s food sovereignty and security. The great irony is that often our much-celebrated local food system relies on imported labour, under conditions in which exploitation can be ripe for the picking.

I’ve been doing research and health-based community work with migrant farm workers for over a decade. Travelling alongside workers between their Ontario workplaces and their homes in Mexico and Jamaica, I have been continually shocked and saddened by the long-term challenges they face as they spend their adult lives living between two countries.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, a specific stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which was originally designed to help employers fill staffing gaps when local labour supply is not available. While the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has seen some turbulent times as of late, its agricultural branch has more or less remained consistent over the half century of its existence.

The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program involves workers (mostly, but not exclusively, men) from Mexico and the Caribbean coming to Ontario for up to eight months a year to work our farms. Some come for decades in a row, returning home to visit family for a few months each winter but never bringing them along to Canada. Children grow up viewing their migrant parents as occasional visitors. Unsurprisingly, depression, family strain and breakdown are common consequences of this type of arrangement.

Read more……

Job Vacancy: Research Associate, Food System Policy

The Institute for Sustainable Food Systems (ISFS) is seeking applications for a one-year Research Associate position focused on food system policy.

About ISFS

ISFS is an applied research and extension unit at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU). We investigate and support regional food systems as key elements of sustainable communities, focusing predominantly on British Columbia but also extending our programming to other regions. Our applied research focuses on the potential of regional food systems in terms of agriculture and food, economics, community health, policy, and environmental integrity. Our extension programming provides information and support for farmers, communities, business, policy makers, and others. Community collaboration is central to our approach.

ISFS employs a multidisciplinary team of agriculturists and researchers with expertise in food systems, agriculture, economics, farm business management, ecology, and public health. Our office is on KPU’s Richmond campus, located at 8771 Lansdowne Road, Richmond BC. The campus is served by rapid transit (Canada Line – Lansdowne Station), by which downtown Vancouver can be reached in about 30 minutes.

Position Overview

  • Contract:  35 hours/week for one year, with possibility of renewal
  • Salary: $25-27/hour dependent on qualifications and experience
  • Position start date: July 5th, negotiable for the right candidate
  • Application deadline: June 5th, 2016

Responsibilities and Tasks

The primary responsibility of the research associate will be project management and execution of the ISFS project: Building an accessible food system policy database for B.C. communities (please see the project overview below). This project has been conceptualized and initial work has been undertaken. The research associate will develop and execute a one-year work plan to achieve project goals and deliverables, which are:

  • An online, open access searchable bank of B.C. municipal policies related to food systems.
  • A report on findings from interviews with planners about what makes food system policy effective.
  • A set of indicators municipal governments can use to monitor their progress in advancing local food systems and policy development.
  • Workshop or webinar with planners, community groups, food policy councils etc. to launch/share the website, share findings from the interviews, and review the municipal indicators for monitoring advancement of local food systems.

The research associate will also contribute to a second project under way at ISFS, development of a Regional Food Systems Resources website.  Key tasks on this project include:

  • Management and supervision of the development of a resource collection (academic and non-academic resources that will comprise one aspect of the website.  This work entails collaboration with the project lead, and supervision of student employees.
  • Work with KPU’s Marketing Department to develop and test the website as it relates to the resource collection.

The research associate may also develop, in collaboration with other ISFS staff, a near and longer term food system policy and planning research program plan and funding strategy, and prepare grant applications. For the right candidate and dependent on funding there may be opportunity for contract renewal associated with this research program.

Qualifications, Skills and Experience

The successful applicant for this position must:

  • Hold a master degree in planning, policy, food system studies, or other relevant discipline
  • Be interested in local policy and sustainable food systems
  • Be experienced with project development and management
  • Have qualitative research experience and training
  • Have a demonstrated ability to conceptualize a complex project and effectively plan and execute steps to complete it
  • Have strong interpersonal communication skills
  • Have strong writing skills demonstrated by their lay and/or academic publication record
  • Have demonstrated their ability to work with a high degree of autonomy and with a multi-disciplinary team

The following will be considered assets:

  • Experience in a supervisory role including as a TA
  • Proficiency working with Atlas.ti qualitative software
  • Knowledge of the food system policy landscape of BC
  • Experience working in a municipal government setting or with municipal planners
  • Grant writing experience and/or training

For more information….

Food by Ward. Food Assets & Opportunities in Toronto. Toronto Food Policy

About Food by Ward

Food by Ward initiative documents food assets and opportunities, ward by ward, across the City of Toronto.
The Food by Ward initiative aims to:

  • Grow the City of Toronto’s appetite for using food assets to solve city problems;
  • Make it easier for City staff and officials to see and use community food assets strategically, and;
  • Inspire, support, and guide community Food Champions in their work.

Find your ward resource HERE.

At it’s most basic the Food by Ward resource helps Toronto residents answer the questions:

  • Where is my closest food bank?
  • Where can I find a community garden in my ward?
  • Where are the farmers markets in Toronto?

The resource also points to the unequal distribution of food assets across the city and addresses the barriers communities face when trying to find or start food programs. It tells the story of the incredible grassroots organizing around food that is happening across the city and makes the case that food should be considered as important as other urban infrastructure.

Across Toronto, communities are building food assets to solve city problems like poor access to healthy food, social isolation, and economic development, and to address food insecurity. Toronto’s food policy leadership is recognized globally. Vibrant markets, neighbourhoods, and restaurants attract millions of tourists. The food sector accounts for one out of 10 jobs in the city. A vibrant food movement has developed a mosaic of gardens, farms, kitchens, and community spaces centred on good food. Yet 12% of Torontonians are food insecure and over 896,900 people visited food banks in Toronto last year.

Food by Ward showcases Toronto’s food assets and activities, and calls for greater attention to food as an integral element of our urban system.

Food by Ward goals:

  • Highlight the complexity of food resources, networks, and systems in Toronto by mapping food assets.
  • Showcase food assets and activities in each ward to help City Councillors see food assets in their communities and
    integrate this into broader planning and decision-making at the City.
  • Build tools, skills, capacity, and channels so food leaders are able to move food priorities forward.
  • Strengthen and connect local and city-wide food networks to facilitate conversations on food with City Councillors
    and city leaders.
  • Advocate for the equitable distribution of food assets in all 44 wards across the city.

For more information……

Learning from Vermont Farm to Plate: Webinar Wrap-Up

Thank you to everyone who participated in last week’s Sustainable Food Systems Working Group webinar, Learning from Vermont Farm to Plate, featuring a presentation from Erica Campbell, Farm to Plate Network Director at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. The slides and recording are now available.

If you weren’t able to attend, or would like to share information with colleagues, the slide deck and webinar recording are now available on our website.

ON Local Food Week, 6-12 June 2016

Finding locally grown, fresh, tasty food in Ontario is becoming easier all the time – and the diversity of the products available is incredible. All throughout the year, there is a constant supply of locally produced meats, eggs, dairy products and greenhouse vegetables available at grocery stores, farmers’ markets, farm retailers, restaurants and community events. With the arrival of spring and summer, the choices are even more plentiful as dozens of long-awaited fruits, vegetables and flowers come into season.

Ontario’s 37,000 farm families are proud of the quality and variety of the food they produce  and they’re grateful to Ontarians for buying them. By buying local, you’re not only getting nutritious, delicious and environmentally friendly groceries – but you’re supporting your neighbours, friends and the local economy. We thank you for that!

For more information……

Agroecology Knowledge Exchange Workshop: Building a South-North Partnership

This workshop will bring together leaders in agroecology research and practice from Cuba, Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica, as well as Ontario.  It will be an opportunity to share stories of innovation, learn some practical skills, and build relationships across boundaries and cultures. The workshop will celebrate diversity, and its goal is to help build the capacity of everyone involved to engage in agroecology as a means of increasing the resilience of our agroecosystems and communities. It is being organized by the Wilfrid Laurier University Centre for Sustainable Food Systems through its FLEdGE (Food: Locally Embedded, Globally Engaged) project.

DAY 1: Monday, August 15 – Sharing Stories of Agroecological Innovation

Time: 8am – 5pm

Location: Room 142, Balsillie School of International Affairs, 67 Erb St. W., Waterloo, ON

Presenters on Day 1 will include:

  • Dr. Angel Leyva Galán of Cuba’s National Institute for Agricultural Sciences (Department of Sustainable Agroecosystem Management)
  • Marvin Gómez of Honduras’ Foundation for Participatory Research with Honduran Farmers
  • Laura Gómez Tovar of Mexico’s University of Chapingo (Agroecology Department)
  • Gabriela Soto of the Costa Rican branch of the Sustainable Assessment Committee
  • Sarah Hargreaves of the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario

There will also be time for group discussion.

DAY 2: Tuesday, August 16 – Learning in the Field

Time: 8am – 5pm

Location: Everdale Organic Farm and Environmental Learning Centre, 5812 6 Line, Hillsburgh, ON

In addition to a farm tour, activities will include field-based learning on the following topics:

  • Participatory Agroecosystem/Biodiversity Evaluation
  • Participatory Organic Certification
  • Participatory Plant Breeding and Seeds

DAY 3: Wednesday, August 17: Farm Tours

Time: 8am – 7pm

Locations: Fertile Ground CSA, 1560 Carmel-Koch Rd., St. Agatha, ON (MORNING) andZócalo Organics, 5881 3 Line, Hillsburgh, ON (AFTERNOON)

Day 3 will include:

  • A farm tour of Fertile Ground CSA and discussion of the EFAO’s Farmer-Led Research Program
  • A farm tour of Zócalo Organics
  • A planning session for future collaboration
  • A group dinner

NOTE: Participants may register for any one, two or all 3 days of the workshop.

Please contact the workshop organizers if you have any dietary restrictions.

WHERE: Waterloo and surrounding area – Waterloo and surrounding area, Ontario

To Register…..

Research Associate Job Vacancy: Eco-Ethonomics Inc.

Assist in coordinating and conducting research activities for all projects.  The incumbent will report directly to the President and will be accountable for ensuring deliverables are met on time, project teams are well-coordinated and clients are satisfied.  To be successful in this position the candidate will need to have the leadership and communication skills to coordinate a team which may include researchers, associate consultants, interns and support staff.  The position will also require that candidates have the qualitative and quantitative research skills, and ability to analyze data and write research reports and learning summaries.  The candidate will also work closely supporting the President, liaising directly with clients to schedule meetings.

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Write evaluation reports, feasibility studies, business plans, research analysis and other research summary documents
  • Conduct qualitative and quantitative research as per project parameters
  • Assist in designing data collection tools and research methodology
  • Co-facilitate meetings with the project lead and other project team members
  • Coordinate teams of associates, support staff, researchers and interns on project and research related activities
  • Coaching and developing support staff, providing skills training, as well as developing processes and procedures for staff team
  • Provide regular progress updates through continuous communication on each project with the President and other staff
  • Liaise with clients and facilitate regular check-ins to keep them updated on project progress
  • Assist the President in business development (such as searching for relevant RFP’s, writing contract proposals, and networking with/pursuing potential clients)
  • Act as a liaise with clients to manage the President’s calendar and perform administrative tasks such as booking travel, hotel and conferences, when needed, as well as maintaining the current filing system
  • Ensuring high quality deliverables
  • Other duties as necessary

For more information……

Is local food good for farmers?

Alison Blay-Palmer has been studying and promoting local food systems for nearly 20 years, and her enthusiasm for the topic is greater than ever. Blay-Palmer is director of the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., where she explores the big questions around sustainability.

Those big questions include social justice, a factor rarely considered in mainstream ag research. For her, looking into economics means not only farm incomes, but also migrant labour, access to affordable food, and what she calls food “re-localization,” or “closing the loop” — to retain as much money as possible in the community.

And yes, this is federally funded research, although not exactly ag research.

Last fall, Blay-Palmer was named International Government Innovation Chair in Sustainable Food Systems at the Waterloo-based Balsillie School of International Affairs. Even more recently, she obtained $2.4 million over five years from the national Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to look at community food projects that are happening across the country and around the world. Read more…..

The missing link in the New Urban Agenda: Food systems

In cities, towns and rural communities alike, all must be fed to survive, and those with the means have two or three meals a day. The right to food cannot be separated from the right to housing, adequate water and sanitation, decent employment and all the other rights related to a life of dignity. In rural and smaller communities, it is fairly easy to see how people are fed or go hungry; the larger the community, however, the more difficult it is to comprehend the food system.

Significant attention has been paid to many issues that will be part of this year’s Habitat III conference on cities as well as the global urbanization strategy that will come out of it, the New Urban Agenda. But there has been a notable lack of reference to food, nutrition and the provisioning challenges to urban sustainability in the preparations for the conference, despite the fact that many key urban issues — housing, transportation, infrastructure, health, ecosystem resilience, urban-rural linkages, territorial development and spatial planning — have important food-system and rural components. Compared to Habitat I and II, there is a marked overemphasis in the Habitat III preparations on the urban with inadequate reference to the rural. Read more……

Theories of Change with six inspiring speakers (May 2nd, 2016)

The Laurier Centre for Community Research Learning and Action (CCRLA) in partnership with Laurier’s Social Innovation Venture Creation (SIVC)invites you to attend an exciting one day workshop on May 2nd in Kitchener to discuss Theories of Change inspired by six inspiring local and national thought leaders from non-profit, governmental and academic sectors. There will be two panels followed by interactive group discussions. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. A parallel event was held recently in Auckland, New Zealand, and an international exchange is planned ( ). Please help us spread the word about this event by sending this email to your networks.

The day’s speakers include:

Catherine Fife (MPP of Kitchener-Waterloo)

Catherine Fife is in her second term as MPP representing Kitchener-Waterloo. For the past decade, Catherine worked tirelessly on behalf of the families of Kitchener-Waterloo to help improve the quality and their access to education. She served as Trustee and Chair of the Waterloo Region District School Board, Vice President of the Canadian School Boards’ Association, and President of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association. She met the challenge of these roles by successfully balancing a 675 million dollar budget for an organization serving 60,000 students and 5,500 staff. Through her leadership, an additional 1,600 new childcare spaces were created in the region at no additional cost to Waterloo Region taxpayers.

 Joe Mancini, Co-Founder, The Working Center

Joe Mancini co-founded The Working Centre with Stephanie back in 1982. Using a radical model of hospitality and relationship building, The Working Centre has evolved into a village of integrated supports in multiple areas such as food, employment, health, outreach, bike repair, thrifts stores, housing, and social enterprise.

Jessica Bolduc, Executive Director, 4R Youth Movement

Jessica Bolduc, is an Anishinaabe-French young woman living in (Baawaating), Sault Ste. Marie, Batchewana First Nation territory. Jess is the Executive Director of the 4Rs Youth Movement where she is walking alongside young Indigenous and non-Indigenous change makers exploring critical conversations about reconciliation.

Dave Meslin (Toronto-based Artist, Community Choreographer)

Dave is a Toronto-based artist, community organizer, author and trainer. Using non-traditional methods and creative tactics, he spent twenty years as a social and political entrepreneur leaving a trail of non-profit start-ups, campaign victories, viral videos, new magazines, and public space interventions in his path. His thesis is simple: We’re stronger and smarter when we’re all involved. A recent Ted Talk by Dave on apathy can be viewed here: .

Christiane Sadeler, Executive Director, Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council

Christiane grew up in Germany and via a couple of other country stops made Canada her home in 1989 where she embarked on her most significant task of raising her son. ‎A keen observer of human actions coupled with a deeply felt impatience about the same have drawn her to places where people share her passion for visioning a better tomorrow. And when our todays – as they do- get a little exhausting (if not exasperating) it is always nature that provides her with reprieve and reflection. All other things are just the pencils with which to colour within the above lines. But if you must know more check out

James Orbinski, CIGI Research Chair in Global Health at the Balsillie School of International Affairs

Dr. Orbinski is a humanitarian practitioner and a leading scholar in global health. He believes in humanitarianism, in citizenship and in actively engaging and shaping the world in which we live, so that it is more humane, fair and just. As of September 2012, Dr. Orbinski is CIGI Research Chair in Global Health at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, and professor of International Policy and Governance at Wilfrid Laurier University. At the University of Toronto, which he joined in 2003, he is full professor of Medicine at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and Senior Fellow at both Massey College, and the Munk School of Global Affairs. He has extensive field experience with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), having worked as a medical doctor in Peru (91) and Brazil (92), and as MSF’s medical co-coordinator in Baidoa Somalia during the 92-93 civil war and famine, and in Jalalabad, Afghanistan in 1993-94 during the civil war.  He led MSF’s mission in Kigali, Rwanda during the 1994 genocide and civil war, and in Goma, Zaire during the 1996-97 civil war and refugee crisis. After completing a Masters Degree in International Relations, he was elected international president of MSF from 1998 to 2001. During this time, he launched MSF’s Access to Essential Medicines Campaign (1998) and accepted the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to MSF in 1999. In 2004, Dr. Orbinski co-founded Dignitas International, which is now supporting over 200,000 people with full treatment for HIV, and is scaling up its Primary Health Care treatment model to serve a population of 3 million in Malawi. Dignitas also has established an extensive research capacity, with over forty major publications focused on improving health systems in the developing world.

When: Monday, 2 May 2016 from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM (EDT)

Where: 120 Duke St W-Room 101 – 120 Duke Street West Kitchener, ON N2H 6P6 CA

For more information…….