Workers' hopes and dreams

Poor conditions in Mexico's agricultural sector have led hundreds of agricultural workers to enroll in Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program

Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 19/01/2018 17:02 Astrid Rivera Mexico City Actualizada 17:52
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A suitcase and a backpack are the only belongings that Luis Alberto Rosales will take to Canada, where he will stay for six months.

Luis Alberto, 57, has traveled to work in Canada for 24 years and this year will be no exception. This will be his second time in British Columbia where he works on a farm that grows ornamental flowers, vegetables, and herbs. He will stay there throughout the agricultural season and he will return to Mexico on June 17.

Luis Alberto is from Temascalcingo, State of Mexico, and he has devoted his life to farming. He only studied elementary school, but that has not stopped him to aim for better opportunities for him and his family.

He is among the 102 agricultural workers who will travel to Canada as part of the Mexico-Canada Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP). Poor conditions in Mexico's agricultural sector, long working hours, and low wages have led hundreds of agricultural workers to enroll in the program.

In Mexico, an average work day for Luis Alberto began at dawn and ended when the sun went down. He earned MXN$600 per week, more or less, depending on the seasons and climate-related agricultural challenges.

"The money I earned wasn't enough to support my family, sometimes I even had to sell my belongings. It was very difficult, I had to support six children and my wife."

In Canada, on average, an agricultural worker earns CAD$10.80 per hour, which resulted in MXN$7,600 per week.

"It's a huge difference, there is no comparison. Now, I have been able to support my family, give my children studies and even finish building my house," he says.

SAWP will allow 26,000 agricultural workers from all over the country to work temporarily in rural activities in Ontario, Quebec, Toronto, and British Columbia in 2018.

It should be noted that most agricultural workers come from Tlaxcala, Tabasco, Puebla, Oaxaca, State of Mexico, Querétaro, Guanajuato.

SAWP was originated in 1966, taking agricultural workers exclusively from the Caribbean to Canada, yet in 1974 the program included Mexico as well. SAWP is administered by the Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) branches of Canadian government.

It has proven to be a successful program between Canada and Mexico, being the perfect model of international cooperation demonstrating the possibility to maintain an effective and regulated flow of migrant workers between two countries.


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