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And on that farm they had...migrant workers, tonight on Perspectives

Jenna Murphy

Friday, June 25, 2010

Literature and movies make farm life appear so quaint. But in those Victorian snapshots of rural living, the dung pile is usually not featured.
There are many unpleasant jobs to be done on a farm and sometimes, finding someone to do them is like pulling teeth.
This was the case on the Cronin Farm. After painstakingly (and unsuccessfully) trying to convince local high school students to undertake the task of manually inseminating the pigs on their farm, Amy and her husband decided that it was time to look elsewhere.migrant
And by elsewhere I mean Guatemala.
Amy’s migrant workers’ needs are met in an exceptional way (see Pedro’s blog here highlighting his visit to the Cronin Farm). Her workers are happy and healthy. They have two cars for their personal use, their own fully furnished house and satellite TV. Not to mention the workers join her family for the odd meal and are welcomed to take part in other family activities.
But this is not an accurate picture of migrant worker conditions in Canada, says Deacon Bert Cambre, the Director of Deacons in the Archdiocese of Toronto. Deacon Bert has ministered extensively to migrant workers and he says that often times the workers are subject to long working hours, rare visits home and unpleasant living conditions. And then there is the loneliness and isolation that results from being so far from home.
So Amy’s problems are resolved. Her pigs will continue producing future generations and she need not be constantly recruiting to satisfy a high worker turn-over rate. But Deacon Bert is not sold. He argues that the problems migrant workers face are numerous and that their most workers do not have the luxuries that the Cronin farm affords.
So to answer our question of the week: Is it right to import temporary workers from other countries for jobs Canadians will not do? “Absolutely,” Amy says. “Not so much,” Deacon Bert says.
Be sure to tune in at 7 and 11 pm Eastern, 8 pm Pacific for what was one of the most animated editions of Perspectives to date.

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