Letter: Temporary farm workers contribute to Okanagan economy

The migrant men and women who work on Okanagan farms are integral members of our communities…

To the editor:

As spring draws near, farms across the Okanagan Valley are preparing for the arrival of approximately 1,200 Latin American and Caribbean migrant farmworkers.

The vast majority of these men and women come from Mexico, with increasing numbers also traveling from Jamaica, Guatemala and Peru. They work in orchards, vineyards, ranches and nurseries, cultivating organic and conventional crops for local and global consumption in jobs that would otherwise go unfilled.

Most of these men and women are employed under Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, also known as the SAWP. Originally introduced in Ontario in 1966, the SAWP was implemented in BC in 2004.

According to the rules of SAWP, workers must live in housing provided by their employer. This housing is often on-farm, far from public transportation and urban centres, which leaves migrants isolated and immobile. Migrants’ work permits are also tied to a single employer. This means that they are not free to seek other jobs or housing if their living arrangement is poor or if they face workplace abuse. In addition, many workers do not speak English and so their engagement with the rest of the community is further limited.

The migrant men and women who work on Okanagan farms are integral members of our communities, deserving of our respect and of consultation on the decisions that affect their lives. They leave behind their families, their homes, and their businesses to work on Okanagan farms.

Many of these workers have been coming to Canada for decades, yet do not have the right to remain or bring their families.

They deserve the support of our communities in their struggle for rights and dignity. They deserve a path to permanent residency and the right to bring their families with them to Canada.

It is time we stop treating them as ‘temporary’ and recognize them for what they are—industrious members of our communities who contribute to our economic vitality and cultural diversity.

Elise Hahn & Amy Cohen,


Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (RAMA)


Just Posted

Gas leak contained near Lakeshore Road

Ruptured line was quickly contained Sunday morning by Kelowna Fire Department

High winds cause havoc for sailors

Kelowna Fire Department assists boats with broken masts on Okanagan Lake

Late night confrontation between two men in Peachland

RCMP was called to the scene of a physcial encounter on Saturday evening where one man was injured

Search continues after human remains located

The search of the property in the 2200 block of Salmon River Road enters its fourth day

Kelowna hotel suffers water damage

Guests at the Royal Anne Hotel in Bernard were greeted by firefighters last night

VIDEO: Sears liquidation sales continue across B.C.

Sales are expected to continue into the New Year

10,000 signatures gained to stop ‘no pets’ rental policy

Pets OK BC said about 1,700 animals were surrendered to the BC SPCA last year due to housing issues

A golden opportunity

Orthodontist offers sweet deal for the pocketbook

Who is Curtis Sagmoen?

The Observer reveals what we know about the man attached to the Silver Creek property where human remains were found

VIDEO: Oprah Winfrey and a celebrities attend ‘B.C. Miracle Concert’

Fundraiser featured Foster, Steven Tyler, The Tenors, Matteo Bocelli, Laura Bretan, Carly Rae Jepsen

First-place Warriors edge Caps, visit ‘Backs today

West Kelowna scores twice in 25 seconds early in third to overtake Cowichan Valley in BCHL action

Grab a book; thank your librarian

All libraries are cornerstones of their communities and we celebrate them during library month

Five decades of volunteering

Even though she is approaching 70, Merle kindred continues to volunteer around the world

Twarynski trick sends Rockets past ‘Hawks

Rockets end five-game winless streak with victory Friday over Portland

Most Read