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From the Voices of Mexican Seasonal Farm Workers in Alberta

  • Author / Creator
    Barba González, Maricruz
  • In response to labour shortages across various sectors, including agriculture, the Government of Canada created the Temporary Labour Program, one stream of which is the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). Mexico is currently the major partnering country, which runs the matching Programa de Trabajadores Agrícolas Temporales (PTAT) which accounts for 43.8% of all migrant seasonal farm labourers in Canada (SRE, 2022). With the increasing number of migrant workers in Canada, there are growing concerns about their labour and living conditions. Loo (2014) and other authors contend that to improve international labour programs so as to better serve foreign workers, it is critical to learn migrant workers’ perspectives by having their voices heard. There are, however, challenges to speaking with foreign farm workers, including language differences, rural locations, long workdays, living constraints, and fear of speaking out.
    Most research on migrant workers has been conducted in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, which have the highest provincial numbers. Conversely, there has been little research examining migrant workers’ experiences in the province of Alberta. My qualitative, participatory research contributes to the literature by exploring the perspectives of Mexican seasonal agriculture workers who have participated in the PTAT in Alberta. I used a focused ethnographic approach and methods of PhotoVoice and semi-structured interviews to learn about their motivations for enrolling in the PTAT and their experiences of working in the agriculture sector in this provincial context. Participants' narratives and photographic images provided information about: their motives for enrolling in the PTAT; how they navigated the application process; their lived experiences while working on farms and other agriculture businesses in Alberta; the impacts on their health and well-being; and, their perspectives on their role in Canada’s agri-food system. I also explored workers’ perspectives on being part of this international labour program during the COVID-19 pandemic and how this influenced the different stages of their experiences, both in Mexico and Canada. As part of the investigation of participants’ perspectives on health and well-being, I asked them about their access to health services and healthy and culturally appropriate food, and opportunities they had to experience community life in Alberta.
    Many of the findings from this research align with previous studies illuminating the vulnerable and challenging working and living conditions of migrant agricultural workers in Canada. Novel insights gained through this participatory research with Mexican migrant agriculture workers in Alberta focus on the application process and institutional context in Mexico, workers’ perspectives on their health and well-being, and their narratives and photographic images about their lived experiences in Alberta during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2023
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-14vq-k693
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.