Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Business
Classified Sites

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Gender discrimination alleged in Canada-Mexico migrant farm-labour program

TORONTO - Allowing Canadian farmers to choose whether they want men or women from Mexico to work for them as seasonal agricultural workers amounts to gender discrimination, a prominent union is arguing.

In a complaint this week, the United Food and Commercial Workers union is calling on Ontario's Human Rights Tribunal to investigate the situation.

According to the union, women comprise on average less than four per cent of the thousands of migrant agriculture workers who come to Canada each year under the seasonal agricultural workers program.

A similar complaint was made in Quebec earlier this month, and another one will be filed in British Columbia in a few weeks, said union spokesman Stan Raper.

The union wants the rights bodies to review the program's recruitment and selection process, which allows employers to request workers based on gender.

Named in the Ontario complaint are all farm owners who recruit Mexican farm workers under the seasonal program.

"In 2011, the percentage of (female) participants of Mexican origin accounted for only 3.75 per cent of a total of 16,491 workers," according to the Ontario complaint.

"This percentage is very far from the provincial women representation in agriculture."

The only explanation for the difference is that the program allows employers to "choose and file a request for the specific sex of his potential employee," the document states.

Ken Forth, president of Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Service, which handles migrant-labour logistics for Ontario and Atlantic Canada, called the discrimination claim ludicrous, saying "someone is trying to make something out of nothing."

In fact, he said, some Canadian farmers simply aren't getting as many female workers as they would like under the program, which began more than 40 years ago.

Women in Mexico are either not coming forward or they aren't being properly recruited by the government there, Forth said.

"They're just simply not available," he said.

"There's certainly no discrimination. The people who have women like them — they just can't get enough of them."

Forth did not answer whether farmers should be allowed to specify a gender preference but pointed out accommodations can pose a logistical problem.

Raper said the union had also filed a complaint with Mexico's human rights commission, but that agency indicated the problem lies with employers and the provincial organizations that arrange worker contracts and transportation to and from Canada.

"The governments of Canada and Mexico have a moral obligation to ensure that women are treated equally as migrant agriculture workers," UFCW Canada national president Paul Meinema said in a statement.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the complaint was filed with the human rights commission. In fact, it was filed with the human rights tribunal.

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Election 2014
Brandon Sun Business Directory
The First World War at 100
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media

Canadian Mortgage Rates