Since April 2021, seventeen projects have been deployed across Quebec and have made it possible to reach nearly 50,000 temporary foreign workers. Review and highlights of these initiatives, funded by the Government of Canada through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and coordinated by Immigrant Québec.
Between July 2021 and December 2021, the organizations participating in this support program were able to offer 1,260 personalized consultations, 304 information sessions, and visit 311 farms. High numbers, since this is the busiest time in agricultural facilities. Thus, coming into contact with temporary foreign workers, and in particular agricultural workers, is a constant challenge for organizations. This is why many have turned to the Union of Agricultural Producers (UPA) to establish initial contact with their employers. Others have worked more closely with the consulates of Mexico and Guatemala to help them open doors.
Make a first contact
Taking advantage of a reduction in health measures during the summer – and the mild weather – the organizations have also scheduled around fifty face-to-face sports and cultural activities. A way for stakeholders to establish initial contact with temporary foreign workers. Thus, even if this type of event is not organized directly around subjects such as the defense of the rights of these workers, they then know who to turn to in case of need.
This is the case, among others, of the Actions interculturelles de développement et d’éducation (AIDE) organization, which has developed several partnerships with local actors to organize these activities and reach temporary foreign workers. For example, the organization teamed up with a grocery store to organize a soccer tournament in Sherbrooke. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Honorable Marie-Claude Bibeau, also gave them her support to reach a greater number of participants. In addition, the Grande Table de Sherbrooke takes care of providing meals during visits to the farm. In short, the whole community is invited to lend a hand.
Several organizations also went to the parking lots of businesses frequented by agricultural workers to establish initial contact with them, such as grocery stores or food markets offering a selection of products from Latin America. Others have decided to meet temporary foreign workers directly at flea markets or public markets. An initiative that was very successful and inspired many stakeholders.
Important contacts, since many temporary foreign workers are going through difficult situations, without knowing who to contact, when they even dare to talk about it. Having a neutral interlocutor, apart from their employer, becomes crucial during their stay. It is for this reason that organizations must also develop a relationship of trust with these temporary foreign workers. In addition, the various projects thus carried out improve their well-being and promote their return to Quebec for the next warm season. An important element, since these workers are essential in the agricultural industry.
Several other strategic alliances have been forged in recent months. This is the case of the Montérégie Agricultural Producers’ Union (UPA), which has strengthened its ties with the Network for the Assistance of Migrant Agricultural Workers in Quebec (RATTMAQ), as well as with the consulates of Mexico and Guatemala. Together, they were able to develop answers to questions frequently asked by temporary foreign workers. These organizations also work together to help those who are in difficult situations — for example, who are being abused. A concerted approach that proves to be more effective.
Some organizations have also sought additional resources to support temporary foreign workers. This is the case with the Orientation and Integration Service for Immigrants at Work (SOIT), which has partnered with Desjardins to organize practical information sessions on how the banking system works in Quebec. Not to mention the numerous translation and accompaniment services for temporary foreign workers who wanted to be vaccinated, consult a doctor or who had to go to the administrative labor tribunal.
But above all, these various projects have made it possible to better understand the reality and needs of temporary foreign workers. Indeed, concerns about health issues are less prominent as the pandemic loses ground. However, this in no way eclipses issues such as the working and living conditions of this workforce. Moreover, the organization Accès travail Portneuf (ATP) carried out a survey in Spanish and French in October 2021. Respondents indicated that they were very interested in information concerning respect for their rights in terms of work, health and rest time.
In short, this is long-term work, as the various projects funded by the Government of Canada through the support program for temporary foreign workers will be able to continue until September 2022.