In a coordinated manner, the Mexican and Guatemalan consulates in Montreal are mobilizing to inform and support foreign seasonal farm workers.
Text and photos Marie-Anne Dayé
Teams from the Mexican and Guatemalan Consulates in Montreal met on February 21, 2023 at Serres Sylvain Cléroux, a garden center and nursery located in Sainte-Dorothée, Laval. They met with nearly 40 Mexican and Guatemalan workers.
After shaking hands with the employers, the consular teams headed to a room where employees were patiently waiting. Two information sessions were held with 19 workers each, and for 14 of them, it was their first day – extremely cold – in Quebec. It was an opportunity to give them a warm welcome and to inform them about the services offered by their respective consulates.
Felipe González Lugo, Consul in charge of Consular Protection and the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), began with a unifying message:
“There is strength in numbers. You spend more time here than with your families, so the best thing to do is to create a good atmosphere between you, Mexicans and Guatemalans, as well as with the workers from Honduras and El Salvador. We are all Latin Americans, we all have the same goals”.
During the presentation, members of the consulates identified some issues that affect TFWs. What to do if you have a work-related injury? Who do you contact if you need to see a doctor? How does the parental benefit work? Alondra Morales de Maltez, the Guatemalan consulate in Montreal repeatedly said that the consulate can answer these questions, reassuring workers that services are accessible. “I know you all signed your work contract, but who read it right?”, González Lugo then asked. No one raised their hand. Hence the importance of increasing visits and information tools for these workers, most of whom do not speak French and can feel alone and isolated.
The session concluded in a relaxed atmosphere with a quiz and some prizes for the participants.
A critical look at the field
In addition to informing their nationals of their rights, consular teams sometimes conduct inspections of workplaces and housing, among other things, which are followed by recommendations. This allows them to see first-hand whether the environment is safe, whether employers are complying with standards and whether there are improvements to be made.
The Sylvain Cléroux Greenhouses have set up four casas for the hundred or so TFWs employed. Some of them house 18, others 14 and sometimes less, depending on the arrivals and departures of the season. In Felipe González Lugo’s opinion, the company seems, at first glance, to respect the official norms regarding housing, but it is a minimum. There is certainly more that can be done to make the spaces more comfortable for these workers, such as avoiding bunk beds and reducing the number of workers per room.
Consulates want to ensure a greater presence on the ground and strengthen their collaboration with organizations that support temporary foreign workers so that they have a dignified work experience in Quebec.
Here is how to contact the Mexican and Guatemalan Consulates:
Consulate General of Mexico in Montreal
2055 Peel Street
Telephone (for temporary agricultural workers): 514 288-2707 or toll free: 1 888 403-9055
Telephone : 514 288-2502 ext. 285 and 239
Emergencies: 438 522-2352 (in case of an arrest, an accident or a problem with the authorities)
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Consulate General of Guatemala in Montreal
1255 Robert-Bourassa, suite 510
Telephone: 514 397-2348
Emergency call : 514 451-5512 / 514 424-4274 / 514 424-4553
E-mail: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com