He's worked legally in Canada for 37 years but the government considers him 'temporary'

October 5, 2017
Article Source
Toronto Star

Canada is Patrick Stanio's second home, where he is good enough to work but not good enough to stay.

After returning for 37 years to do back-bending work on three different farms in Ontario — spending half his life away from his family in St. Lucia — the 66-year-old migrant worker is anxious about his future. Eventually he'll become too frail to do the work and too slow for his employer.

Despite his long history here and devotion to his job, Stanio has always been just a guest in Canada. As a low-wage labourer, despite his skills being in demand, he hasn't been able to qualify for immigration.

"I used to carry my children’s photos with me to Canada because I wasn't really there when they were growing up. Now I’m carrying my (five) grandchildren's photos," said Stanio, sitting on a worn bench at the back of an old bunkhouse he shares with five Jamaican workers on a farm on the shores of Lake Erie.

"Many of us come back year after year to work on farms. It's nothing temporary. Canadians just want us to do the jobs they won't."

While supporters of Canada's migrant farmworker program tout it as a win-win for migrant workers and the country's agricultural sector, critics say workers like Stanio are the ones who pay the price for the cheap food on our dining tables.

The share of migrant workers in Canada's agricultural workforce has doubled in the last decade as what was once seasonal need for harvesters has turned into a year-round labour market reality.

The workers pay income tax and employment insurance, and contribute to the Canada Pension Plan. However, their precarious status in Canada makes it difficult for them to exercise their rights and protections under labour laws, making them easy prey for unscrupulous recruiters and bad employers.

Read more: He's worked legally in Canada for 37 years but the government considers him 'temporary'