50 Years of Labour Apartheid, Now What? Learning and Moving Forward in the Movement for Migrant Rights in Canada

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Evelyn ENCALADA GREZ, York University, Canada, OISE of the University of Toronto, Canada
The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) which recruits workers for the agricultural industry in Canada turned 50 years in 2016. Grassroots community-labour activists have long held the analysis that this program structures labour and immigration apartheid among workers from the Caribbean and Mexico who perform grueling and dangerous work. For over 17 years, Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW), a political collective comprised of pro-bono organizers acting as organic intellectuals and activist academics, has been at the forefront of migrant farmworkers struggles in Canada and transnationally. Long before there were experts in the law dealing with migrant workers rights, J4MW undertook grassroots research to learn about migrant workers' lives in order to be more effective and accountable allies. In this paper, I recount the main learnings of my work as a transnational organizer, activist academic and co-founder of J4MW and formulate new directions for our work by taking cues from important movements and developments throughout North America. I detail the urgency of broadening our transnational work to global movements against neoliberal globalization and to the creation of alternatives and building the world we want in the here and now. My analysis takes into consideration our limitations in a critically reflexive manner. I bring to the fore the agency and struggles of not only migrant workers but also that of their families and communities impacted by the disciplining of neoliberal global capital. How do we step it up for the movement of migrant rights in Canada? How do we go beyond case work to tangibly effect structural change? How can we come together from our divergent positionalities to build an encompassing social justice project reflective of migrant workers' and their families' voices from all guest worker programs for agriculture including those without status?