Every summer, thousands of temporary foreign workers come to Canada to work in the agriculture sector, primarily in Ontario and Quebec. Most workers are from Mexico. In 2015, 40,497 temporary foreign workers filled 45,005 jobs for agricultural operations.
Hiring temporary foreign workers has become a widespread practice to compensate for the lack of available labour in the agriculture sector. Statistics Canada studied the presence of these workers in the population, employed for agricultural operations in Canada, by cross-referencing and comparing data from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program with 2016 Census of Agriculture data.
Most temporary foreign workers hired by agricultural operations worked on crop operations. More specifically, 41,659 jobs filled by temporary foreign workers were in the crop subsector, representing 92.6% of all agricultural jobs filled by temporary foreign workers in Canada. In the
livestock subsector, 3,346 jobs were filled by temporary foreign workers, representing 7.4% of all agricultural jobs filled by temporary foreign workers.
The greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production industry hired the most temporary foreign workers, filling 15,093 jobs (33.5% of the total number of agricultural jobs filled by temporary foreign workers). This was followed by vegetable and melon farming, with 11,793 jobs (26.2%),
and fruit and tree nut farming, with 10,523 jobs (23.4%).
Most jobs filled by temporary foreign agricultural workers are in Eastern Canada. Ontario (21,975 jobs) and Quebec (10,617 jobs) together accounted for 72.4% of all jobs filled by temporary foreign agricultural workers in Canada. They also accounted for 60.9% (2,183) of
all agricultural operations that hired at least one temporary foreign worker (1,350 operations in Ontario and 833 in Quebec).
Just over half of temporary foreign agricultural workers are from Mexico
In 2015, just over half (51.5%) of the temporary foreign agricultural workers were from Mexico (20,854 workers), followed by Jamaica (19.5%) and Guatemala (15.2%). Overall, 86.2% of temporary foreign workers in Canada (34,897 workers) came from one of these three countries.
Foreign workers are issued work permits to fill vacant positions for specific lengths of time: Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) are in Canada for a maximum of 2 years at any one time and Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program (SAWP) workers are in Canada for a maximum of 8
months, although they can return again each season. They are paid the same as a Canadian worker for the same role, as regulated through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).
The TFWP helps to alleviate the chronic labour shortages within Canadian agriculture. Canadian agriculture brings in over 60,000 offshore workers every year to work on Canadian farms. Even with this program, on-farm agriculture has the highest job vacancy rate of any industry at 5.4 percent. 70% of these workers stay in Ontario and 67% of those workers are in our diocese of Huron and around 5,000 workers are in the area of Norfolk County.
During COVID-19, access to international labour has become more difficult and complicated. Farmers have been forced to navigate a global health crisis that they were unprepared for, both personally and in terms of on-farm infrastructure. Outbreaks have occurred on farms with
international workers, and these infections have led to the deaths of four Mexican farm workers in Canada to-date. In response to these unfortunate deaths, migrant worker groups have released unsubstantiated reports attacking the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and farmers at large across Canada. This page will provide critical, objective information on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to help give a balanced perspective on how this program works for everyone involved.