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Study seeks to interview migrant workers in the Maritimes

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A new study seeks to interview migrant workers in the Maritimes about their experiences working in the agri-food sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Approximately 2,000 migrant workers come to Nova Scotia each year to plant, harvest, and process agricultural crops and seafood products through Temporary Foreign Worker Programs (TFWPs) such as the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). In total, about 50,000 to 60,000 migrant workers are employed in the agri-food sector across Canada each year. 

Raluca Bejan, an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Dalhousie University who is leading the study, notes: “There is a lack of research on migrant workers in Eastern Canada as most topic-related studies have been conducted in larger provinces, such as Ontario, Québec and British Columbia.”

Bejan says that the project will examine “the social impact of COVID-19 on the occupational conditions of the workers, while paying attention to how access to services and protections for migrants vary across the Maritimes.” In addition, she says that the project “aims to increase local capacity for advocacy by generating strategic solidarity between migrant justice organizations in the region.”

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The study is a partnership between Dalhousie University, St. Thomas University in New Brunswick and the Cooper Institute in Prince Edward Island. In addition, there are a number of community partners actively engaged in the project, including the Tatamagouche Centre, the KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, the Filipino-Canadian CommUNITY of New Brunswick (FCNB) and United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). 

Nanci Lee, Executive Director of the Tatamagouche Centre, shared: “For over 60 years, the Tatamagouche Centre has been a meeting place for diverse communities of activists, artists and leaders. Equity and inclusion are core to our values and migrant worker justice is the focus of one of our communities of practice and organizing. We’re proud to be part of this network working for temporary foreign worker safety and justice.”

Interviews with migrant workers are currently underway in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. “[Migrant workers] will be asked about everything from their accommodations and the ability to social distance to the provision of personal protective equipment and whether they were able to safely quarantine,” reads a press release from Dalhousie Univesity.

Any migrant worker who is employed as a temporary foreign worker in the agriculture or seafood processing sector in the Maritimes provinces is eligible to participate. Interviews will be conducted over the phone in English or Spanish and the participant’s identity will remain anonymous. 

To learn more about the research project, visit the study’s website.

If you are a migrant worker in Nova Scotia interested in being interviewed for this research or have questions, please contact Stacey Gomez at Stacey.Gomez@dal.ca or (902) 580-8308. 

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