The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program was established in 1974. It has proven to be a successful labour mobility program between Canada and Mexico; it is a model of international cooperation that has demonstrated the possibility to maintain an effective and regulated flow of migrant workers between the two countries.
The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program is beneficial for both countries; it allows the organized entry of Mexican workers to work in agricultural labourer occupations in Canada to fill labour shortages.
The Program has been in existence for 40 years, during which time the number of Mexican Seasonal Agricultural Workers has increased steadily. In 1974, 203 Mexican agricultural workers benefited from the program in Ontario. This number increased to 18,499 in 2013 in nine Canadian Provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan.
The Ministry of Labour of Mexico is responsible for recruitment of agricultural workers in Mexico. Once in Canada, the workers are assisted by the Consulates General of Mexico in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, as well as the Consulates of Mexico in Calgary and Leamington.
Though nine Canadian provinces participate in the program, roughly half of all workers are employed in Ontario, where 9,174 worked in 2013.
The Mexican workers work in almost 1,700 farms (723 of them in Ontario alone) in agricultural areas including tobacco, vegetables, fruit and greenhouses. The majority of the workers arrive to Canada during the summer, but some arrive as early as January. The maximum time that a Mexican worker can spend in Canada is 8 months.
While in Canada, Seasonal Agricultural Workers are protected by Canadian law and they have life and medical insurance. The program is under constant surveillance from the Mexican Consulates in Canada and it is reviewed annually by both countries.
The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program offers a reliable employment opportunity for Mexican agricultural workers who wish to work abroad but who still want to maintain roots in Mexico. The program is completely free and both Mexican men and women can apply.