PhD student Anelyse Weiler interviewed for Toronto Star article on migrant workers

Anelyse WeilerPhD student Anelyse Weiler was recently interviewed for an article in The Toronto Star on temporary migrants workers in Canada and the difficulties they face in obtaining permanent resident status. Weiler’s research focuses on labour migration and sustainable food systems, and she recently co-authored “Food Security at Whose Expense?, a paper that was published in the International Migration Journal in August. We have provided an excerpt of the article below.

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

By Nicholas Keung

…Anelyse Weiler, a University of Toronto PhD student specializing in labour migration and sustainable food systems, said granting status to migrant farmworkers upon arrival is the only way to liberate a “captive labour force that is readily exploitable by design.”

“When low-wage migrant workers are given the dangling carrot of a pathway to permanent residency, they are vulnerable to highly exploitative employment arrangements during the limbo period before they potentially become permanent residents,” said Weiler, a co-author of a paper — titled Food Security at Whose Expense? — published in the International Migration Journal in August.

“One of the drawbacks of open work permits alone would be that if workers are still deportable and lack a fair appeal process prior to a repatriation order, then they might face similar challenges as today.”

The argument that the migrant worker programs are a win-win for Canada and the workers ignores the lopsided imbalance of power, she said.

“These programs function by taking advantage of racialized global inequality. It’s hard to square the win-win logic with years of research documenting systemic problems of substandard housing, inadequate access to washrooms and unscrupulous job recruiters who charge exorbitant fees,” Weiler noted…

Read the full article.

Food security at whose expense? PhD candidate Anelyse Weiler co-authors new article in International Migration

Anelyse WeilerInternational Migration recently published an article co-authored by PhD candidate Anelyse Weiler, along with Janet McLaughlin of Wilfrid Laurier University and Donald Cole at UofT’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Focusing on Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), the authors critically analyze employer claims that changing the status quo for migrant farm workers’ labour and human rights would undermine national food security. In addition, they weigh in on debates about whether remittances alleviate food insecurity and poverty for migrant workers. Their data is based on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews in Canada, Mexico and Jamaica, along with clinical data from serving farm worker patients in Ontario.

The authors contend that while the SAWP may provide temporary improvements to migrant farm workers’ household food security, this comes at a high cost and fails to address the structural drivers of migration. They document how the very people hired to produce food experience barriers to food security while they are working in Canada. Ultimately, they argue that the concept of ‘feeding the nation’ via migrant farm labour regimes depends on imagining migrant farm workers as racialized outsiders.

Weiler is currently conducting her dissertation fieldwork on socio-ecological dynamics of agrarian change in Pacific Northwest apple production. In 2016, she received an award from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in BC for her research and migrant farm worker advocacy. This past spring, she co-organized an international symposium in Vancouver on emergent forms of collective organizing among precariously employed workers across the food system. She recently published a Policy Brief with Food Secure Canada on how Canada’s national food policy can strengthen health, human rights and dignity with migrant farm workers.

Weiler, A. M., McLaughlin, J., & Cole, D. C. (2017). Food Security at Whose Expense? A Critique of the Canadian Temporary Farm Labour Migration Regime and Proposals for Change. International Migration55(4), 48-63. https://doi.org/10.1111/imig.12342

The abstract is as follows:

Temporary farm labour migration schemes in Canada have been justified on the premise that they bolster food security for Canadians by addressing agricultural labour shortages, while tempering food insecurity in the Global South via remittances. Such appeals hinge on an ideology defining migrants as racialized outsiders to Canada. Drawing on qualitative interviews and participant observation in Mexico, Jamaica and Canada, we critically analyse how Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program is tied to ideological claims about national food security and agrarianism, and how it purports to address migrant workers’ own food insecurity. We argue remittances only partially, temporarily mitigate food insecurity and fail to strengthen migrant food sovereignty. Data from our clinical encounters with farm workers illustrate structural barriers to healthy food access and negative health consequences. We propose an agenda for further research, along with policies to advance food security and food sovereignty for both migrants and residents of Canada.

Anelyse Weiler on health care for Migrant

Anelyse WeilerAnelyse Weiler is a PhD student in Sociology with research focusing on migrant farm workers in Canada. With two medical co-authors, Anelyse recently published an article on the BC Medical Journal’s blog. The BC Medical Journal is a general publication for the continuing education of physicians in British Columbia. The blog consists of “short timely pieces for online publication…on any health-related topic.” The piece appeared on Wednesday, September 21, 2016 and the complete article is available online . The following is an excerpt of the longer article.

Coming to Grips with Health Barriers and Structural Violence for Migrant Farmworkers: A role for BC physicians

“In Kelowna I walked around all the time with a headache, and I covered my mouth with something so I wouldn’t absorb all of the [pesticide] dust coming out of the cherries. And I mentioned it to the boss . . . from what I have seen. . . . If you get worse, the boss sends you back to Mexico, and the following year he won’t request you [as an employee]. And just like that he has gotten rid of his problems. That’s the issue; I’ve seen bosses discard their best workers simply because they became ill, fell, broke a hand, or fractured part of their body.”
—Felipe, from an interview on 29 September 2013

Felipe (a pseudonym), a 28-year-old man from southern Mexico, is one of approximately 8600 migrant farmworkers living throughout BC. He and other migrant farmworkers are engaged in one of the province’s most dangerous, least regulated, and lowest paid occupations. The majority are men and most are from Mexico or Jamaica, but an increasing number come from other countries. Even though they make tremendous cultural, social, and economic contributions to Canadian society, migrant farmworkers often experience disproportionately adverse health outcomes because they are excluded from many of the rights and protections that citizens and permanent residents enjoy.

Migrant farmworkers are legally entitled to health care—they must be covered either by MSP or private insurance. But Felipe’s story shows how a fear of job termination and deportation generates unique barriers to health for migrant farmworkers. Furthermore, workers are often dependent on employers for transportation from remote rural areas and help to navigate the Canadian medical system.

BC physicians can play a critical role in reducing the gaps in health care for migrant members of our communities, both through everyday clinical practice and advocacy.

Resources and considerations for physicians
If language barriers are a concern, physicians can draw on the Provincial Language Service (PLS), which provides interpreting and translation services over the phone or in person.

To address cultural barriers and migrants’ long working hours, the Umbrella Mobile Clinic provides periodic pop-up farmworker mobile clinics throughout the Fraser Valley. These are staffed by a physician or nurse practitioner as well as multilingual cross-cultural health brokers.

If a physician is clarifying medical or billing issues with private insurance providers, sending-country representatives, English-speaking coworkers, or employers, they should be sensitive to the potential implications of putting patients’ confidentiality at risk. Medical repatriation, where a migrant worker is sent to their country of origin after sustaining an illness or injury (often against their will), is a documented risk for farmworkers. Once repatriated, access to health care and compensation granted to other ill or injured workers in Canada becomes much more complicated.

Read the full article

Rock Stars and Bad Apples

Anelyse WeilerCongratulations to Anelyse Weiler who recently published an article about precarious farm labour. The article is currently behind a paywall but here is the citation and abstract.

Weiler, A. M., Otero, G., and Wittman, H. (2016) Rock Stars and Bad Apples: Moral Economies of Alternative Food Networks and Precarious Farm Work Regimes. Antipode, doi: 10.1111/anti.12221.

Alternative food networks face both challenges and opportunities in rethinking the role of precarious employment in food system transformation. We explore how alternative food networks in British Columbia, Canada have engaged with flexible and precarious work regimes for farmworkers, including both temporary migrant workers and un(der)paid agricultural interns. Based on in-depth interviews, participant observation and document analysis, we find that alternative food actors often normalize a precarious work regime using a moral economy frame. This framing describes precarious farm employment as either a necessary challenge in the transition to sustainability, or merely involving a few individual “bad apple” farmers. Further, this framing involves an aversion to “one-size-fits-all” regulation by the state in favor of consumer-driven regulation of labor standards. Our analysis suggests that a moral economy framing can obscure systemic inequities in precarious farm employment and dampen the impetus for structural change through collective food movement organizing.

PhD Student Anelyse Weiler named Trudeau Scholar

Anelyse WeilerAnelyse Weiler, a second year PhD student in Sociology at the University of Toronto, was recently awarded a prestigious Trudeau Scholarship to support her doctoral work.

Every year, The Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation offers scholarships to outstanding doctoral candidates addressing themes of particular relevance to Canadian society. Trudeau scholars are PhD students who have shown that they are committed to academic excellence, contributing to public dialogue, and advancing interdisciplinary research.

Anelyse Weiler received the Trudeau Fellowship award for her research and advocacy, which focus on advancing health equity and dignity with migrant workers in Canada’s agriculture and agri-food industry, while simultaneously advancing economic viability and ecological sustainability. Weiler’s doctoral research is supervised by Professor Josée Johnston, and she is continuing to work with her MA co-supervisor Dr. Hannah Wittman at the University of British Columbia.

Due to their social location and precarious citizenship status, migrant farmworkers face a range of equity issues, including exposure to toxic agrochemicals and the threat of repatriation. They also face barriers to participating in food system decisions that affect their lives. Through mixed-methods comparative research in Canada, the United States and farmworkers’ countries of origin, Weiler’s research will unearth the farmworkers’ perspectives on food justice and food sovereignty. Paradoxically, farmworkers often face food insecurity themselves. Weiler’s research will shed light on how migrant farmworkers’ knowledge can inform local and transnational efforts toward a more equitable, ecologically resilient food system.

Very much committed to community-engaged scholarship, Weiler is involved in a range of initiatives focused on advancing sustainable agriculture, migrant justice and farmworker health. This has included a collaborative research project with Sustain Ontario, along with volunteer advocacy with Justicia for Migrant Workers and the BC Employment Standards Coalition. In addition, she is helping to coordinate a research project to formally train BC physicians on addressing health barriers faced by migrant farmworkers.

The Trudeau Scholarship provides Weiler with a stipend and travel funding for three years to support original fieldwork and knowledge exchange. It also provides her with the opportunity to work with the vibrant intellectual community that the Trudeau Foundation has developed since its establishment in 2001. This includes formal mentoring by Canadians with extensive experience in public life, who support Trudeau Scholars in contributing to public policy and ensuring their research remains relevant to contemporary societal needs and concerns.