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.