Protecting farm workers

Reports of poor living conditions for foreign workers at one Summerland farm are cause for concern.

Reports of poor living conditions for foreign workers at one Summerland farm are cause for concern.

Last week, two Mexican workers, in Canada under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, met with Mayor Janice Perrino and MP Dan Albas to describe the conditions they experienced at the farm.

The response after hearing the allegations about the conditions was one of shock and disgust.

Unfortunately, incidents such as this one are not unique in the Okanagan Valley.

In the past, there have been other reports about poor conditions for Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program participants at other farms and orchards.

Any mistreatment of workers is a serious matter and must be addressed. It becomes much more disturbing when the workers are among the most vulnerable.

The farm workers who participate in the program come here at a disadvantage. They do not speak either of Canada’s official languages and they do not know where they can go if they believe they are not being treated fairly.

For this reason, it is the responsibility of the rest of us to speak out when allegations of mistreatment are brought to our attention.

A Canadian farm worker and some Summerland residents were instrumental in raising the concerns and as a result, Albas is calling for an investigation into the mistreatment of the farm workers.

The investigation must now run its course and appropriate measures must be taken.

The next step is to examine the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program to ensure workers who participate in the future will not face similar conditions.