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

October 25, 2017 by Kathy Tang

International 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.

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.