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Black History Month Post #4

February 24, 2017 Black History Month

This week’s post features two contributions from our staff. The first talks about migrant workers in the context of Black History Month.

The second short piece looks at Francophone immigration to Hamilton.

Migrant Workers are a Big Part of the Black History of Canada

February was officially recognized as “Black History Month” in Canada in December 1995, after a motion made in the House of Commons by female black Member of Parliament Jean Augustine. Then in 2008, the Senate also through a motion made by black Senator Donald Oliver, unanimously agreed to “take note of the important contribution of black Canadians to the settlement, growth and development of Canada, the diversity of the black community in Canada and its importance to the history of this country”

The Hamilton Community Legal Clinic (HCLC) wishes not only to “take note” but to acknowledge, and highlight the ongoing contributions of not only black Canadians but also the contributions of black migrant workers to the Canadian economy. Black history in Canada cannot be complete without the inclusion of this important population.

Since 1974 Canada has been recruiting migrant workers every year from the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and Asia through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) . Ontario employs about 60% of the total migrant farm workers in Canada. The majority of agricultural black migrant workers in Ontario come from Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and the Eastern Caribbean islands . Year after year they come to tender to Ontario farms and greenhouses, where they work in the production and harvesting of flowers, fruits and vegetables which we consume directly or in the form of wines and preserves.

Black migrant workers and migrant workers in general, are basically lured to come to work in Canada and in the process, they often end up in an environment of indentureship reminiscent of slavery and yet, they are prohibited from permanently immigrating to Canada. The prohibition to immigrate permanently has been identified as an odious barrier by many organizations in Canada who have relentlessly worked to promote these worker’s rights to no avail.

To celebrate Black History Month, we encourage you to read about the issues and barriers affecting migrant workers in Canada while we enjoy the fruits of their labour by following the links at the end of this article. We also invite you to join us in advocating for their rights as workers who deserve equal treatment under Canadian laws.

Currently in Ontario, the Minister of Labour has undertaken a review of the changing nature of workplaces; this includes the precarious nature of many employments. Migrant workers’ jobs and their working environment are precarious and deserve to be included in such a review. Consider writing to the Minister of Labour directly or to your Member of the Provincial Parliament and ask them to do what is right and to include protections for all workers including migrant workers in the current review. You can do this by following this link:

Educational Resources

History of Agricultural Migrant Workers in Canada:

Profiles of Agricultural Migrant Workers:

Demands for Migrant Workers:

Who are Migrant Workers?

Ontario Black History Society General Facts:


Francophone Immigration in Hamilton

Francophone immigration in Hamilton is largely made up of African newcomers to Canada. We had the opportunity to speak with Alain Dobi, director of the Central Southwestern Ontario Francophone Immigration Network (CSWOFIN) about the challenges and successes experienced by Francophone newcomers to our city.

Dobi outlined that there has been an increased capacity to provide settlement services to francophone newcomers in our region. Francophone newcomers have easier closer access to French language settlement services.

In addition, Mr. Dobi was happy to report that members of the Francophone community have a growing awareness of immigration issues. This is reflected by the 5 Francophone Immigration Committees that have been established to discuss and promote francophone immigration. Furthermore, Franco Ontarian culture is evolving to reflect the diversity within the community. Hamilton hosts an annual Black History Month Francophone Gala to celebrate this diversity.

Unfortunately, there remain significant barriers to economic integration for Francophone newcomers to Hamilton. Mr. Dobi reported that Francophone Immigration has dropped significantly in the past 4-5 years and that Francophone newcomers have higher unemployment rates.

Most Francophone newcomers to Hamilton are sponsored by family members. They experience significant barriers to employment including language and cultural barriers and Canadian work experience. Mr. Dobi highlighted again the importance of settlement services to help overcome such obstacles.


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