Fruit and vegetable growers welcome Senate recommendations on temporary foreign workers

News Release

Fruit and vegetable growers welcome Senate recommendations on temporary foreign workers

For immediate release

Guelph ON, 22 May 2024 – Ontario’s fruit and vegetable growers appreciate the balanced recommendations into solutions for temporary and migrant labour in Canada, contained in a report released yesterday by the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.

The report, which concluded that the current system serves neither workers or employers well, included six recommendations the Senate Committee believes could improve Canada’s temporary foreign worker (TFW) programs.

Chief among those is the call to create an independent migrant worker commission to provide and direct services that will address program gaps for both workers and employers, including centralizing services and removing the complex network of departments, ministries and other bodies that are currently involved with Canada’s temporary foreign worker program in various ways.

“The proposed commission with centralized services is in line with what fruit and vegetable growers have long been asking for – the creation of a one-stop shop for more efficient delivery of TFW services for both employers and workers,” says Bill George, grape grower and chair of the Labour Committee at the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA). “Mistreatment of workers is unacceptable and as an industry, we have long been committed to the continuous improvement of Canada’s temporary foreign worker programs to ensure all workers have the opportunity for a positive, safe work experience while in Canada.”

Canada’s government-approved foreign worker programs for agriculture are the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and the agriculture stream of the federal Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program. SAWP first started in 1966 with 264 Jamaican workers who came to Ontario to help with apple harvest.

Today, the heavily regulated, government-approved program is open to workers from Mexico, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Islands who come to Canada to work for a defined period of time before going home for the winter. Approximately 17,000 SAWP workers come to Ontario every year for jobs on fruit and vegetable farms.

Struggling with a long-time labour shortage in the agriculture sector, Canadian fruit and vegetable farmers depend strongly on SAWP workers and TFW program participants to help them grow, manage and harvest their crops, many of which still require much hands-on care because of how delicate they are – and due to a lack of automated solutions.

Another key recommendation from the report focusses on creating sector or region-specific work permits that would reduce worker vulnerability to situations of abuse or mistreatment. The SAWP already includes a mechanism where workers can request a transfer to a different employer and is a model that should be considered as an option for broader use in Canada’s TFW programs.

“We also appreciate the Senate committee’s recognition of the importance of temporary foreign workers to certain sectors of our economy like horticulture and their recommendation of a measured, balanced approach to finding solutions that will protect workers while also addressing the needs of employers,” adds George. “We welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with all stakeholders on next steps in the evolution of these vital labour programs.” 

Through its More than a Migrant Worker initiative, the OFVGA has been giving a voice to the many thousands of seasonal and temporary farm workers in Ontario who take pride in the work they do here by empowering them to tell their stories in their own words, while also drawing attention to the critical role that legal international farm workers play in the Canadian food system and efforts by farmers and government in recent years to invest in worker safety, protection and well-being.

The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association is the voice of Ontario’s fruit and vegetable producers on issues affecting the horticulture sector.


For more information:
Bill George, OFVGA Labour Chair, 905-984-0994 or
Stefan Larrass, OFVGA Senior Policy Advisor, 519-803-9914 or