Canada’s Temporary Labor Migration Policy: The Case of Mexican Seasonal Agricultural Workers




Canada, Mexico, seasonal workers, temporary immigrants, labor immigrants, immigration policy, temporary worker programs


The article analyzes Canadian temporary foreign worker migration policies through the prism of Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), one of the largest and oldest seasonal worker programs in Canada’s postwar immigration policies, whose main participants are seasonal farmworker migrants from Mexico. The article outlines the premises of Canadian labor migration policies and presents a brief history of Mexican migrations to Canada. Most importantly, however, it focuses on the functioning of SAWP, presenting the program’s positive impact as well as its shortages and failures through the lens of experiences of its Mexican participants. The summary of this text proposes certain reforms and changes to SAWP that might help eliminate some of the program’s deficiencies.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Tomasz Soroka, Jagiellonian University in Kraków

(born in 1979) is a political scientist and assistant professor at the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora, Jagiellonian University. He earned his doctoral degree in humanities (political science) in March 2010; he also holds an M.A. degree in cultural studies / American studies. His publications cover a variety of topics related to political, legal, and cultural evolution of Canada. Currently, his research focuses on Canada’s language, immigration, and foreign policies.


Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration, Government of Canada. Dept. of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, 2020, at‑refugees‑citizenship/corporate/publications‑manuals/annual‑report‑parliament‑immigration‑2020.html#trprograms.

Census dissemination planning: Release plans, Statistics Canada, 2021, at‑recensement/2021/ref/prodserv/release‑diffusion‑eng.cfm.

Basok T., “Free to Be Unfree: Mexican Guest Workers in Canada”, Capital and Society, vol. 32, no. 2 (1999), pp. 192‑221.

Bridi R., “Spaces of Alienation in the Tobacco Fields: The Case of Migrant Workers in Ontario, Canada”, GeoJournal, vol. 87 (2022), pp. 131‑146,‑020‑10238‑9. DOI:

Business Legitimacy – Temporary Foreign Worker Program, Government of Canada. Dept.of Employment and Social Development Canada, 2021, at‑social‑development/services/foreign‑workers/business‑legitimacy.html.

Cachon M., Embodied Cartographies of Mexican‑Canadian Transnationalism, PhD thesis, University of Windsor, 2013, at

Canada to Lift Visa Requirements for Mexico, Government of Canada. Prime Minister’s Office, 28 June 2016, at‑lift‑visa‑requirements‑mexico.Canada‑Mexico Fact Sheet, Government of Canada, 2020, at‑pays/fact_sheet‑fiche_documentaire/mexico‑mexique.aspx?lang=eng.

Castell Roldán E.Z., Alvarez Anaya Y.P., “Migration and Dependency: Mexican Countryside Proletarianization and the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program”, Dialectical Anthropology, vol. 46 (2022), pp. 163‑182,‑022‑09661‑w. DOI:

Caxaj C.S., Cohen A., Colindres C., “More of the Same? Migrant Agricultural Workers’ Health, Safety, and Legal Rights in the COVID‑19 Context”, Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, vol. 11, no. 3 (2022), pp. 139‑156, DOI:

Chen Z., “The Construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Transpacific Chinese Diaspora, 1880‑1885”, in G. Chang, S. Fisher Fiskin (eds), The Chinese and the Iron Road: Building the Transcontinental Railroad, Stanford 2019, pp. 294‑313. DOI:

Cohen A., Hjalmarson E., “Quiet Struggles: Migrant Farmworkers, Informal Labor, and Everyday Resistance in Canada”, International Journal of Comparative Sociology, vol. 61, no. 2‑3 (2020), pp. 141‑158, DOI:

Coletta A., Martínez G., “Migrant Farmworkers Die in Canada, and Mexico Wants Answers”, The Washington Post, 19 June 2020, at‑farmworkers‑die‑in‑canada‑and‑mexico‑wants‑answers/2020/06/18/2e419766‑b00a‑11ea‑8f56‑63f38c990077_story.html.

Contract for the employment in Canada of seasonal agricultural workers from Mexico – 2022, Government of Canada. Dept. of Employment and Social Development Canada, 2022, at‑social‑development/services/foreign‑workers/agricultural/seasonal‑agricultural/apply/mexico.html.

Country Comparison: Canada v. Mexico, WorldData, 2022, at‑comparison.php?country1=CAN&country2=MEX.

Data tables, 2016 Census, Statistics Canada, 2017, at‑recensement/2016/dp‑pd/dt‑td/Rp‑eng.


Dunsworth E., The Transnational Making of Ontario Tobacco Labour, 1925‑1990, PhD Thesis, University of Toronto, 2019, at

Encalada Grez E., “Mexican Migrant Farmworkers in Canada: Death, Disposability, and Disruptions during COVID‑19”, Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos, vol. 38, no. 1 (2022), pp. 140‑169. DOI:

Gabriel C., Macdonald L., “Citizenship at the Margins: The Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and Civil Society Advocacy”, Politics & Policy, vol. 39, no. 1 (2011), pp. 45‑67,‑1346.2010.00282.x. DOI:

Gabriel C., Macdonald L., “‘Domestic Transnationalism’: Legal Advocacy for Mexican Migrant Workers’ Rights in Canada”, Citizenship Studies, vol. 18, no. 3‑4 (2014), pp. 243‑258, DOI:

Garcia M.C., Seeking Refuge: Central American Migration to Mexico, the United States, and Canada, Berkeley 2006. DOI:

Gardner K., Mexican Migrant Workers: Are They the Image of a Global Village, M.A. Thesis, University of Calgary, 1999, at

Gilbert L., “Canada’s Visa Requirement For Mexicans and Its Political Rationalities”, Norteamérica, vol. 8, no. 1 (2013), pp. 139‑161,‑3550(13)71769‑5. DOI:

Hinnenkamp K., Bicycles Traveling in the Rain: A Participatory, Arts‑Informed Account of Mexican Farmworkers in Canada, M.A.Thesis, University of Toronto, 2007, at

Hire a Temporary Worker Through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program: Overview, Government of Canada. Dept. of Employment and Social Development, 2022, at‑social‑development/services/foreign‑workers/agricultural/seasonal‑agricultural.html.

ILO Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers. Results and Methodology, International Labour Organisation, 2021, at‑‑‑dgreports/‑‑‑dcomm/‑‑‑publ/documents/publication/wcms_808935.pdf.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (S.C. 2001, c. 27), at‑2.5/page‑15.html#h‑275952.

Jubany O., Lázaro Castellanos R., “The Gender and Racial Construction of the Working Class: Temporary Mobility of Mexican Women Workers to the US and Canada”, Gender Issues, vol. 38 (2021), pp. 47‑64,‑020‑09258‑z. DOI:

Kelley N., Trebilcock M., The Making of the Mosaic: A History of Canadian Immigration Policy, Toronto 2010.

Kim C., “Immigration to Canada from Mexico”, WeCollabo, 27 April 2021, at‑to‑canada‑from‑mexico.

Leung H.H., “Canadian Multiculturalism in the 21st Century: Emerging Challenges and Debates”, in S. Guo, L. Wong (eds), Revisiting Multiculturalism in Canada: Theories, Policies and Debates, Rotterdam 2015. DOI:

Maciel D., Herrera‑Sobek M. (eds), Culture across Borders: Mexican Immigration and Popular Culture, Tucson 1998.

McLaughlin J., Migration and Health: Implications for Development. A Case Study of Mexican and Jamaican Migrants in Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, Canadian International Development Agency, 2009, at

McLaughlin J., “Selecting, Competing, and Performing as ‘Ideal Migrants’ Mexican and Jamaican Farmworkers in Canada” in P. Gardiner Barber, W. Lem (eds), Migration in the 21st Century: Political Economy and Ethnography, New York 2012, pp. 109‑131.

McLaughlin J., Trouble in our Fields: Health and Human Rights among Mexican and Caribbean Migrant Farm Workers in Canada, PhD thesis, University of Toronto, 2009, at

McLaughlin J. et al., “‘Temporary Workers’, Temporary Fathers: Transnational Family Impacts of Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program”, Relations Industrielles / Industrial Relations, vol. 72, no. 4 (2017), pp. 682‑709, DOI:

Mejias R., Vargas‑Hernández J., “Emerging Mexican and Canadian Strategic Trade Alliances under NAFTA”, Journal of Global Marketing, vol. 14, no. 4 (2001), pp. 89‑116, DOI:

Mysyk A., England M., Avila Gallegos J.A., “Nerves as Embodied Metaphor in the Canada/Mexico Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program”, Medical Anthropology, vol. 27, no. 4 (2008), pp. 383‑404, DOI:

Osorio M., Madero S., Greenwood R., “Humanism under Construction: The Case of Mexican Circular Migration”, Humanistic Management Journal, vol. 4 (2019), pp. 55‑69,‑019‑00061‑x. DOI:

Passel J., Cohn D., “Mexicans Decline to Less Than Half the U.S. Unauthorized Immigrant Population for the First Time”, Pew Research Center, 12 June 2019, at‑tank/2019/06/12/us‑unauthorized‑immigrant‑population‑2017.

Pay Your Work Permit Fee – Mexico, Government of Canada. Dept. of Immigration and Citizenship, 2022, at

Perry J.A., “The Negotiation of New Family Formation Post‑migration among Low‑wage Migrant Workers: The Case of Canada”, International Migration, vol. 59, no. 2 (2021), pp. 41‑56, DOI:

Place of Birth for the Foreign‑Born Population in The United States, United States Census Bureau, 2021, at

Preibisch K., Encalada Grez E., “Between Hearts and Pockets: Locating the Outcomes of Transnational Homemaking Practices Among Mexican Women in Canada’s Temporary Migration Programmes”, Citizenship Studies, vol. 17, no. 6‑7 (2013), pp. 785‑802, DOI:

Preibisch K., Otero G., “Does Citizenship Status Matter in Canadian Agriculture? Workplace Health and Safety for Migrant and Immigrant Laborers”, Rural Sociology, vol. 79, no. 2 (2014), pp. 174‑199, DOI:

Pren K., González‑Araiza L.E., “Temporary Workers in the United States and Canada: Migrant Flows and Labor Outcomes”, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, vol. 684 (2019), pp. 255‑276, DOI:

Romero T., “Number of Mexican Emigrants Worldwide in 2020, by Country of Immigration”, Statista, July 2021, at‑emigrants‑mexico‑country‑destination.

SDG 10: Reduce Inequality Within and Among Countries, United Nations. Office on Drugs and Crimes, at‑unodc/sustainable‑development‑goals/sdg10_‑reduce‑inequalities.html#goodhealth.

Silverman S., Hari A., “Troubling the Fields: Choice, Consent, and Coercion of Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers”, International Migration, vol. 54, no. 5 (2016), pp. 91‑104, DOI:

Soroka T., “Verbal Aggression Between Allies: Canada in Donald Trump’s Trade War Rhetoric”, Politeja, vol. 18, no. 6(75) (2021), pp. 95‑118, DOI:

Temporary Foreign Worker Program, Government of Canada. Dept. of Employment and Social Development Canada, 2022, at‑social‑deve lopment/services/foreign‑workers.html.

Valerezo G., Out of Necessity and into the Fields: Migrant Farmworkers in St. Rémi, Quebec, M.A. Thesis, Queen’s University at Kingston, 2007, at

Villegas P., “Assembling a Visa Requirement against the Mexican ‘Wave’: Migrant Illegalization, Policy and Affective ‘Crises’ in Canada”, Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 36, no. 12 (2013), pp. 2200‑2219, DOI:

Villegas P., North of El Norte: Illegalized Mexican Migrants in Canada, Vancouver 2020.

Wages by Agricultural Commodity, Government of Canada. Dept. of Employment and Social Development Canada, 2022, at‑social‑development/services/foreign‑workers/agricultural/agricultural‑wages.html#h2.2.




How to Cite

Soroka, Tomasz. 2022. “Canada’s Temporary Labor Migration Policy: The Case of Mexican Seasonal Agricultural Workers”. Politeja 19 (6(81):279-303.