London

London filmmaker documents the life and death of a migrant worker in Southwestern Ontario

London filmmaker Andrew More produced a short documentary that follows the life of a migrant worker from Jamaica who is diagnosed with cancer.

Andrew Moir’s film 'Babe, I Hate to Go' airs on CBC Short docs

An image from the documentary Babe, I Hate to Go, the story of Delroy Dunkley, a migrant farm worker in Mount Brydges who is diagnosed with cancer. (Andrew Moir)

A new documentary by a London filmmaker tells the story of a migrant worker who, after years of working on farms in Southwestern Ontario, is diagnosed with cancer.

Babe, I Hate to Go is produced by Andrew Moir. It's based on the life of Delroy Dunkley, a worker who for 30 years went back and forth between his home in Jamaica and a tobacco farm in Mount Brydges, Ontario.

The film shows Dunkley contending with his cancer diagnosis, "and not just what it means for himself but also for the family back home," said Moir who was a guest Wednesday on CBC's London Morning.

Moir said it was a difficult film to make because he had gotten to know Dunkley when the farmhand worked for Moir's uncle.

"So I was in this unique position where I was with him in Canada when he was going through these doctors appointments and grappling with these decisions about whether he would stay in Canada or go back to Jamaica."

Invisible to public

Moir said he hopes the film helps Canadians, especially those who live in rural areas like Mount Brydges and Strathroy, understand what life is like for migrant workers when they're apart from their families and working in a foreign country – and some of the difficulties they face when they return home.

There are thousands of migrants workers not only in Southwestern Ontario, but across the country. They work hard and live almost invisibly from the general public, said Moir.

"They live in retrofitted barns, they live in old farmhouses. They have no access to transportation unless it's provided by their employer. That means that they're very vulnerable."

Moir said many farmers are great employers, "and there are many who aren't, and a lot of [migrants] endure a lot of unfair exploitation, because of their vulnerable position, their invisibility."

The film taught him a lot about how much their jobs and the income they provide means to them.

"It's really important, it's everything. Most of of these families, they rely on one person as the only breadwinner."

Moir said he also gained insight into what kind of policy changes are needed to help migrants live more justly.

"A migrant worker, no matter how long they've worked in Canada for has no special means of accessing citizenship  or permanent residency, even though they contribute so much to our economy and they develop such a valuable skill."

He thinks that's something that "really needs" to change.

You can watch Babe, I Hate to Go on cbc.ca/shortdocs.

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