The Current

'Migrant Dreams' broken as workers face exploitation on Ontario farms

Men and women from Indonesia to Jamaica come to Canada to work in the greenhouses that dominate the landscape around Leamington, Ont. Filmmaker Min Sook Lee follows migrant workers indebted to their recruiters and unable to claim labour rights from their employers.
The greenhouses in Leamington, ON, are the ground zero of the temporary foreign workers program, says Migrant Dreams director Min Sook Lee. (Migrant Dreams Film)

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They've been coming to Canada for half-a-century now.  Migrant workers, arriving to work in our fields, our orchards, inside our greenhouses.

Fifty years ago, they came here from Jamaica.  This growing season, they'll come from all over the world. It's really their labour — their hands, and their sweat  —  that makes much of the Canadian produce we put on our tables possible.

The conditions workers find — on and off the job — can be surprisingly harsh. And their stories and voices are seldomly heard, for reasons that a new film makes sadly clear.

Migrant Dreams is a documentary that has at its heart these workers' own stories. It's set in their temporary world, in southwestern Ontario.  Filmmaker Min Sook Lee follows a group of migrant workers in her documentary indebted to their recruiters and unable to claim labour rights from their employers. 

Migrant Dreams premieres at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto. 

Guests in this segment:

  • Min Sook Lee, director of Migrant Dreams.
  • Evelyn Encalada, community worker with Justice for Migrant Workers who appears in Migrant Dreams.

The Current did request an interview with the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association. It declined our request.  We also asked for an interview with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration John McCallum, but he was not available. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry.