International Migration Research Centre

Document Type

Policy Points

Publication Date



Department of Health Studies


Balsillie School of International Affairs


There are currently about 300 000 temporary foreign workers employed in Canada every year, roughly 20 000 of whom work as migrant farm workers (MFWs) in the province of Ontario. MFWs travel primarily from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean and typically work on a seasonal basis, with just over 15 000 workers annually coming to Ontario under Canada’s long-standing Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), and many under the Stream for Lower Skilled Occupations (SLSO). All workers are eligible (with some variability) for provincial health insurance in Ontario (OHIP) and workers’ compensation (WSIB), and are covered by provincial health and safety legislation through the Ministry of Labour, and yet MFWs are not always able or willing to access these health and compensation services. Further, these services often do not extend beyond Canada’s borders. MFWs face difficulties and barriers to access at every ‘stage’ of their journey, from pre-departure to their return home, not just their stay while in Canada.