Do migrant farm workers have access to any support systems?

With the help of many groups, organizations, and funding sources, there are an abundance of resources made available to migrant farm workers during their stay in Ontario. In this blog, we’ll take a look at a few of the great support systems in Ontario for the migrant farm workers who come to work in the farming industry each year.

Community health centres

In Ontario, community health centres (CHCs) play a crucial role in promoting and maintaining the well-being of individuals and communities by providing support for the emotional, physical, and social needs of those in their area. Examples include providing accessible primary health care, engaging in community outreach to promote healthy lifestyles, and having the resources to offer culturally responsive care.

For many years, CHCs with migrant farm workers in their community have made it a priority to ensure workers feel welcomed in the community and aren’t afraid to get the healthcare coverage they are entitled to under the contracts of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program.

The Grand River CHC is one of several CHCs across the province that provides resources and services to migrant farm workers. They provide primary health care clinics on farms, at mobile clinics in town centres, or virtually. Grand River CHC also continues to explore ways to address health and wellbeing concerns through social work and health promotion interventions, while offering primary health care for issues such as muscular skeletal, hypertension, diabetes, skin, sexual health, or eye issues. Spanish speaking health professionals are made available at the clinics to ensure the workers are comfortable and there is no miscommunication.

Each year, the Grand River CHC, along with many of its partner agencies, holds a health fair for farm workers. This year, the fair is set to occur on June 29. For more details please visit their website.

Migrant Worker Support Program

In 2021, to further strengthen the support for migrant farm workers, the federal government introduced the Migrant Worker Support Program (MWSP) to fund community-based initiatives for workers. The purpose of the program, as outlined by the Employment and Social Development Canada, is to ensure the health, safety, and quality of life for workers while they are living and working in Canada.

TeaMWork Windsor-Essex is a project that falls under the MWSP and currently provides funding to 11 different organizations in the Windsor, Essex, and Lambton regions. This includes language services, legal-aid, mental health services, and many more! Visit their website to learn more about the events, opportunities, and success stories that have been made possible by this amazing initiative.

Regional groups

There are other regional support groups like Migrant Matters Flamborough, which, with the help of volunteers, offer weekly Sunday gatherings for workers in the area. Their efforts are highlighted by a huge BBQ celebration in August, which is a great social setting and usually an opportunity to grab a tasty meal. There are many similar groups in other parts of the province, too.

For more information about migrant farm workers, including wages, check-out some of our other blog posts at

Migrant farm workers’ access to healthcare in Ontario

“I can only say really good things about the healthcare system.”

A common misconception around migrant farm workers in Ontario is they don’t have access to the same healthcare as Ontario residents. While the workers may not be full-time Ontario residents, they do receive the same healthcare access to OHIP as permanent residents do in this province. In fact, it’s mandated under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program that workers receive this coverage.

Elly Hoff, Human Resource specialist at Meyer’s Farms (check out this The Grower article. Heated floors!!) in Niagara-on-the-Lake indicates that employers are responsible for making sure that workers are registered with OHIP.

Every five years, that means taking them to a physical location like a Service Ontario office to have an updated photo taken; in other years card renewals are done online.

Importantly, international workers like those arriving through the SAWP and other TFW programs are covered by OHIP even while workers wait for their new or updated cards to arrive. Healthcare providers are not allowed to deny critical care to them, and for non-urgent care where up -front payment may be requested by service providers, there is a reimbursement process once OHIP registration is completed.

In addition to having the same OHIP coverage as Ontarians, international workers often purchase supplemental private medical insurance through bulk deals brokered by their home country and which covers medical expenses such as certain diagnostic services and prescription drugs that fall outside of the services and drugs covered by OHIP. This is done to ensure workers have the comfort of knowing that they are always covered in some way.

With the healthcare system under stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, there were important initiatives in place for workers to receive information regarding vaccinations and COVID-19 safety. These initiatives included a non-mandatory vaccination clinic at the airport if workers wanted to get vaccinated on arrival and several other safety resources to allow them to make informed decisions about their health.

Of course, in a perfect world everyone would stay healthy during their time in Ontario. Despite proper safety and healthcare procedures in place, just like anywhere accidents and illnesses do occur.

Hoff shared a recent story of a worker who was diagnosed with cancer just weeks before his contract ended, when he was supposed to return home to Jamaica. Under normal circumstances, when a worker’s work contract expires, so does their OHIP coverage. In this case, there was a phenomenal team effort between Hoff, the Jamaican liaison office and local doctors in Ontario to ensure the worker would receive the healthcare required at no cost – exactly the same as an Ontario resident would be treated.

“Everyone seems to be working together for this young man. They are on it, and they are there for him,” Hoff said.

The worker continues to undergo cancer treatment in Ontario. We continue to think of him and hope for a recovery. He’s got a tough road ahead.

Visit to learn more facts and stats about Ontario migrant farm workers.