The journey to Canada for SAWP workers

male migrant worker kneels in farm field

For many migrant farm workers who come to Canada through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), it’s been a long journey in the making. It’s no guarantee when a worker applies to SAWP that they are given the opportunity to join the program. That’s what makes it so special for workers like Ermel, who applied for the program twice before he was accepted into the program and admits that he chose to come to Canada to improve the lives of his three children.

First off, there is a certain list of countries whose workers are eligible to participate in SAWP. This includes Mexico, Jamaica and several other Caribbean nations. Canadian farms must demonstrate that there are no Canadians to fill the positions at the farm by completing a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The LMIA must be first approved by Service Canada and then can be shared with the government of one of the participating countries who will then do the recruitment and hiring of workers in response to the request from the farm.

As for the workers applying to join the SAWP, it’s certainly not something done on a whim. For most, they have been thinking about it for years and many have family members who have served as inspiration to apply for the program. The application process takes dedication and hard work as workers must fill out many documents, along with healthcare check-ups and meet certain requirements as laid out by their home country’s government. Mexico, for example, requires workers to have some sort of background in agriculture in order to be eligible. It’s a rigorous process run by their government, not just something anyone can sign up for.

To so many of these men and women, SAWP is a major deal. As Carlos from Jamaica says, “It takes a lot to know you are leaving your family back at home, but it is worth it.”

Another reason for SAWP being so important is the protection and benefits that workers receive from it while in Canada. This includes things like housing, healthcare, fair wages and more. Unfortunately, undocumented workers coming illegally into Canada do not receive these same protections, leaving them vulnerable to mistreatment. This is why it’s crucial for workers to come to Canada through one of the government-regulated streams.

To learn more about the government-regulated programs, check-out one of our recent blog posts detailing the different options for workers to come to Canada.