Outbreaks on farms in Canada have spurred national protests about the systemic vulnerability of migrant farm laborers, a population unknown to many Canadians until they began to fall ill at a rate 11 times that of health workers.

Canadians pride themselves on a liberal immigration system welcoming to an array of ethnicities and nationalities, contrasting their attitude with what many see as xenophobia in the United States.

The reality does not always match the rhetoric, but Canada encourages different groups to maintain their cultures, and an embrace of multiculturalism is enshrined in Canada’s charter and self-image. When other world leaders shunned refugees from Syria’s civil war, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed them in person, handing them winter coats.

But in importing large numbers of seasonal farm laborers from abroad and offering them no path to residence or citizenship, Canada looks disturbingly un-Canadian to many of its people. Canada admits temporary workers who stay for most of a year but requires them to return home when their contracts end.

As in the United States, farm workers live for months on their employers’ property, often in large bunkhouses where disease can spread easily.

“In no other immigration category do you have people who come only from certain countries, are trapped in certain occupations, living only on their work sites and must absolutely leave the country at the end,” said Jenna Hennebry, the director of the International Migration Research Center at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.

Source: The New York Times

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