Farm workers plant, nurture and harvest the food that we all consume – no work is more important. And yet, farm workers have long been some of Canada’s most exploited and vulnerable workers. Dangerous work, minimal pay, long hours, jobs of short duration, inadequate housing and living conditions, poor sanitation, substandard transportation options, restricted access to health care services, to name a few – have been standard conditions for those who work in the fields. The fact that many farm workers are recent immigrants or temporary foreign workers with language barriers only serves to compound the disadvantages.
Today, farm work is one of the most dangerous occupations in Canada. One study estimates that 120 deaths and 1,200 injuries requiring hospitalization occur on Canadian farms each year. Two farm workers died in B.C. in 2012. The Workers’ Compensation Board of BC reported that 981 compensation claims were first paid for injury benefits in 2012 and a total of 33,262 days were lost in agriculture due to workplace injuries.