Ontario and Quebec Consider Legal Rights of Temporary Foreign Agricultural Workers and the Constitutional Right of Farm Workers to Organize

August 9, 2013 | Brian P. Kaliel

In two recent cases, Canadian Courts have considered the legal position of temporary foreign agricultural workers working on farms pursuant to the Federal Government’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

In Espinoza v. Canada, an Ontario Court held that Mexican workers whose employment was terminated without notice and who were “repatriated” to Mexico on one day’s notice may have claims for wrongful dismissal, and may have procedural protection and equality rights under s. 7 and 15 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In L’Ecuyer v. Cote, a Quebec Court has struck down provisions of the Quebec Labour Code which restrict the right of farm workers to certify as a union, and has upheld the certification of a union representing temporary foreign workers.  However, the Quebec Court suspended this decision for a period of 12 months to allow the Quebec Government to bring in legislation similar to the Ontario Agricultural Employees Protection Act which affords farm workers a statutory right to join or form an employee’s association, but does not grant complete collective bargaining rights.

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