Saint Lucian Gabriel Allahdua’s exposé of the Canadian migrant farm workers programme was the winning entry for the 2023 Speaker’s Book Award.
The book ‘Harvesting Freedom: The Life of a Migrant Worker in Canada by Gabriel Allahdua with Edward Dunsworth was declared the winner during a ceremony on Monday.
Ted Arnott, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, made the announcement.
In his book, Allahdua, a former migrant worker, chronicles exploitation within Canada’s farm labour system.
“When Gabriel Allahdua applied to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program in Canada, he thought he would be leaving his home in St. Lucia to work in a country with a sterling human rights reputation and commitment to multiculturalism,” the Legislative Assembly of Toronto said in a release on its website.
“Instead, breakneck quotas and a culture of fear dominated his four years in a mega-greenhouse in Ontario. This deeply personal memoir takes readers behind the scenes to see what life is really like for the people who produce Canada’s food,” the release observed.
In a St. Lucia Times interview in April this year, Allahdua observed that conditions such as high unemployment and a family to support force people to leave Saint Lucia for Canada.
But he said once in Canada, the migrant farm workers are afraid to speak because they fear deportation.
Allahdua went to Canada in January 2012 after losing his livelihood when Hurricane Tomas devastated Saint Lucia.
In Canada, he worked in a greenhouse in Leamington, Ontario, growing and harvesting tomatoes and organic sweet peppers from 2012 to 2015.
Currently, a Canadian citizen, Allahdua has become widely recognised as an outspoken workers’ rights advocate in Canada and is an Activist in Residence at the University of Guelph.
“I have dedicated my life towards a Canadian food system that’s healthy, sustainable and just and I will do whatever is in my power to see that I achieve that,” he told St Lucia Times.
Last year, a group of Saint Lucian women employed in the Canadian farm work programme complained of ill treatment, prompting the government to reach out to Canadian authorities regarding the matter.
Headline photo: ((Left to Right) Edward Dunsworth, Gabriel Allahdua & Speaker Ted Arnott.