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Migrant Dreams

Saturday, May 7, 2016 - 2:00pm
Community Partner(s)

Migrant Dreams

Min Sook Lee | 
Canada |
 2016 | 
90 minutes


In Leamington, Ontario, greenhouse food production is a billion dollar industry. It is also an industry that is highly dependent on thousands of migrant workers from Mexico, Jamaica, and Southeast Asia. For many farm workers, the dream of a well-paying job becomes a nightmare when they are deceived into paying outrageous fees to brokers and recruiters.

Often, migrant workers come to Canada to make money that they can then send to family back home, but after paying upwards of $10,000 to get and hold onto a minimum wage job, they end up heavily indebted to their employer. Horror stories are numerous as workers describe employers imposing curfews, confiscating passports, and charging exorbitant rental fees for cockroach-infested apartments. Award-winning filmmaker Min Sook Lee’s new investigative exposé documents the struggle of a group of women from Indonesia who are living in Leamington as part of Canada’s controversial Temporary Foreign Worker Program (a program that was drastically expanded, under Stephen Harper’s watch). Since 2006, the number of migrant workers with temporary status who enter Canada each year exceeds the number of immigrants who are granted permanent resident status. Without a path to citizenship, migrant workers are at risk of falling victim to extortion and threats. With the help of Evelyn and Cathy, two tireless community activists, some of the women take a stand and confront their employer. As one worker reflects: “We’ve been given empty promises, but now we’re fighting back.” -SC


Min Sook Lee

Min Sook Lee is an award winning Canadian filmmaker with a diverse and prolific portfolio of multimedia work. Her doc filmography includes: the Gemini nominated El Contrato which looked at the lives of Mexican migrant workers in Ontario; Tiger Spirit, a personal reflection on reunification between North and South Korea, garnered the Donald Brittain Gemini for Best Social/Political Documentary; and Hogtown -a dissection of the politics of policing in Toronto’s city hall which was awarded the Best Canadian Documentary prize at the Hot Docs. Min Sook is a recipient of the Cesar E. Chavez Black Eagle Award for El Contratos impact on the rights of migrant workers. Min Sook is an Assistant Professor at the Ontario College of Art and Design University where she teaches Art and Social Change. 

Justice Forum Panelist

Natalie Drolet

Natalie Drolet joined the West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association as Executive Director – Staff Lawyer in 2014. Prior to this, she worked with a community legal clinic in Ottawa on an access to justice initiative for newcomers, and managed a project in Cambodia to advance the labour and human rights of domestic workers. She earned her Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Civil Law degrees from McGill University and her Masters in Immigration and Settlement Studies at Ryerson University. Natalie has advocated for migrant workers before various administrative tribunals and all levels of court in BC.

Justice Forum Panelist

Gil Aguilar

Gil Aguilar has been involved in the struggle for farm workers' rights since 2009. He is a founding member of the Migrant Workers Dignity Association, a grassroots nonprofit that offers support and assistance to migrant workers, and also supports efforts to build Indigenous sovereignty in Mexico and for housing justice across BC. On his free time, Gil enjoys riding his bicycle, playing with computers, and doodling.