Borders and boundaries in the lives of migrant agricultural workers: Towards a more equitable health services approach.


  • Dr. C. Susana Caxaj University of Western Ontario
  • Professor Amy Cohen Okanagan College
  • Dr. Bonar Buffam University of British Columbia - Okanagan
  • Dr. Abe Oudshoorne Western University



borders, marginalization, migrant agricultural workers, Seasonal agricultural workers program, healthcare access


In 2018, over 70% of the 69,775 temporary migrant agricultural labourers arriving in Canada participated in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP). Despite having legal status in Canada, these individuals are often systematically excluded from community life and face barriers when accessing health and social services. SAWP workers’ exclusion from many public spaces and their incomplete access to the benefits of Canadian citizenship or residency provide us a unique opportunity to examine social and political mechanisms that construct (in)eligibility for health and protection in society.  As individuals seeking to care for the sick and most marginalized, it is important for nurses to understand how migrant agricultural workers are positioned and imagined in society. We argue that the structural exclusion faced by this population can be uncovered by examining (1) border politics that inscribe inferior status onto migrant agricultural workers (2) nation-state borders that promote racialized surveillance and; (3) everyday normalization of exclusionary public service practices. We discuss how awareness of these contextual factors can be mobilized by nurses to work towards a more equitable health services approach for this population.


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Author Biographies

Dr. C. Susana Caxaj, University of Western Ontario

Dr. C. Susana Caxaj, RN, PhD is an assistant professor at the University of Western Ontario. Her work is focussed on social support, healthcare access and culturally safe service provision for diverse undeserved populations, including migrant agricultural workers, immigrants, and refugees. She also has experience working with Indigenous and LGBTQIA+ populations

Professor Amy Cohen, Okanagan College

Amy Cohen, MA, teaches Anthropology at Okanagan College. Her research focuses on migrant farmworkers in British Columbia, including how they resist labour exploitation, exclusion from public spaces, and reproductive oppression

Dr. Bonar Buffam, University of British Columbia - Okanagan

Dr. Bonar Buffam, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Sociology in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the Okanagan Campus of the University of British Columbia. His research explores the historical intersections of law, religion, and systemic racism, particularly in the context of Western Canada and Sikh communities in British Columbia.  

Dr. Abe Oudshoorne, Western University

Dr. Abe Oudshoorn, RN, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Western Ontario. Dr. Oudshoorn's research focuses on creating health equity through transforming health and social systems, with a particular focus on preventing and ending homelessness. Dr. Oudshoorn does specific research with youth, people living with mental health concerns, women (cis and trans), and newcomers.


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How to Cite

Caxaj, S., Cohen, A., Buffam, B., & Abe, O. (2020). Borders and boundaries in the lives of migrant agricultural workers: Towards a more equitable health services approach . Witness: The Canadian Journal of Critical Nursing Discourse, 2(2), 92–103.