Farm Workers’ Day and Book Launch in Calgary

Co-Editor Shirley A. McDonald and contributor Jennifer Koshan, along with MLA Dr. David Swann, organized an event to honour the many faceless/invisible/unrecognized workers whose labour puts food on our tables. A celebration of Farm Workers’ Day and the launching of Farm Workers in Western Canada: Injustices and Activism in Calgary on August 21 exceeded their expectations.

Even before the scheduled start time, guests arrived and formed conversation groups for high level discussion of the issues. Several MLAs and a representative from the Premier’s office were present. There were representatives from the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB). There were journalists, including Naomi Lakritz who wrote an informative article on the knowledge she gained from listening to the speakers. A reporter from CBC interviewed guests and filmed the event.

MLA Michael Connolly spoke about the challenges of getting Bill 6 through the legislative process. He remarked that at one point, with loud voices speaking against Bill 6, he wondered if he were doing the right thing in pushing the bill. Then, he looked up into the gallery and saw activists Eric Musekamp and Darlene Dunlop sitting in anticipation of the passing of Bill 6 and knew he was doing the right—and honourable—thing.

New Liberal leader David Khan spoke and assured that he would continue to put the full support of the Liberal party behind Bills 6 and 17 and ensure that Alberta farm workers would continue to benefit from the protections of WCB and OHS. Doug Taylor spoke passionately about his experiences as an advocate for farm safety. His stories are embedded in Naomi Lakritz’s article, where you can read about pigs that got better treatment than workers.

Darlene Dunlop and Eric Musekamp spoke. As always, they were articulate and moving. Anelyse Weiler reported on a recent incident at a farm where a temporary foreign worker died from smoke from the fires in the region (border of Washington).

Shirley McDonald and Jennifer Koshan have already arranged to hold Farm Workers’ Day next year, once again in the Faculty of Law lounge at the University of Calgary. The event will continue to promote this important volume and promote further high level discussions of the issues.

Be sure to read the Vancouver Sun review of Farm Workers in Western Canada and this article in the Work of Arts blog (University of Alberta). The University of Alberta Press has also created a book trailer featuring the struggles of farm workers and the book. There were two other book launches in Edmonton and Kelowna.