Central American temporary foreign workers in Québec smalltowns: A portrait of community response

Hanley, J.; Gravel, S.; Francisco, V.; Villarreal, DC.; Bernstein, S. (2015)

Journal of Rural and Community Development

10(3) | On line

ecent years have seen an explosion of the recruitment of Central American Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) by agricultural operations and other businesses in Québec small towns. The mobility of one group (the TFWs) underpins the ability of another group (Québec small-town residents) to avoid migration by contributing to the continued viability of economic activity in Québec small towns. In this article, we examine the “fragile entanglement of physical movement, representations, and practices” (Cresswell, 2010, p.18) as evidenced in Central American TFWs’ experiences interacting with local community members as well as the response of local businesses, local social and community services, and local churches to the presence of TFWs in their communities. Drawing on data from focus groups with TFWs (n=31) and interviews with employers (n=17), advocates (n=13) and government actors (n=10), we come to the conclusion that Québec small towns have been transformed by the cyclical mobility of TFWs but that the possibilities for diminishing the unequal power relationships and allowing for long-term integration and community development are limited so long as both the TFW Program continues to constrain the social, employment and geographic mobility of TFWs and Québec refuses to consider all occupational levels for permanent residency under the Québec Experience Program.