The Festival of Guest Nations celebrated the Ontario migrant worker and connected them with local-area services and support systems.
By Andrew Joseph, Farms.com; Photo courtesy of: Migrant Worker Community Program
Perhaps the United Nations envoy linking Canada’s migrant worker program to slavery (see article HERE) should have visited the Festival of Guest Nations on September 17, 2023, at Seacliff Park in Leamington, Ontario.
The Leamington festival celebrated the diversity of migrant workers in the local community area, and acknowledged the sacrifices they make in coming to Essex County, as well as their contributions to the community and the local economy.
“The Festival of Guest Nations is a wonderful event celebrating the diversity of guest workers. It allows us to show gratitude for those who make many sacrifices, spending months away from their families to support the physically-demanding work in the agriculture sector. This event is also a great opportunity for residents to celebrate and enjoy the rich music, food, and culture from around the world, right here in Leamington,” stated Hilda MacDonald, Mayor of the Municipality of Leamington and Warden of Essex County.
She continued: “The Festival of Guest Nations has been successfully running for over 15 years. It is a great opportunity to give back to the migrant worker community who are a great asset to the local economy and are the backbone of the agricultural sector.”
This year’s Festival attracted over 1,000 participants from the community who came out to enjoy music, food, entertainment, and meet with service providers and each other.
The event is funded, in part, by Employment and Social Development Canada through the Migrant Worker Support Program (MWS),
“We are grateful for all the support from the community partners to make the migrant workers feel more welcome in the community,” commented Martin Varela, Chairman, Migrant Worker Community Program.
In celebration of the outstanding community collaborations that have happened in Essex County in recent years, the Festival included Public Safety Information Day coordinated with the Windsor Essex Local Immigration Partnership (WE LIP) and the Windsor-Essex Regional Community Safety and Well-Being Plan (WERCSWB).
Public Safety Information Day is an opportunity for newcomers, migrant workers, and the broader community to connect with service providers and public servants who work to keep Essex County safe and healthy. These providers included OPP (Ontario Provincial Police), the Leamington Fire Departments, Essex-Windsor EMS, among other healthcare, mental health, and public safety organizations.
These connections provide newcomers and workers a chance to get-to-know their neighbourhood providers, learn about the systems in place to keep them safe and healthy, and where to go if they are in need. As well, it supports the development of trust and familiarity in the community, leading to improved outcomes and sense of well-being.
“We were pleased to be a part of the Festival of Guest Nations & Public Safety Information Day, for the second year in a row. Our vision is a community where everyone feels safe, has a sense of belonging, equitable access to services and opportunities, and can have their needs met across Windsor and Essex County. We look forward to raising awareness about ongoing WERCSWB projects at future events,” said Michelle Oake, Project Manager, Windsor Essex Regional Community Safety & Well-Being Plan.
This year, as part of the Community Safety and Well-Being Plan, the Municipality of Leamington partnered with OPP and community partners on a downtown ‘Safety and Crime Prevention Walk’.
Residents were invited to meet at Dieppe Park at 10:30 AM to participate in the community walk. While exploring their neighbourhood, residents learned how to prevent opportunities for crime, change the way they see and walk through their neighbourhood, and learn personal safety tips. Individuals had the opportunity to participate in the discussion and ask questions along the way.
The combined Festival of Guest Nations and Public Safety Information Day celebrated our guest workers with food, live entertainment, special guests, raffles, prizes and giveaways.
“Every year, our region welcomes thousands of migrant workers to Southwestern Ontario – the most in Canada. For more than 20 years, the Migrant Worker Community Program has worked hard to ensure that workers have access to important services in our community and knowledge of their rights while working in Canada. On behalf of the Government of Canada, congratulations to Martin and the MWCP family on a successful event that celebrates the contributions of migrant workers and the support they need to do their jobs safely and with dignity,” related Irek Kusmierczyk, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion and Member of Parliament for Windsor–Tecumseh.
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