Corey Mintz, food columnist for The Globe and Mail, writes about his food hero, Chris Ramsaroop, and why he is supporting Community Food Centres Canada this holiday season:
I only spent one day with my food hero, Chris Ramsaroop. But he showed me the world.
If you don’t know a farm labourer that’s because it’s hard work for low pay and people born in Canada don’t want to pick strawberries or wash the dirt off of lettuce. The people who do it are shipped into the country on temporary work permits, their days spent stooping over the earth to harvest our vegetables. They don’t get overtime. If they’re injured they get sent home. And though many of them do it for years or even decades, the work offers them no path to citizenship.
Chris fights for their rights and dignity.
I met Chris this last summer. We drove out to some small towns in southern Ontario that I can’t name because I don’t want trouble for any of the farmhands who spoke to us. We met in secret, on country roads, in shadowy parking lots. Chris was there to provide them with advice and inform them of their legal rights. I was there to hear their stories, of sleeping in poorly ventilated barracks, working in fields sprayed with chemicals, threatened with deportation.
Despite whatever guff people want to kick up about immigrants coming to Canada to take Canadian jobs, it’s the other way around. We import people just to take advantage of them. And Chris is out there every weekend, trying to change that.
It was Canada Day when we hit the road, the holiday hours dashing my hopes of eating in one of the Chinese restaurants found in every small town in the country. So we shared a meal together at Pita Pit, Chris loading his with pineapple, which he does to all his food. It was not the best meal I ever ate. It wasn’t even as good as the fries I had at Wendy’s 20 minutes later.
But it was an honour to break pita with someone so devoted to empowering people who are too much an invisible part of our food chain.
After I wrote an article about Chris for the Globe, people asked me, “How can I help? Are there farms/stores I shouldn’t buy from?” And the good news and bad news I had for them was that no, boycotts aren’t the answer. Exploitation of farm labour goes all across the supply chain. But you can support an organization like Chris’ Justice 4 Migrant Workers. Many of us don’t have time or money to give. But anyone can help by making it an election issue. When federal candidates come asking for your vote, remember how we treat the people who pick our fruits and vegetables. Ask any potential MP where they stand on this, if they are willing to give migrant farm workers permanent immigration status on arrival.
That’s what Chris does. That’s why he’s my food hero.
Thanks to Corey for contributing to our #myfoodhero campaign, which supports Community Food Centres Canada to offer empowering food programs that build better health, skills, and belonging in the communities that need it most. Join Corey by making a donation today!
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