Family Heroes — Profiles of the nominators for the 2011 UFCW Canada Migrant Workers Scholarships

Carlos Javier Canett Gonzalez with National President Hanley.

In 2010, UFCW Canada created the UFCW Canada Migrant Workers Scholarships to provide financial assistance to migrant workers’ children in sending countries, as a means to pursue their studies, and to fulfill the dreams that began when their fathers or mothers made the decision to migrate to Canada in order to improve their families’ lives.

Since then UFCW Canada has helped 25 extraordinary recipients, ranging from four to 25 years of age. They were nominated by family members employed in Canada as migrant workers in a system which remains problematic. Their stories are filled with sacrifice, struggle, hope, and determination. Here is one of those stories, from a series of profiles of the workers who nominated the recipients of the2011 UFCW Canada Migrant Workers Scholarships.

Carlos Javier Canett Gonzalez

In 2005, Carlos Javier departed from Mexico on his way to Canada to provide for a family he would not see again for eight months. He arrived in Abbotsford, British Columbia as migrant agriculture worker under the Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program (SAWP). It is a journey he has repeated every season since, to different Canadian farms but with the same hard, backbreaking days, and months apart from his wife and children.

It was not an easy choice, but high unemployment at home often kept Carlos jobless or uprooting his family in search of work somewhere else in Mexico. Even where there was work, employers often preferred to hire younger workers. The family persevered with barest of necessities — for a time even having to suffice with a cardboard refrigerator box as a kitchen table. "Fighting for survival is a valuable lesson and I am blessed with a family that never gave up hope," says the father of five, including his 17-year-old daughter Denisse Isamar Canett who is one of 20 recipients of the 2011 UFCW Canada Migrant Workers Scholarship.

Denisse Isamar is currently studying in Colima, Mexico and hopes to use the money from the scholarship to help buy school materials and a new laptop, as she continues to pursue a degree in tourism.

Carlos Javier had heard about the scholarship program through the AWA Centre in Surrey, B.C, where the staff helped him fill out the application "I always told my family that just like in Mexico, you can find good people in Canada who care about others and I am so grateful to them. This is a dream come true for Denisse's future and I will be so proud to see her when I return after the harvest."

“Carlos’ story rings similar with that of many migrant workers entering the seasonal agriculture workers program here," says UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley. "We are proud to be able to share in the success of his daughter’s education through the UFCW Canada Migrant Workers Scholarships.”