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Walking in Another's Boots

As published in the BC Holstein News


The Temporary Foreign Worker program offers benefits to employer and worker alike. Employers can fill their labour needs with quality workers, while the worker is able to make a better life for themselves and their family. One of the best ways to create this mutually beneficial relationship is to seek to understand the other person. For this article we spoke with Leonilo (Leo), a local foreign worker about his experience coming to Canada, and what makes it worth staying.


Coming to Canada – First Impressions

Many foreign workers take a circuitous route to Canada. For example, Leo, a herdsman at a dairy farm in Abbotsford, arrived in Canada in 2013. Originally from the Philippines,

he spent 7 years working in Taiwan prior to being hired as a Temporary Foreign Worker in Canada. Initially he was unsure about his new home. The obvious issues like the cold weather and homesickness were a factor, but so was Canada’s small population. “I felt bored” he says. Used to life in Asia, bustling with people, he came to Canada, wondering where all the people are.

For employers, it’s easy to forget how big the adjustment is that their workers are trying to make when they arrive at the farm. Not only are they adapting to a new work environment, but in many cases, a new language, living situation, food choices and culture as well. Everyday issues such as groceries or banking can become an overwhelming task. Patience and understanding on the part of the employer can go a long way in helping the worker adapts as quickly as possible.


The Adjustment Period

The right employer can play a big role in a Foreign Worker’s adjustment to life in Canada. When Leo’s first contract at a cleaning company in Alberta wasn’t renewed, he moved to Osoyoos to work in a greenhouse and then 2 years later found himself in Abbotsford, working in the dairy industry. After bouncing from job to job, he feels he has finally found a job with a long-term future. When asked what keeps him happy Leo says it’s simple: “An employer who is kind and treats me well. My employer treats his workers like sons.” The opportunity for new roles and experience helps too. At his current farm, Leo’s main role is milking, but he has received training to be quick to jump in the tractor or skid steer when the opportunity arrives. The chance to experiment with different tasks and learn new skills is an effective tool to keep workers motivated and engaged.


The Long-term picture

Life so far from home and family isn’t easy, but for the Foreign Workers who are able to stick it out, Canada offer’s a lot of opportunity. Over time Leo has adjusted to life in Canada. He is fully aware of the benefits it has provided for himself and his family. “I like my salary in Canada” he says with a laugh, “I’ve been able to support my family and even buy some property in the Philippines.”. Through his hard work, and with a supportive employer, Leo is close to achieving his goal of making Canada his permanent home. He recently applied for Permanent Residence status, and most excitedly, his family will soon be reuniting with him here. After 8 long years apart, his wife and children will be arriving in Canada this October. “I’m so excited, I can’t sleep” he says “I can’t wait.”


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