Fostering inclusive workplaces, resilient communities and protecting migrant rights in Canada’s Emerging Cannabis Industry

What are the objectives of this project?

The recent legalization of recreational Cannabis throughout Canada has seen a proliferation of licensed producers (LPs). Ontario has the largest share of producers in the country (Licensed Producers Canada, 2019), with more than 15 licensed marijuana growers located in southwestern Ontario, ranging from greenhouses and indoor growing facilities to processing plants and farms (Carruthers, 2019). Statistics Canada (2018) recently reported a 266 percent increase in the number of jobs nationwide in the cannabis industry year-over-year, with half of those clustered in Ontario. The demand for labour has exceeded domestic supply and developed a need for more migrant workers to handle the production and harvest of cannabis.

As a new industry, the workers are exposed to various products in the workplace that may be harmful to their health, such as the handling of plants, which may lead to various health risks.   Also as a new group of migrant workers, brought in under the Temporary Workers Program, we want to investigate if improvements in health and safety are being realized for this new cohort entering a new and flourishing industry, where migrant work is important to the production, packaging and distribution of cannabis.

What is our approach?

The research team will investigate the realities of this emerging industry and what it means for migrant workers in the sector. Of particular interest is the experiences of the growing numbers of migrant workers in an industry that is still struggling with legitimacy acceptance. In what ways is the sector grappling with its own resilience challenges that may impact the workforce? How have local communities and services utilized by migrants been impacted by the growth of this sector and the subsequent growth of a migrant workforce? This will have relevance as well in terms of labour rights, and emerging legislative compliance. As no scholarship yet exists for this industry on migration and resilience, our proposed study will be one of the first studies on migrants working in the cannabis industry, the resilience of the sector and the communities in which the industry is based, and the resilience of migrants working in the sector

How will this project be implemented?

We will employ an exploratory research method to address our research question. Secondary data and qualitative research based on interviews conducted either by telephone, skype, or in person will be obtained. We intend to conduct our research in the Leamington area, and will connect with the Chamber of Commerce Leamington and Local Immigration Partnerships to discuss how they help migrant workers become settled in the community. Additionally, we will work with our community partners on this project - IVAGO (Community Legal Clinic), and OHCOW (Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers Inc.), the New Canadians' Centre Of Excellence Inc. (NCCE).   We also intend to contact places of worship and ask similar questions as the Chamber. Municipal government will be contacted to learn about programs for newcomers to the Leamington area and what they are offered to help migrant workers become integrated.  All cannabis companies in the Leamington will be surveyed to determine their expected growth. This will be achieved by first looking at annual reports or contacting companies directly in the absence of data. There are currently about 250 licensed producers in Canada, with approximately 15 operating in Southwestern Ontario. We will aim to interview growers, operators, companies (as indicated), industry representatives, grower associations, FARMS (Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services) and UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers).  We will also connect with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change who have been on the frontlines, supporting all migrant workers, during COVID.


Given the current issues associated with COVID, we intend to do as much virtually as we can and adhere to guidelines outlined by our respective universities, organizations and government rules as they may apply during this course of research.

What are the phases of this project?

We plan to interview about 25+ migrant workers, given the time constraints of this project. They will be recruited with posters and announcements through local churches, ESL programs, libraries, grocery stores, ethnic restaurants, and assistance through other local organizations such as UFCW, IAVGO, and FARM. We may also have to use a snowball sample to gain access to the employees.

We anticipate 60-minute interviews that will ask specific questions about integration into the community, integration into their workplaces, and specific questions about their treatment in the workplace, specifically their fair treatment, access to equal rights, and their health and safety training and/or issues they have faced. We would also want to know how they build resilience to the hardships they may face while living and working in Canada. Some of these workers may have worked in other farming industries and we would want to know if they compare their work conditions in the different faces of the agricultural sector, if possible. The interview questions and protocols will be fully-flushed out once we receive approval. We will have to conduct secondary data to learn more about the safety exposures to the plants and processes within the cannabis plants themselves to better understand the hazards, risks, and controls used.

Who is involved in this project?

Principal Investigators: 

Deborah McPhee, Ph.D., Professor of Human Resource Management, Goodman School of Business, Brock University -



Jenna L. Hennebry, Ph.D., Co-Founder/Senior Research Associate, International Migration Research Centre, Associate Professor, Balsillie School of International Affairs, Graduate Program Co-ordinator, Communication Studies, Program Co-ordinator, Women and Gender Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University

Dr. Francine Schlosser, Ph.D., Odette Professor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Odette School of Business, University of Windsor


Community Partners:

Reza Shahbazi, Executive Director, New Canadians' Centre of Excellence Inc. (NCCE), Windsor, Ontario

Valerie Wolfe, Executive Director, South Central Region, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, Hamilton, Ontario

Michelle Tew, Occupational Health Nurse, RN, BScN, DOHS, COHN(C), Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers

Eduardo Huesca, Program Coordinator at Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers Inc., Toronto, Canada Area

Jessica Ponting, Community Legal Worker, IAVGO Community Legal Clinic, Toronto, Ontario