Harvesting Freedom

Harvesting Freedom

The Life of a Migrant Worker in Canada

By Gabriel Allahdua, with Edward Dunsworth


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  • Legislative Assembly of Ontario Speaker's Book Award, 2023 (Winner)
  • The Mayworks Activist Award for Excellence in Contribution to Labour Arts, 2023 (Winner)
  • John Wesley Dafoe Book Prize, 2024 (Long-listed)

In this singular firsthand account, a former migrant worker reveals a disturbing system of exploitation at the heart of Canada’s farm labour system.

When Gabriel Allahdua applied to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program in Canada, he thought he would be leaving his home in St. Lucia to work in a country with a sterling human rights reputation and commitment to multiculturalism. Instead, breakneck quotas and a culture of fear dominated his four years in a mega-greenhouse in Ontario. This deeply personal memoir takes readers behind the scenes to see what life is really like for the people who produce Canada’s food.

Now, as a leading activist in the migrant justice movement in Canada, Allahdua is fighting back against the Canadian government to demand rights and respect for temporary foreign labourers. Harvesting Freedom shows Canada’s place in the long history of slavery, colonialism, and inequality that has linked the Caribbean to the wider world for half a millennium—but also the tireless determination of Caribbean people to fight for their freedom.


“This memoir disrupts a colossal silence in the history of Canadian food, labour, and agriculture. Through a mix of deft analysis and storytelling, Allahdua reveals the structures of power that have long suppressed the voices of migrant farm workers in Canada.”

– Simon Vickers, archivist and historian

“Gabriel Allahdua has been a leading voice in migrant worker movements in Canada for decades. Now, he has gifted us this book, written with Edward Dunsworth, challenging the myth of Canadian benevolence, fairness, and multiculturalism in the immigration system. In this sweeping account, the authors expertly weave global histories of enslavement, indentureship, and racial capitalism with Allahdua’s own experience as a migrant worker and his key role in migrant worker movements resisting labour, racial, and social exploitation. One of the only books by and of migrant farm workers’ experiences and struggles in Canada, Harvesting Freedom is deeply inspiring, moving, eye-opening, and motivating. An essential read that will shake you to your core.”

– Harsha Walia, author of Border and Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism

“This well-crafted personal narrative takes us from St. Lucia in the eastern Caribbean to the vast commercial greenhouses of Ontario, all from the perspective of one migrant who defied the divide-and-conquer strategies of employers and the Canadian state. Through activist Gabriel Allahdua’s calm, clear, and concise account of the ‘roller coaster ride of being a migrant farm worker in Canada,’ we become acquainted not only with the coercion and cruelty built into the programs designed by the state and the corporations to feed labour-power into our food system, but also with the resourcefulness and intelligence of those fighting to change them. An indispensable and illuminating record from a very brave man.”

– Ian McKay, McMaster University

“In Harvesting Freedom, Gabriel Allahdua powerfully tells his story, starting with his early years in St. Lucia, to his decision to seek greener pastures in Canada after a hurricane destroyed his livelihood, to the many excruciating years he worked as a migrant farm worker under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and, finally, to his years as an activist with Justicia for Migrant Workers. Allahdua and Dunsworth convincingly show the continuities between previous colonial practices of indentured servitude, the transatlantic slave trade, and today’s exploitation of migrant farm workers. Poignant, humorous, and heartfelt, Harvesting Freedom is a masterpiece.”

– Ethel Tungohan, Canada Research Chair in Canadian Migration Policy, and associate professor of politics, York University

“Gabriel Allahdua is at once a farmer, father, migrant worker, ethnographer, author, activist, visionary, and most of all, educator. With passion, prose, and protest, Harvesting Freedom provides a raw and rare firsthand account through which we can understand the experiences, and exploitation, of migrant workers like never before. Everyone who cares about social and environmental justice should read this transformative book; doing so will make it impossible to look at a ‘local’ tomato the same way. Allahdua’s powerful words may be the catalyst we need to spur collective, radical change for migrant justice.”

– Janet McLaughlin, associate professor, Health Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University; co-founder of the Migrant Worker Health Project

“In this fascinating first-person account of the making of an activist in the migrant workers’ justice movement, Gabriel Allahdua offers both a scathing indictment of the temporary farm labour system that initially brought him to Canada from St. Lucia and an empowering story of the collective struggle of all migrant workers for respect, dignity, and immigrant status on arrival.”

– Franca Iacovetta, professor emerita, University of Toronto

“An exposé of the practices on Canadian farms that even those who are aware of the migrant worker system will be moved by. Gabriel Allahdua is a superb commentator on the migrant worker’s life because he lived it, analyzed it, and, with the activism this book describes, is helping to change it. An infuriating system has produced an inspiring whistle-blower.”

– Karen Dubinsky, professor of history and global development studies, Queen’s University 

“This is a beautifully written and important book. Gabriel’s story leaves us both heartbroken and hopeful for a better world. The plight of migrant workers in Canada is what Amartya Sen calls a “remediable injustice,” a grave problem that can be fixed. The question is, do we want to confront the human rights violations for migrants that exist within our own borders? Harvesting Freedom makes a compelling case for action now, in the context of racial and environmental justice movements. Everyone should read this book.”

– Candace Johnson, professor of political science, University of Guelph

Harvesting Freedom is an effective call for food justice and a voice for those made voiceless in the agricultural sector. Most shocking perhaps for the public is that under the shiny veneer of modern Canadian agriculture, Gabriel Allahdua and Edward Dunsworth uncovered a litany of current and ongoing troubling labour practices. The reform Gabriel calls for is a basic call for dignity. Read this book, and be prepared to join the global movement to harvest freedom.”

– Tammara Soma, assistant professor, Simon Fraser University, and research director of Food Systems Lab

Harvesting Freedom is an excellent work in which Gabriel Allahdua shares his remarkable journey from his home country, St. Lucia, as a migrant worker in Canada. The book brings the voice of many migrant farm workers who work relentlessly to supply our food. The book provides a different perspective on the common perception that Canada is a country championing equity, diversity, inclusion, and human rights. It reminds us there is a long way to go if we claim to champion social justice for migrant farm workers and agri-food development in Canada.”

– Ataharul Chowdhury, associate professor, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph

“Deeply personal and compelling, Harvesting Freedom presents a first-hand account of the life of a migrant worker employed in Canadian agriculture. In his own words, Gabriel Allahdua describes his experiences as a farm worker from St. Lucia and illustrates the myriad injustices migrant workers face in Canada. Situating his experiences within the legacy of colonialism and slavery in the Caribbean, Allahdua exposes the racialized and unfree nature of Canada’s temporary foreign worker programs. Central to his story is Allahdua’s journey as a migrant justice activist and his demand: “Status for All!” This is a courageous and profoundly inspirational book.” 

– Stephanie Mayell, University of Toronto

“By tracing the story of a hurricane in St. Lucia that spurred Gabriel Allahdua’s path from beekeeper and teacher to migrant farm worker and activist, this book provides the first published chronicle of the life of a migrant farm worker in Canada. Harvesting Freedom not only disrupts the dehumanization that’s baked into Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, but it also provides a galvanizing account of migrant workers’ collective struggle for justice and dignity. Given the expansion of unfree migrant worker programs worldwide amid the climate crisis, this firsthand account from a migrant farm worker and organic intellectual is globally significant.” 

– Anelyse M. Weiler, assistant professor, University of Victoria

Harvesting Freedom offers a compelling and unflinching portrayal of the deep injustices facing migrant farm workers in Canada. Far more than just the story of one migrant farmer worker, Harvesting Freedom connects deeply personal struggles with broader consequences of colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, and white supremacy. Whether you are familiar with the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program or new to the structural oppression facing migrant farm workers, Harvesting Freedom offers valuable insight into the racist realities of Canada’s immigration system, and the possibilities that emerge through solidarity, empowerment, and collective organizing.” 

– Amanda Wilson, assistant professor, School of Social Innovation, Saint Paul University

“This is a book that touches the reader’s heart, soul, and conscience. Written with Edward Dunsworth, Gabriel Allahdua generously shares with us his journey through colonial and neocolonial exploitation, from genocide, slavery, displacement, and extractive capitalism in the Caribbean to the ongoing ‘legal’ exploitation of migrant workers in Canada. The energy and passion that transpire from these pages reflect awareness deeply rooted in personal lived experience; the courage to learn; and full commitment to radical active hope. Hope that migrant justice, and food justice, will become the new normal for future generations in Canada and beyond.”

– Andrea A. Cortinois, assistant professor, University of Toronto

“Migrant farmworkers have been silenced and erased in Canada for far too long. Now we have a powerful firsthand account of what it is like to be a farmworker in Canada’s multibillion dollar agriculture industry through Gabriel’s powerful words in Harvesting Freedom. Gabriel’s book, the first ever published by a migrant worker from the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, is a call to awaken the consciousness of Canadians. Gabriel’s voice speaks loud and clear about exploitation and erasure despite being labelled as essential workers and for the need for migrant justice now! Gabriel is a gifted educator, migrant justice organizer, and a compelling writer. His book is his testimony of all that he has lived and witnessed while producing the local food that makes it onto our kitchen table.”

– Evelyn Encalada Grez, assistant professor in labour studies at Simon Fraser University, and founding member of Justice for Migrant Workers

“Gabriel’s inspiring life story is a paradigm of migrant worker resistance against systemic injustice.”

– Vasanthi Venkatesh, associate professor, Faculty of Law at the University of Windsor, and member of Justice for Migrant Workers


I Am Many Things
Preface by Edward Dunsworth
Part One. A Child of History
Chapter 1. Welcome to Canada
Chapter 2. Beginnings
Chapter 3. Growing Up
Chapter 4. Education
Chapter 5. Teaching and Learning
Chapter 6. Guyana
Chapter 7. Work, Family, and Community
Chapter 8. Working the Land
Chapter 9. The Hurricane
Chapter 10. Joining the Farm Worker Program
Part Two. A Migrant Farm Worker
Chapter 11. Working in the Greenhouse
Chapter 12. More on Working in the Greenhouse
Chapter 13. Bunkhouse Life
Chapter 14. Family Separation
Chapter 15. Back and Forth
Chapter 16. Literacy and Power
Chapter 17. Coping and Finding Community
Chapter 18. Racism and Discrimination
Chapter 19. A Voice for the Voiceless
Part Three. Status for All
Chapter 20. The Twenty Injustices of Canada
Chapter 21. Leaving the Program
Chapter 22. Justicia
Chapter 23. Speaking Truth to Power
Chapter 24. The Caravan
Chapter 25. New Beginnings and Future Harvests
I Am Many Things (reprise)
Epilogue. COVID-19 and Migrant Farm Workers