Fraser Valley, BC Indo-Canadian strawberry pickers with young children harvesting in the fields, late 1970s. Photos-130, Canadian Farmworkers Union Collection, Simon Fraser University Library

Most farmworkers spoke no English. Two-thirds were women. New to Canada – and reminiscent of earlier generations of South Asian Canadian workers – they were fearful of their fate if they complained.

The work was seasonal and followed the calendar of agricultural crops. Farmworkers traveled to the Fraser Valley from all parts of British Columbia, including the lower mainland. Those from outside the region lived in crude ramshackle shacks with no running water. Those who lived closer to farms were transported to the fields by contractors or family members. The women and elderly workers often brought their children as young as 8 years old to work beside them.

Fraser Valley, BC Farmworkers’ cabins, late 1970s. Photos-126, Canadian Farmworkers Union Collection, Simon Fraser University Library.

“My mother worked in cranberry fields…she immigrated in the late 1950s so from 1970 on my early memories were my mom waking up quite early…my mom would work long hours. My dad…always worked in a sawmill. He was always proud of how he was in a unionized sawmill…we worked on the farms too during the summer…my mom had a head injury and we tried to apply for disability benefits and it was a nightmare…my mom was left without income for a long, long time…”[1]


  1. Harji Sangra, interview by Anushay Malik, April 22, 2021. Union Zindabad! Interview Collection, BC Labour Heritage Centre.


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