My Friend Omar: the Battle of a Seasonal Worker is now available on CBC Gem

My Friend Omar: the Battle of a Seasonal Worker is now available on CBC Gem

MONTREAL, May 13, 2024 /CNW/ – Canada and its primary and secondary economic sectors rely heavily on the labour of temporary or seasonal international workers. In 2022, there were over 64,660 temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in the agricultural industry, representing 23% of the workforce in this sector, up 6% from the previous year1. Most of them work under closed work permits, which stipulate, among other things, that the holder can only work in Canada for the same employer, the one associated with the initial permit application, giving these employers unreasonable power over the fate of their workers.

A new documentary sheds light on the vulnerability of temporary foreign workers under closed work permits in Canada.

Christian De la Cortina and Frank Baylis, who have been working together on film projects for over 20 years, have joined forces to produce a documentary describing the harsh reality faced by thousands of temporary workers in Canada. The documentary My Friend Omar: the Battle of a Seasonal Worker traces the tortuous journey and abuses endured by Wilson Omar Mendez, a Guatemalan seasonal worker working on a Quebec farm. His harrowing account, interwoven with the testimonies of his former colleagues and of key players in the immigration field, paints a disturbing picture of the precarious conditions in which temporary workers on closed work permits can find themselves.

“My role as a temporary foreign worker in the fictional Quebec TV series 5e Rang opened my eyes to the extreme vulnerability of people working in this environment,” explains Christian de la Cortina, director of the documentary My Friend Omar: The Battle of a Seasonal Worker. When Omar Mendez shared his story and the abusive treatment he suffered, I set out to make a documentary about his story so that it would be heard and help move the conversation forward about the damaging impact that closed work permits can have on the living and working conditions of temporary workers,” he adds.

Omar Mendez’s experience is just one example of the brutality that temporary workers on closed work permits can suffer as they are at the mercy of their employers. Demanding work schedules, unpaid overtime, social isolation, insults, violence and the threat of deportation are just some of the difficulties faced by foreign workers on closed work permits.

“My involvement with several Canadian cultural communities and my political career at the federal level have led me to become aware of horrifying stories about the working conditions of some temporary foreign workers,” says Frank Baylis, co-producer of the documentary My Friend Omar: The Battle of a Seasonal Worker. “Closed work permits can lead to serious violations of foreign workers’ rights and freedoms and tarnish Canada’s historic reputation as a welcoming place to work and live. Concrete measures are long overdue to protect these workers, who make an invaluable contribution to the Canadian economy,” he adds.

The documentary My Friend Omar: The Battle of a Seasonal Worker is now available for broadcast on the online listening platforms CBC Gem and ICI Tou.TV. It will also be broadcast several times on Radio-Canada and CBC over the coming weeks.

About Christian de la Cortina

Christian de la Cortina, a Canadian actor and director of Chilean heritage, holds a commerce degree from the University of Sherbrooke and film production credentials from L’INIS. Over the last 15 years, he has had a successful career as an actor for both TV and film, and he is recognized for the passion and authenticity he brings to his roles. He has drawn recognition from the Latin community in Canada, winning the Best Actor Award at The Latin Awards Canada in 2021. Bringing his stories to the screen has been his focus for the last few years, as well as writing and directing his theatrical feature films. Dedicated to creating inclusive content that celebrates his Hispanic heritage and uplifts his community, he has focused his filmmaking career on promoting diversity in the industry.

About Frank Baylis

Driven by humanist values and a strong desire to contribute to the common good, Frank Baylis is a Canadian businessman and former politician deeply involved in his community. During his entrepreneurial career, Mr. Baylis has taken over the reins of Baylis Medical, the family business founded by his mother, Gloria Baylis, turning it into a leader in supplying cutting-edge medical equipment, which Boston Scientific has since acquired. He also jumped into politics and was elected as the Liberal MP for the federal riding of PierrefondsDollard from 2015 to 2019. Today, Mr. Baylis devotes his time to providing support and advice to multiple organizations and start-ups, as well as being involved in his community.


1 2024-04-18. A look at those at work in agriculture, Statistics Canada (Online)

SOURCE Frank Baylis

rt My Friend Omar: the Battle of a Seasonal Worker is now available on CBC Gem

Featured image: Megapixl © Ronstik