Agriculture and Agri-Food standing committee to make farmers a priority: mental health report

The Agriculture and Agri-Food standing committee released its 16th report dubbed, Mental Health: A Priority for Our Farmers.

The report comes after the committee, back on April 23, 2018, agreed to undertake a study on mental health challenges in the agriculture community. From June 13, 2018 to January 29, 2019 — the committee heard testimony and received written letters from various mental health groups, government officials and agriculture organizations.

As part of their deliberation, members came up with 10 recommendations to put forward to the federal government. Those recommendations are:

  1. The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada examine the process of audits and labour reviews in order to 1) ensure the least amount of stress and disruption to the agricultural producer and those dependent on them for work since extremely negative impact on the mental well-being of the producers and those around them can result from poorly managed audits and labour reviews, and 2) whenever possible, give consideration to practical experience when filling positions of auditors as they best understand the processes that the producers go through.
  2. The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada and pertinent departments, when considering and implementing regulatory change, take into account the impact any changes may have on agricultural producers and related industry persons and mitigate potential stressors by 1) giving ample time for consultation, 2) ensuring that all persons affected by the changes are kept informed from beginning to end and 3) give full consideration to withdrawing said changes or amending them if the impact is found to be of great negative impact on the Canadian agricultural sector.
  3. Given the prevalence of government initiatives, studies, and programs to combat cyber bullying and other forms of intimidation and coercion targeted at students and vulnerable Canadians, the Government should engage with farmers and agricultural stakeholder groups to develop public awareness campaigns and strategies to combat the growing incidence of cyber bullying, intimidation, and threats targeted at Canada’s agricultural workers which results in a significant increase in stress. In addition, the Committee recommends that the Government of Canada consider including any form of intimidation or cyberbullying targeted at any group of Canadians based on their occupation or place of residence as a Criminal Code offense.
  4. The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada accelerate the deployment of high-speed Internet infrastructure in Canada’s rural and remote regions.
  5. The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada work with the recognized and accredited organizations to better tailor mental health care and insurance coverage to farmers’ specific needs.
  6. The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada invest in educating business partners and other stakeholders who work with farmers to detect the signs of psychological disorders and distress in order to refer them to resources that can help them.
  7. The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada contribute to building capacity in mental health awareness and prevention so that future farmers are informed of the challenges they may face.
  8. The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada, in cooperation with its provincial and territorial counterparts, fund the activities of recognized and accredited organizations that provide mental health assistance to farmers and their families.
  9. The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada oversee the national coordination of various research and prevention activities targeting the mental health of farmers.
  10. The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada facilitate, coordinate and promote telephone help lines and e-mental health services for farmers and Canadians living in rural areas.

To read the full report, click here.

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