To protect the health and safety of Canadian and migrant farm workers, the government of Canada has been working with municipal, provincial, and territorial governments, as well as farmers, workers, and other employers who participate in the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program.
No matter what precautions are taken, it’s inevitable that some farms are going to face outbreaks. As of late, there have been a number of COVID-19 cases on farms that have significantly impacted the health and safety of workers.
Carla Qualtrough, minister of employment, workforce development, and disability inclusion, and Marie-Claude Bibeau, minister of agriculture and agri-food, have announced that the government of Canada is taking additional action to reduce the incidence and impact of COVID-19 outbreaks on farms.
The government of Canada is putting forward a $58.6 million investment towards the health and safety of Canadian temporary foreign workers from COVID-19. The investment will be allocated as follows:
- Investing $7.4 million to increase supports to temporary foreign workers, including $6 million for direct outreach to workers delivered through migrant worker support organizations;
- Strengthening the employer inspections regime, particularly on farms, and making improvements to how tips and allegations of employer non-compliance are addressed (such as by initiating an inspection) through an investment of $16.2 million; and
- Investing $35 million to improve health and safety on farms and in employee living quarters to prevent and respond to the spread of COVID-19. This will go directly toward infrastructure improvements to living quarters, temporary or emergency housing (on- or off-farm), as well as PPE, sanitary stations, and any other health and safety measures. Non-repayable contributions will be cost-shared 50:50 with the applicants.
Minister Bibeau says that during the unprecedented COVID-19 times, they want to help farmers adjust however they can.
“We care deeply about the well-being of all farm workers, who are helping ensure the food security of Canadians. During the exceptional circumstances of COVID-19, we want to help farmers adapt and improve the employment conditions of all their employees as well as the living environment of temporary foreign workers,” Bibeau explains.
Marco E.L. Mendicino, minister of immigration, refugees, and citizenship, says that the country relies on TFWs for food security, so there is a duty to keep them safe.
“We have taken prompt action to ensure that these workers can continue to arrive during the pandemic, to establish rules to keep them healthy, and to make it easier for workers to switch employers to increase their job security,” says Mendicino. “Clearly, there is still much to do and we will continue to strengthen and monitor these protections.”