Could new COVID-19-tests regulations maintain some migrant farm workers out of Canada?

Canada’s new policies requiring adverse COVID-19 test outcomes for all travellers entering this state will make a different roadblock to the admission of migrant farm employees and could disrupt the meals-offer chain, advocates are warning.

Previous spring, at the onset of the pandemic, 1000’s of seasonal agricultural workers had been prevented from coming into Canada for the farming season ahead of eventually staying granted exemptions as essential personnel amid substantial tension from the $112-billion sector.

Advocates say the new need of necessary screening in just 72 several hours right before departure can expense as a lot as $350, which is an onerous financial stress for migrant staff, many of whom should also vacation long distances to city centres for the examination, further exposing them to the hazard of contracting the coronavirus.

“The present-day prerequisite for migrant farm workers to spend upfront these exorbitant prices and the pitfalls that they are taking to their well being to get these checks are simply not acceptable,” claims Chris Ramsaroop of Justicia for Migrant Personnel.

“Workers do not want to compromise their well being in buy to feed their households. Nonetheless, that is what is being asked of them.”

Canada admits about 60,000 seasonal agricultural personnel each individual calendar year, and the very first wave usually get there in late January to work in greenhouses, followed by other folks in the spring to enable with prepping the fields and restoring tools just before the planting and pruning start out.

Owing to the vacation limits and minimized flights final year, quite a few of the staff were being unable to arrive or their arrival was delayed. Those people who made it experienced to quarantine for 14 days — a requirement that stays in area under the new screening routine.

Keith Currie, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, estimated that the general intake of migrant farm personnel was down 20 to 30 for each cent very last 12 months and reported he hopes the sector will have a entire enhance of the overseas workforce to make sure efficiency is not compromised.

“We figure out that we want to get a manage on this. Is (the test) a stumbling block? Definitely. Is it an additional step that we need to offer with? Sure,” claimed Currie, whose firm signifies 200,000 farms throughout Canada.

“Let’s encounter it. We need the labour. Even with the full enhance of 60,000 personnel from other nations, we nonetheless have 16,000 (careers) to get stuffed in the sector.”

In accordance to Ramsaroop, far more than 2,100 migrant farm employees contracted the virus due to their doing the job ailments and by means of group contacts. Four died as a end result.

“It is not that employees are bringing the virus listed here, but they are jeopardizing their overall health and well-staying so that a multibillion(-dollar) field proceeds to prosper off the sacrifices of Black and brown workers from the world South,” Ramsaroop stated.

“Canada is reinforcing the fantasy that migrant workers are carriers of the virus and that the virus is remaining distribute from the world South to the North. This is definitely wrong.”

In a letter to federal officials, Justicia for Migrant Staff explained a large amount of the employees are living in rural and remote communities in their household countries, and that quite a few should travel to crowded cities in purchase to just take a COVID-19 check.

“Any testing method that is executed must be based on the requirements of the workers and not the profit-driven demands of the market,” explained the two-webpage letter to members of the cabinet committee on COVID-19. “Country-of-origin screening does not address these difficulties.”

It urges the federal government and the companies to protect the expenses of these tests, which, it says, ought to be taken on arrival in Canada when the employees quarantine.

Employment and Social Advancement Canada states it has continued to do the job carefully with other stakeholders, together with employees and companies, to guarantee the risk-free and well timed entry of short-term foreign employees in purchase to manage Canada’s meals provide chain.

“Our Federal government recognizes the integral part farm employees and farmers participate in in ensuring Canadians have obtain to meals, and we are below to help them. The Temporary Overseas Employee Software is vital to making certain the meals sector has the workforce they need,” claimed Marielle Hossack, push secretary of Work Minister Carla Qualtrough.

“At this time, momentary foreign personnel are matter to the exact same requirements as all travellers to Canada. This implies that, except if they are exempted, they will be needed to meet up with the new need about screening.”



Currie, of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, mentioned farm operators comprehend the need to have to look at the coronavirus at the border.

“These are the folks who are furnishing a worthwhile services in Canada. There is a large volume of screening going on. The expenditures to the federal and provincial governments will be small if they are to acquire on the value of tests the personnel,” he mentioned.

“Some staff may possibly not have access to screening or they cannot afford to pay for it. I really do not see why we could not perform with the governments to give them the test the next they get off the plane and go into quarantine.”

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-primarily based reporter covering immigration for the Star. Stick to him on Twitter: @nkeung