Temporary foreign workers get support from Government of Canada

By Michael Boriero - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The federal government is taking an extra step to protect temporary foreign workers (TFW) by injecting $58.6 million into the TFW program after several COVID-19 outbreaks were reported on a number of farms across Canada.
In a press release Friday, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough and Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced the government’s investment in an effort to create a safe and healthy environment for foreign workers.
“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,” said Bibeau.
The investment will be broken into three categories. In a phone interview, Bibeau said they will be putting $7.4 million to increase supports to temporary foreign workers. It will be used specifically to create outreach programs and organizations.
They also want to strengthen inspection routines, especially on farms, so $16.2 million will be going towards improving platforms for tips and allegations of employers failing to meet safety standards.
The bulk of the investment, $35 million, will be used to improve health and safety measures on farms. Farmers are expected to put the money into upgrading infrastructure in living quarters, emergency housing, PPE and sanitary stations.
“It’s a must,” Bibeau said. “It’s a contribution agreement, they will have to demonstrate that the work has been done.”
However, Bibeau added that the $35 million doesn’t necessarily need to be used for a complete retrofitting at an operation. The government is undergoing a consultation with stakeholders and provinces in a few weeks to hammer out the details.
“We’ll know more about the new rules after the consultation but still we know there is emergency retrofitting that has to be done quickly and we want to support farmers doing so,” she said, adding that non-repayable contributions will likely be cost-shared 50:50 with the applicants.
While the outbreaks are spread out countrywide, the majority have popped up in Ontario. Quebec has been fairly safe, according to Bibeau, and employers are continuously looking for ways to improve working conditions for migrant workers.
The workers coming from Mexico and Guatemala didn’t bring the COVID-19 virus with them, she added, but problems arise in larger installations. After temporary workers complete a mandatory 14-day isolation period, they get mixed in with everyone.
“This is why it’s mainly in the bigger installations because sometimes they share transportation, they share housing and this becomes an environment that could spread faster,” Bibeau said.

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