At first glance, it appeared that seasonal and temporary foreign workers coming to Canada would flow relatively unimpeded, save for the pre-flight COVID-19 test. However, last week’s federal announcement of more stringent quarantine measures and additional costs is possibly a new stumbling block, in the path to getting thousands of people here to work on fruit and vegetable farms.
The new restrictions, which requires a second test and 3-day hotel stay at the traveller’s expense, are on top of news of further cancelled and restricted flights. Canada’s seasonal labour force is usually brought to Canada on a mix of commercial and chartered flights. With many of the commercial flights cancelled, farms and farm business working to bring temporary workers here will now face this added cost and logistics hurdle.
Mary Robinson, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), says that the details are unclear on if the isolation in the hotel is going to apply to agriculture and if so, if farmers are the ones paying the tab.
“We don’t want to do anything that will speed up the spread of COVID,” Robinsons says, only that CFA wants to be sure that any of these new requirements aren’t expected to be paid for by the farmer. For farms bringing in several hundred employees on already more costly flights, the added hotel stay could be a financial burden.
Robinson adds that there are some positive signals that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will go to bat for the industry, but there is not official word yet on what the government has decided.
“We want to make sure that we are on the right side of the regulations, that public health is endorsing what we’re doing,” she says. We want to make sure that we are protecting farms and all Canadians against COVID-19, Robinson says.