Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet speaks during a press conference on the federal government’s response to COVID-19, in West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Saturday, April 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet speaks during a press conference on the federal government’s response to COVID-19, in West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Saturday, April 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Concerns raised about COVID-19 quarantine rules for migrant workers

Some say migrant workers should be housed in hotel rooms for their mandatory quarantine

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet is raising concern about temporary foreign workers arriving in Canada to work on farms, saying he believes the quarantine rules for these workers are inadequate.

The federal government has exempted migrant workers from COVID-19 cross-border travel restrictions because of their importance to the Canadian economy.

Federal officials have said these workers will face health screening before travelling to Canada and must isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in Canada.

But Blanchet says more than 100 temporary farm workers arrived in Quebec this week from Mexico, and he is concerned they are not being tested for COVID-19 upon their arrival in Canada and that their mandatory quarantine will happen on the farms where they will work, rather than in federal facilities.

“We are concerned about their safety,” Blanchet said in French.

“Before more temporary foreign workers arrive at Dorval airport in Montreal, can steps be taken so that these people are quarantined at customs before they are released to go elsewhere in the country in the interests of all Canadians?”

Blanchet charged that the federal government is passing the buck of responsibility of overseeing this quarantine period and placing it onto the shoulders of farm owners.

“That’s not their duty, that is the state’s duty,” he said.

“It’s possible the farms are not in a position to ensure the type of quarantine that’s needed. It’s possible that symptoms are not being identified as effectively on a farm as they could be if those tests were conducted by health authorities. These people have been released by Customs Canada and the responsibility to look after these people.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said temporary foreign workers are essential for food production and food security in Canada, and stressed that all migrant workers are federally mandated to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Canada.

Freeland said the RCMP will be working with provincial and municipal police forces to help enforce the federal Quarantine Act and stressed that temporary foreign workers fall under the requirements of this act.

All migrant workers will be quarantined, farm operators who hire them will be required to ensure the workers are housed in conditions that meet self-isolation requirements and farmers will be required to pay the workers for the duration of their quarantine, according to a senior official in Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau’s office.

“This season is an essential moment for farmers to begin their work,” Freeland said.

“Temporary foreign workers, like all people, Canadian non-Canadian alike, entering Canada from another country are subject to mandatory, 14-day quarantine. The RCMP has announced yesterday … working with local police forces, (it) would be assisting public health in ensuring those quarantine measures, which are obligatory, are fully enforced.”

It is critical for Canada’s food supply chain to be maintained and temporary foreign workers play an integral role in that food supply, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a lengthy and wide-raging question-and-answer period on government’s COVID-19 emergency measures in the House of Commons Saturday.

“I share many of the concerns listed by (Blanchet),” Trudeau said in French.

“We will work together to make sure that while meeting the needs of our farmers and our food supply chain, we do have the capacity and the certainty that Canadians are kept safe and that the possible spread of COVID-19 is limited.”

Two weeks ago, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture praised the federal government for ensuring that COVID-19 travel restrictions would not prevent migrant workers from entering Canada as the planting season is set to begin.

Federation president Mary Robinson said farmers are committed to working with all the appropriate agencies and departments to ensure the entry of these workers into Canada follows strict public health protocols to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

But Chris Ramsaroop of Justice for Migrant Workers says he does not have confidence that temporary foreign farm workers will be housed in ways that protect them from a possible outbreak.

He says he’s visited work sites where workers were housed in “bunk houses” that would not allow for proper social distancing.

“If a pandemic spreads, it’s going to spread very quickly in a bunk house or a work site,” he said.

“We know from what migrant workers are telling us that there aren’t social distancing on the farms that they’re currently living on or in their working conditions.”

His group questions how the federal government can continue to claim to protect Canada’s food security while possibly sacrificing the health and well being of migrant workers who work to feed Canadian communities.

“I think the federal government has failed in the past to protect the interests of migrant workers in normal circumstances, so what’s going to happen in a crisis?” Ramsaroop said.

He suggested migrant workers should be housed in hotel rooms for the duration of their mandatory quarantine.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

CoronavirusMigrant Workers

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 uses walking sticks while walking up a hill, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Interior Health reports 83 more COVID-19 infections overnight

46 cases are now associated with a COVID-19 community cluster in Revelstoke

(Black Press file photo)
Discovery House receives $50,000 donation to kick off annual fundraiser

The ‘Shed the Light on Addiction’ fundraising campaign is underway

The tree for seniors is up at London Drugs in Cherry Lane mall. Pick a tag off the tree and purchase the items local seniors’ have requested. Sometimes it’s a simple as a razor and some chocolates or slippers or a scarf. (Facebook)
So many worthy charities in Penticton on #GivingTuesday

It’s been a very tough year for non-profit organizations — so let’s give generously

Grapevine Optical was the victim of an early morning break and enter Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2020. (Crime Stoppers Okanagan / Facebook)
Designer sunglasses stolen from Oliver eye-wear shop

Crime Stoppers is seeking the identity of two male suspects

Snowmaking is continuing at full blast on Apex Mountain on Nov. 20. (Apex Mountain Resort Facebook - Jeff Plant)
No mask? Lose your pass at Apex

The ski resort has implemented a strict mask policy for the upcoming ski season

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Brent Ross poses with his dog Jack who died over the weekend after asphyxiating on a ball. Ross hopes his experience serves as a cautionary tale to other dog owners. (Contributed)
Salmon Arm man warns others after dog dies from choking on a ball

Brent Ross grieving the sudden loss of Jack, a healthy, seven-year-old chocolate lab

This year’s Candlelight Vigil, United Against Violence Against Women, on Dec. 6, 2020 will not be in person at the campuses of Okanagan College due to COVID-19, but people will be able to gather online to watch a video presentation and light a candle in remembrance. (Image contributed)
Violence against women in North Okanagan-Shuswap to be remembered online

Participants in virtual vigil Dec. 6 asked to light a candle and post photo on social media

Mayor Colin Basran at the announcement of the 2021 Tim Horton’s Brier to be hosted in Kelowna on Nov. 21. (Contributed)
Tim Hortons Brier not coming to Kelowna

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted Curling Canada to move to hub model, similar to the NHL playoffs

An Enderby restaurant and pub has been shut down since Sunday afternoon, Nov. 29, 2020 as a precaution after a guest reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. (Howard Johnson photo)
Enderby pub shuts down after guest reportedly tests positive for COVID-19

The Howard Johnson hotel, restaurant and pub has been closed since Sunday afternoon, Nov. 29

Robert Gibson, born November 24, 2020 is in BC Children’s Hospital. Photo contributed
Princeton baby fights for his life, with parents at his side

A Go Fund Me campaign has been started to help family with expenses

By this time next year, the BC Green Pharmadeuticals cannabis growing facility in Princeton is expected to employ at least 150 people, according to the owner. (File photo)
Princeton cannabis plant thriving despite lawsuit and bad press, says owner

Company expects to hire 30 more employees in the next two months

Most Read