Government announces comprehensive plan to better protect foreign workers in order to secure Canada’s food supply chain
March 16, 2021 Gatineau, Quebec Employment and Social Development Canada
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada acted to protect Canadians and workers. Temporary foreign workers (TFWs) have played an important role in ensuring our food security for decades, and especially during this pandemic. Their continued safety and timely entry into Canada is essential to our economy, and they deserve to be safe.
Over the last few weeks, the government has worked to develop a tailored solution to accommodate the anticipated volume of TFWs arriving this spring. Part of this solution included a deferral for certain TFWs – including workers in agriculture, agri-food, and fish and seafood sectors – from the requirement to stay in a Government Authorized Accommodation (GAA) upon arrival.
The government will be moving forward with a two-pronged approach to quarantine requirements for TFWs after March 21, 2021, based on their final destination. Asymptomatic TFWs will be able to travel directly to their place of quarantine after getting a COVID-19 test at the airport provided they travel by private transportation and are accompanied only by others who travelled with them to Canada. TFWs who will need to travel by public means to a secondary location upon arrival in Canada will be required to stay in a GAA and await the results of their COVID-19 test. Provided TFWs have a suitable quarantine plan and safe transportation arranged to their place of quarantine, the government intends to ensure employers and TFWs will not assume incremental costs associated with the three-day quarantine requirement at the point of entry. Workers will also be provided with supports on arrival and during their hotel stay.
The Government of Canada is continuing to explore how best to support TFWs and employers to ensure that TFWs can arrive and remain in Canada safely for the duration of their work. The government recognizes the importance of the timely arrival of workers for sectors like agriculture, agri-food, and fish and seafood processing. That is why we are putting these measures in place to ensure businesses can hire the workers they need while keeping these workers – and all Canadians – safe.
In support of this new approach, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, today announced enhanced actions to better protect TFWs and support employers. The Government of Canada is:
- Working with provinces to ensure employers are well prepared to safely welcome and quarantine workers – including through safe travel arrangements to their place of quarantine, and with suitable isolation options for positive/symptomatic workers throughout the season;
- Increasing and strengthening inspections of employers in agriculture, to ensure they are meeting their quarantine obligations and TFW Program requirements related to working conditions and wages, and providing more education for employers on their obligations;
- Funding migrant worker organizations to provide direct assistance to workers affected by COVID-19 for the 2021 season, as well as working with these organizations to assist workers during the arrival process and throughout the season;
- Improving the TFW tip line, with the addition of live agents able to offer services in multiple languages, who can help workers better communicate situations of mistreatment or abuse, and providing additional education for workers on their rights;
- Improving coordination with provincial and territorial partners through a new central point of contact to ensure responsible authorities are able to respond quickly to emerging issues, including outbreaks.
In addition to today’s announcement, the Government of Canada recently launched a pilot project to conduct more in-depth inspections of employers at higher risk of committing Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) fraud, and will assess compliance results over the coming months.
Finally, in October 2020, consultations were launched with PTs, as well as employers, workers and foreign partner countries on a proposal for mandatory requirements for employer-provided accommodations with a view to improving the living conditions for workers while they are in Canada. Input received through this consultation is currently being reviewed, and will inform the Government’s actions in the coming months, including continued collaboration with PTs and program partners in advancing this important work.
“The health and safety of temporary foreign workers is a key priority for the Government of Canada. I am pleased that the provinces are engaged and committed to working collaboratively with the Government of Canada to ensure that employers have appropriate measures in place for the 2021 season. This comprehensive plan builds on and strengthens existing measures to ensure workers and employers are well prepared to meet public health requirements to mitigate the risk of the spread of COVID-19.”
– Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough
“Foreign agricultural workers are absolutely essential to the successful operations of our farms, our food plants, and, as a result, our food security. We are doing everything necessary so they can arrive as scheduled and in a way that is safe for their health and the health of Canadians.”
– Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Marie-Claude Bibeau
The TFW Program is managed by Employment and Social Development Canada. Provinces and territories are responsible for health, employment standards and housing requirements.
The plan to consult with provinces and territories, employers, workers and foreign partner countries on a proposal for mandatory requirements to improve employer-provided accommodations was first announced on July 31, 2020 as part of the Government of Canada’s plan to take additional action to reduce the incidence and impact of COVID-19 outbreaks on farms.
To support employers in meeting their obligations, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) introduced the Mandatory Isolation Support for Temporary Foreign Workers Program to offset some of the incremental costs related to the mandatory 14-day isolation period, and which provides a maximum non-repayable contribution amount of up to $1,500 to employers for each temporary foreign worker arriving in Canada.
AAFC’s $35 million Emergency On-Farm Support Fund (EOFSF) announced on July 31, 2020 boosted protections for domestic and temporary foreign workers and addressed COVID-19 outbreaks on farms. Eligible costs under the EOFSF included adjustments to on-farm operations to ensure worker safety, funding for disposable and non-disposable personal protective equipment that is incremental to normal operations (e.g., temporary off-farm housing), and other associated costs related to worker training and safety related to COVID-19 protocols.
A Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is a document that an employer in Canada may need to get before hiring a foreign worker. A positive LMIA will show that there is a need for a foreign worker to fill the job. It will also show that no Canadian worker or permanent resident is available to do the job.
Approximately 50,000 to 60,000 foreign agricultural workers come to work in Canada each year, which accounts for more than 60% of all foreign workers entering Canada under the TFW Program.
The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) is the stream most commonly used by agricultural producers. In 2019, a total of 46,707 positions were approved under the SAWP, of which 12,858 were from participating Caribbean countries. The rest were from Mexico.
Most foreign workers who work on farms are located in Ontario (40%), Quebec (32%), British Columbia (18%) and Nova Scotia (2.6%)
- Government of Canada expands restrictions to international travel by land and air
- Government of Canada launches consultations to improve living conditions for temporary foreign workers
- Backgrounder: Temporary Foreign Worker Program: Mandatory Requirements for Employer-Provided Accommodations
- Frequently asked questions: Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program regarding COVID-19
- Applicant guide for the Mandatory Isolation Support for Temporary Foreign Workers Program
- Reporting abuse or misuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker program
- Keeping Canadians and workers in the food supply chain safe
- Support for Canada’s food supply system
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
For media enquiries, please contact:
Office of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough
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