Trudeau and Ford warn Canadian farmers to protect migrant workers

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford have issued a warning to the Ontario farmers who employ foreign migrant workers. On Monday the stark warning was issued to protect the migrants from Covid-19 else face consequences.

The strong communication came as the farms are facing major outbreak of Covid-19 with hundreds of migrant workers employed testing positive. Three migrant workers have already succumbed to the virus. This led to the delayed reopening in Windsor-Essex region.

“Anyone doing work, let alone essential work as part of our food chain, needs to feel protected. Obviously, in the case of these three tragic deaths, that wasn’t the case. We are ensuring that changes are made and that there will be consequences.”

Justin Trudeau

Last week Ford had appealed the farmers to bring their workers for coronavirus testing to avoid any further outbreak. But after the appeal was ‘brushed off’ by the farmers, Ford used a serious message on Monday, this time singling out the farmers in Windsor-Essex region. Ford said, “We’ll give it another shot. I’ll go to the extreme, whatever tool I have, to protect the people of Windsor, and the food supply chain, and the farmers, and the workers.”

This week onwards strict inspections will commence regarding the living conditions of migrant workers, said Ontario’s Labour Minister. The inspections will be carried out in collaboration with the local health units and federal government.

Migrant advocates have blamed the poor living conditions and the ‘bunkhouses’ at farms which the migrant workers share to be the reason for coronavirus infection spread. They have also asked the ministry to inspect the housing conditions of workers along with the workplace at farms.

More than 200,000 migrant workers enter Ontario every year to work on the farms and greenhouses. Majority of these workers hail from Mexico, Guatemala and Caribbean.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Anyone doing work, let alone essential work as part of our food chain, needs to feel protected. Obviously, in the case of these three tragic deaths, that wasn’t the case. We are ensuring that changes are made and that there will be consequences.”

Dozens of migrant workers have been exposed to the coronavirus infection in the Windsor-Essex and Haldimand-Norfolk regions.

Ford has said that the province would be sending mobile testing units to farms to alleviate the apprehensions farmers have regarding testing procedures. But he further said that post that farmers are requested to cooperate and get their migrant employees for testing.

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Dr. Neha Mathur

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