Ottawa–The federal government will allow the agrifood sector to bring in foreign workers this year although details surrounding their acceptance into the country still have to be concluded.
Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced late on March 20 that a temporary modification is being made to the Labour Market Impact Assessment process for agriculture and food processing employers to waive the required 2-week recruitment period for the next six months.
As well, the maximum allowable employment duration for workers in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program from one to two years. “This will improve flexibility and reduce the administrative burden for employers, including those in food processing,” the ministers said.
“In addition to health screening protocols before travel, all individuals entering from abroad must isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in Canada.”
President Mary Robinson of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture said farmers are pleased at the government’s quick response to concerns about access to foreign workers in time for the impending planting season through to harvest. Many of the workers have been coming to Canada for years.
“We are committed to working with all the appropriate agencies and departments to ensure their entry maintains strict public health protocols to prevent further spread of COVID-19,” she said. Farmers want to be able to ensure a constant food supply.
“We are still reviewing the details and will be in close contact with all relevant departments and industry stakeholders over the coming days to ensure these workers arrive safely and on time, while responsibly adhering to all public health requirements.”
CFA will “work with public health officials and other key stakeholders to address the logistical challenges associated with this effort and ensure all necessary measures are taken. The health of the Canadian public and all agri-food workers is the first priority.”
Among the unresolved issues are finding out what will be required for public safety measures and how to get workers into Canada. It could mean charter flights to bring the workers to Canada.
Bibeau said, “The participation of temporary foreign workers on our farms and our food businesses is absolutely necessary. It is nothing less than an issue of food security. We are making sure that our food supply chain is not compromised by the closure of our borders, as we now need thousands of workers on the farms for the planting season as well as the processing of foods from the land and sea.”