Strict COVID-19 health and safety protocols implemented

In early May, Canada welcomed 180 essential farmworkers who arrived on a chartered Sunwing Airlines flight from the Caribbean. Although seasonal and temporary foreign workers were exempted from the ongoing travel restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, the lack of flights from foreign countries has posed a challenge.

This influx of much-needed skilled farm labour was thanks to months of effort by the Government of Canada, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) through its Eastern Caribbean Liaison Service (ECLS), the Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS), CanAg Travel Services and SunWing Travel Group.

Stringent COVID-19 health and safety protocols were established and included:

TESTING – Workers were all tested before departure and test results provided to Canadian officials upon their arrival
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT – Workers were provided with face masks, disposable gloves and hand sanitizer
QUARANTINE – Workers will be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival in Canada with full pay
ACCOMMODATIONS – Farm accommodations have been sanitized under the supervision of Canadian health authorities
INSURANCE – Workers have been provided with supplementary health insurance that covers COVID-19
SUPPORT – Each farm has an appointed ECLS worker representative with access to a 24-hour support hotline

This isn’t the first time Caribbean workers have come to Canada to supplement our agricultural labour force; in fact, it’s quite normal. Over 50 years ago, the Canadian government introduced the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme designed to address short-term labour shortages. Since then, thousands of workers have travelled to Canada and many have become model ambassadors. In fact, in July 2019 at an event in Leamington, 32 Caribbean workers were honoured for more than 15 years of service to Canadian farmers.

Skilled farm labourers are vital to the security of our food supply.

“A great number of our farmers depend on the skills and strong work ethic temporary foreign workers from a variety of countries bring to our industry,” says Marlene Huntley, executive director of Horticulture Nova Scotia. “They are an essential part of our agricultural economy, and very often an integral part of the farm family.”

For more information:
Government of Canada – Employment and Social Development Canada – Temporary Foreign Worker Programme
Government of Canada – Employment and Social Development Canada – Temporary Foreign Worker Programme – COVID-19