2020-04-07 – Canada is prioritizing Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) in important occupations in agriculture and agri-food to help farms and other businesses during the coronavirus crisis.
The federal government is aiming to sure up Canada’s food security by helping farmers being in the labour they need to plant and harvest crops.
Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), which handles LMIA requests through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, says priority is being given to ‘occupations in agriculture and agri-food’.
The Newfoundland Office of Immigration says it has been advised that the following National Occupational Classification codes are being prioritized:
- 6331 – Butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers – retail and wholesale
- 7511 – Transport Truck drivers
- 8252 – Agricultural service contractors, farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers
- 8431 – General farmworkers
- 8432 – Nursery and greenhouse workers
- 8611 – Harvesting labourers
- 9462 – Industrial butchers and meat cutters, poultry preparers and related workers
- 9463 – Fish and seafood plant workers
- 9617 – Labourers in food, beverage and associated products processing
- 9618 – Labourers in fish and seafood processing
Other measures put in place by ESDC include the waiving of minimum recruitment requirements until at least October 31, 2020.
It has also extended the validity of LMIAs from six to nine months and doubled the duration of employment from one to two years for workers in the low-wage stream as part of a three-year pilot.
All workers are required to complete a health check before boarding a flight, and to isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Canada.
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There have been concerns that the policing of the 14-day isolation has been left to individual businesses.
Canada’s farmers are facing labour shortages due to problems bringing in temporary foreign workers.
Despite exemptions from Canada’s border closures for farmworkers and other temporary workers, 14-day isolation requirements and a lack of flights mean it remains logistically difficult to bring in workers.
With many visa offices also closed over COVID-19, the once smooth process of bring in workers from overseas has been shattered by the impact of the battle against coronavirus.
Flights are being chartered specifically to bring in workers, with farmers desperate to get early-season vegetables planted on time.
Canada normally welcomes as many as 60,000 seasonal agricultural workers each year through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
When Ottawa closed Canada’s borders to all but essential travel in mid-March, it quickly became clear that exemptions would be needed for farmworkers and other food processing workers, who work to ensure Canada’s food security.
But with spring underway, the concern is that giving these workers an exemption on paper does not mean they will start arriving as normal.
The issue is affecting farmers from across Canada’s provinces.
The travel restriction exemptions previously announced on Friday, March 20 are in place as of Thursday, March 26. Those who are exempt can now travel to Canada.
The exemptions include:
- Seasonal agricultural workers, fish/seafood workers, caregivers and all other temporary foreign workers.
- International students who held a valid study permit, or had been approved for a study permit, when the travel restrictions took effect on March 18, 2020.
- Permanent resident applicants who had been approved for permanent residence before the travel restrictions were announced on March 18, 2020, but who had not yet travelled to Canada.