2020-04-02 – Canada’s farmers are facing labour shortages due to problems bringing in temporary foreign workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite exemptions from Canada’s border closures for farm workers 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.
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When Ottawa closed Canada’s borders to all but essential travel in mid-March, it quickly became clear that exemptions would be needed for farm workers 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.
And when they do arrive, they must spend 14 days in isolation and unable to begin work.
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.
Those travelling by air will need to pass a health check before boarding their flight. Anyone who shows symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed to enter Canada.
Those arriving in Canada will have their health checked before they leave the port of entry. Travellers must isolate for 14 days even if they have no symptoms.
Only people who provide essential services and truck drivers who regularly cross the border to maintain the flow of goods are exempt from the isolation requirements.
IRCC has also changed the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) requirements for agriculture and food processing workers, waiving the two-week recruitment period for six months.
Further, IRCC has also moved to increase the maximum allowable employment duration for workers in the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program from 1 to 2 years.