Farmers given blank cheque by Feds: No steps taken to protect farm workers rights in today’s announcement.

For Immediate Release

Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is outraged that the federal government is providing a blank cheque of $50 million to agricultural employers to cover the costs of housing for temporary foreign workers during their 14-day quarantine when arriving in Canada. In today’s announcement, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food Marie-Claude Bibeau, emphasized that $1500 would be allocated to cover each worker hired by an employer who requires housing support during the quarantine period of 14 days upon arrival in Canada. Meanwhile thousands of migrant workers remain in Mexico and the Caribbean with no ability to return to work in Canada this year. The federal government has not provided a clear response of whether or not income supports such as EI or the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will be extended to protect these migrants and their families back home. 

Canada has two long-standing temporary foreign worker programs to bring migrant workers to Canada. The low wage agricultural stream and the long standing Seasonal Agricultural Workers program are self regulated programs where employer organizations self govern the operations of the program with very little oversight for the estimated 60,000 migrants who arrive annually to work on Canadian agricultural enterprises. Migrant agricultural workers are tied to a particular employer and denied labour and social mobility akin to a 21st century indentured migration scheme. 

J4MW strongly opposes subsidies to Canada’s agricultural industry while its workforce remains employed under precarious and dangerous conditions. Today’s announcement does nothing to address the deplorable housing conditions that already exist or the power imbalance that exacerbates the vulnerability of migrant farm workers during this pandemic. 

Migrant farm workers pay costs to cover transportation, biometrics, work permits, private health insurance, personal protective equipment and a whole slew of additional deductions. J4MW argues that in reality the nearly 60,000 migrant agricultural workers earn less than minimum wage after deductions, something that is not addressed in today’s federal announcement. Employers are profiting from the precarious nature of agricultural labour while further entrenching poverty and hunger amongst the workers who put food on our table.

Contact or @j4mw (twitter)




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