Liberals must fix quarantine and testing requirements for international farm workers
March 17, 2021
Ottawa, ON – The Hon. Michelle Rempel Garner, Conservative Shadow Minister for Health, and Lianne Rood, Conservative Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Agri-Food, sent the letter below to the Liberal Health and Agriculture Ministers calling for them to fix the quarantine and testing requirements for international farm workers:
“We write to you to ask that you address problems arising from international travellers and the treatment of international farm workers awaiting testing before proceeding to their agricultural production sites. The current regime has raised significant concerns that must be addressed.
“On March 16, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion issued a news release about your “comprehensive plan”. This news release fails to address key issues raised by farmers and foreign workers, such as the follow-up COVID-19 test at day 10 following international farm workers entering Canada. If anything, this release only increases producers’ uncertainty.
“Under the current requirements, international travellers and workers must register with a nurse to complete an at-home COVID-19 test 10 days after their arrival in Canada, and send their test for processing by mail while they continue to complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine. These requirements assume one’s ability to communicate with a nurse, and to access mail delivery services.
“There are major challenges with the accessibility and functionality of this system across rural Canada, affecting thousands of international farm workers entering during the 2021 growing season, and runs the risk of jeopardizing Canada’s food supply chain.
“Stakeholders have identified the following issues with the Liberal government’s current program:
- Farmers and their workers phoning into the government line to speak with a nurse are facing lengthy wait times;
- Many international farm workers only speak Spanish, creating a language barrier with contracted nurses;
- Stakeholders claim that sometimes the use of translators is being refused in some situations due to privacy concerns;
- Where tests are successfully taken, workers are instructed to send in their tests by Purolator courier service. However, in rural Canada, these services may be limited and unavailable on weekends. This means that completed tests, which are deemed to be reliable for 48 hours, cannot be delivered to PHAC in the specified time window; and
- Farmers are concerned that they could be put in violation of quarantine rules due to lack of access to Purolator services in rural Canada, putting them at risk of facing $100,000 fines.
“While all Canadians who return from international travel are facing these challenges, this program fails to respond to the unique accessibility needs of rural Canadians. International farm workers play a key role in the production of the food that feeds our country, and the challenges presented by this government’s new, confusing quarantine program could put our supply chain at risk.”