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Norfolk County farmers protest new TFW COVID-19 protocols

March 23, 2021  By Fruit and Vegetable

Farmers in Norfolk County, Ont., held a protest today against new COVID-19 protocols for temporary foreign workers (TFWs) put in place by the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s (HNHU’s) Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Shanker Nesathurai.

Calling themselves the Farmers of Ontario’s Garden, local farmers drove 200 tractors to the area’s municipal governmental hub of Simcoe for the protest. The original plan was to protest at city hall, but the protest was relocated to the Norfolk County fairgrounds in order to avoid conflicting with a funeral taking place nearby.

The specific protocol being protested is the Section 22 order, which limits the number of TFWs being transported per vehicle to three – the number of workers who can quarantine in one bunkhouse together, regardless of floor space. This new restriction was enacted on March 21 and is exclusive to Haldimand-Norfolk. It multiplies the number of trips farmers will need to make to Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

However, this protest is as much the result of a year-long dispute between the HNHU and local farmers over COVID-19 regulations on farms and in TFW bunkhouses. Nesathurai’s health protocols have been more stringent than in other Ontario health units in order to keep the large number of TFWs hired in the counties safe. Local farmers have said puts them at an unfair disadvantage to other counties and put an extra financial burden on them.

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