April 8, 2020 By Stephanie Gordon
The Government of British Columbia published provincial requirements for employers of temporary foreign workers on April 7.
The mandatory requirements will apply to employers of B.C. workers under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and Agriculture Stream (AgStream) programs.
In addition to information about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, the provincial guidance also lists steps that farms must follow to address COVID-19. The list includes: conduct a workplace risk assessment for COVID-19, employee education, guidance for increase hygiene and cleaning, and guidance for physical distancing during travel, work, and communal spaces. Access British Columbia’s Protecting B.C. farmers and farm workers during the COVID-19 pandemic document.
The protocols will have to be approved by the Mexican government before charter flights can be confirmed.
The Western Agriculture Labour Initiative (WALI) expects seasonal agricultural workers from Mexico by mid-April once the B.C. protocols are approved by the Government of Mexico.
In Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of Health released its own guidance regarding temporary foreign workers, Guidance for Temporary Foreign Workers, on March 31. With these additional provincial protocols in place, FARMS (Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services) and CanAg Travel Services have already coordinated three flights for seasonal workers from Jamaica to arrive in Toronto on April 1, April 3, and April 5.
Travel exemptions for workers from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and SAWP were formally put in place by the Canadian federal government on March 27. However, travel arrangements were not encouraged until health protocols were put in place too.
On March 28, the federal government released a list of requirements for employers of temporary foreign workers during the current COVID-19 pandemic. In additional to the federal government’s requirements, employers awaited additional requirements from provincial governments and local health units before confirming travel arrangements.
A list of Canadian government resources for temporary foreign workers and COVID-19:
- (April 7) British Columbia’s Protecting B.C. farmers and farm workers during the COVID-19 pandemic
- (April 5) Frequently asked questions: Changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers program regarding COVID-19
- (April 1) Letter from Ministers to employers – Temporary Foreign Workers
- (March 27) Guidance for Employers of Temporary Foreign Workers Regarding COVID-19
- Temporary Foreign Worker Program information found within Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – Employment and Social Development Canada
- (March 20 release) The Government of Canada’s original update on travel exemptions for temporary foreign workers and seasonal agricultural workers
- Canada’s home page for COVID-19 information and resources: canada.ca/coronavirus
- How to isolate at home when you have COVID-19
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