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Temporary foreign workers will be allowed into Canada; workers part of SAWP unconfirmed

Temporary foreign workers will be allowed to enter Canada and expected to self-isolate for 14 days.

March 18, 2020  By Fruit and Vegetable

Temporary foreign workers will be allowed entry into Canada, despite restricted border measures, provided that they self-isolate for 14 days, according to a statement made by Public Safety Minister Bill Blair. Workers part of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program have not been confirmed to be part of this measure.

Update: The Canadian government provided an update on air travel restrictions and has formally included seasonal agricultural workers and fish/seafood workers in its list of travel exemptions. Workers are not advised to begin travelling until exemptions are in place, which is anticipated early next week. 

Prior to this announcement, foreign nationals were restricted from entering Canada in response to COVID-19 concerns.

The CBC reported that now international students, workers on visas and temporary foreign workers will also be able to enter Canada, with the expectation that they’ll respect the government’s request to self-isolate for 14 days.

In a press conference on March 18, Minister Bill Blair said, “We have to make sure those people can get to work to do the job of keeping Canadians safe because their work will be important to save lives. We also know that others are impacted. For example international students, workers with visas, temporary foreign workers – their work is important to maintaining our country and what they contribute. They’ll be allowed to enter Canada as well after observing a 14 day period of self-isolation.”

As of late March 18, an email was sent to producers clarifying that Minister Bill Blair’s statement, at this time, refers to cross border temporary foreign workers being able to enter Canada and the United States. The email was signed by Ken Forth, president of Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS), and Anthony Cervini, president of CanAg Travel Service.

The email stated the following: “It is important to clarify the overwhelming media attention and announcements today made by some Ministers in relation to temporary foreign workers entering Canada. Note, they are not valid. The specific misinterpretation came from the reference to the Canada and U.S. border closures allowing cross border temporary foreign workers to continue to enter each country. As an example an individual living in Ontario and working the U.S. and vice versa, may be referred to as a temporary foreign worker.

“The offices of F.A.R.M.S. and CanAg Travel Services must wait for an official notice from Ottawa before securing flights.”

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that “temporary foreign workers” includes workers part of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) – which is the program F.A.R.M.S. helps administer.

The email continued to share a strategy document being compiled by agriculture industry partners is complete and has been sent to the federal government tonight. The document outlines the importance of migrant farm workers and their contribution to the Canadian food supply. A federal government press conference is scheduled for tomorrow, March 19, for 12:30 p.m. EST where more information may become available.

The Star reported that, federal sources told The St. Catharines Standard that while Ottawa intends to allow the workers to come to Canada, several details have yet to be determined because most of those workers come from Mexico and Central America and will likely cross American borders to reach Canada.

Currently foreign workers make up 17 per cent of the agriculture sector and are an integral part to the growing season. Many fruit and vegetable growers have been relying on seasonal labour for decades, integrating workers as part of their operations long-term.

A list of Canadian government resources for temporary foreign workers and COVID-19:

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