Morning Update: Movement of migrant workers being restricted, raising rights concerns

August 7, 2020

By Globe and Mail |

In an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19, some agricultural employers are restricting the movement of migrant farm workers in several provinces. The new measures are raising questions about the rights of temporary foreign workers, many of whom fear reprisal or deportation if they speak out.

Employers are asking workers to sign agreements or conform to rules that confine them to the property. Some employees said they have not left their workplaces in several months, as restrictions prevent them from even getting groceries or visiting spouses and children.

The temporary foreign worker program has long been criticized for enabling power imbalances between farm operators and their workers, a situation that has only become clearer since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has shone a light on not only the poor working and living conditions that migrant workers face, but also of their essential role in supporting the Canadian food system. Migrant workers have been hit hard by COVID-19, with more than 1,300 migrant farm workers falling sick in Ontario alone, according to a Globe and Mail investigation.

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