This blanket approach doesn’t work for farm workers, the federal ag critic says
By Diego Flammini
Canada has unveiled its rules for travelers wishing to enter the country.
As of Jan. 7, most people over the age of five flying into Canada must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced on Jan. 6. The tests must be completed within 72 hours prior to departure.
Until Jan. 14, anyone leaving from the Caribbean or South America can use tests conducted up to 96 hours before departure. Travelers leaving from Saint Pierre et Miquelon are exempt from the requirement until that date.
And until Jan. 21, people leaving from Haiti do not need proof of a negative COVID test.
Once a person enters Canada, even after a negative test, he or she is still required to complete a 14-day quarantine.
Members of the Conservative party are concerned these measures could put fruit and vegetable harvests at risk.
The federal government’s plan to screen travelers entering the country for COVID-19 doesn’t consider the unique needs of international farm workers, the federal ag critic says.
“Some of these workers are taking 20-hour bus rides to get to their departure airports,” Lianne Rood told Farms.com. “Something the government hasn’t taken into account is, what if there’s a mechanical issue or there’s a snowstorm at Pearson (airport) that delays the plane and puts the workers outside of that window?”
Rood is in favour of conducting rapid testing for farm workers once they arrive in Canada.
An individual can receive the results in minutes instead of days, allowing people to get to work faster.
“We have a farm that has two folks who came in (to Canada) recently,” Rood said. “This greenhouse is 25 acres, so there’s plenty of space to do distancing and PPE requirements, but these two people are confined to their bunkhouse.”
International workers must be allowed to start working as soon as possible to ensure food security and support the ag sector, she said.
“The labour is critical to any kind of production, especially in a greenhouse,” she said. “There are things that need to be done every day in order to keep plants healthy and ensure bountiful crops. Without labour we don’t have food.”
A testing pilot is coming to Pearson airport.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced on Jan. 6 that free and voluntary tests would be available to eligible travelers.
The pilot would work similarly to the ongoing pilot project in Calgary.
A person arriving from outside Canada is tested and self-isolates until he or she receives their results, which can take between one or two days.
But people will still be required to quarantine for 14 days.