Horticulture sector remains deeply committed to health and safety

JUNE 11 – OTTAWA – The Canadian Horticultural Council (CHC) is both troubled and saddened by the deaths of two

international farm workers in Ontario due to COVID-19. We offer our sincere condolences to their families, friends and colleagues. Our sector remains deeply committed to the health and safety of all workers as we face the unprecedented challenges of this pandemic. Our growers are asked to follow strict government-mandated protocols to ensure the best working and living conditions for workers, as well as the protection of public health. CHC and its member organisations throughout Canada have provided all necessary information on protocols and regulations from all levels of government, Public Health, and inspections are realised on most of the farms by government officials. Those employers who fail to follow all rules and regulations face significant penalties. Nevertheless, the death of a single employee is still one too many.

As with employers in other industries, farmers are going to great lengths to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all workers, including ones who choose to come from countries where there is a work shortage. The majority of these employees have been coming to the same farms for years, and the money they earn helps take care of their families back home. International workers have the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as Canadians and there are strict rules imposed by both the workers’ home countries and the Canadian government that both employers and employees must follow.

Brian Gilroy, President of CHC, and an apple grower from Ontario, explains that extra safety protocols have been implemented this spring. “These include setting up partitions on farming equipment, paying for workers to isolate in hotels, building new bunk houses or extensions to existing facilities, renting house trailers to ensure social distancing for workers living on farms, and supplying personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer to employees. Employers are also dedicating resources and energy so that workers can have groceries delivered and conduct their banking, while limiting contact with surrounding communities”.

Gilroy adds that all workers are quarantined for the mandatory 14 days upon arriving in Canada and that employees, both domestic and international are being constantly monitored for any symptoms of COVID-19, tested, and quarantined when appropriate. These measures are in addition to the other requirements that growers must follow when hiring essential international workers.

International farm workers play a critical role in Canada’s fruit and vegetable production, which is very labour-intensive, with specific planting and harvesting seasons that are very time-sensitive. The roughly 60,000 international workers who come to Canada each year are integral to the agriculture industry and our food supply. They benefit from every consideration granted to all Canadian employees and we will continue to advocate on behalf of their safety, health and well-being.

This is a time of great challenges for agriculture. CHC and its members are working closely with health authorities and all levels of government to ensure that everything is being done to protect the health and safety of workers.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Karl Oczkowski, MA - Manager, Communications - Canadian Horticultural Council

613-226-4880 ext. 218 / koczkowski@hortcouncil.ca

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