Minister Bibeau summarizes agricultural foreign worker support to date
May 14, 2020 By Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
On May 12, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food, Marie-Claude Bibeau summarized some of the main federal agricultural support programs to date, with regards to temporary foreign workers and labour, in response to COVID-19:
“Today’s announcement builds on all the work we have been doing since the moment COVID struck to ensure our agriculture sector, particularly our horticultural producers, can count on their workforce and that they can ensure their safety.
When COVID struck, we immediately got to work, with the top three countries of origin for foreign primary agricultural and food production workers: Mexico, Jamaica and Guatemala.
We announced $50 million to help farmers and agri-food businesses to cover the costs of safely welcoming temporary foreign workers in compliance with the Quarantine Act.
COVID struck at the busiest time for many farmers. April is the month that sees the most number of agricultural workers arrive.
Working in close collaboration with industry we welcomed about 11,000 workers to Canada in April this year, compared to about 13,000, in April last year.
And year-to-date, we have welcomed nearly 22,000 agricultural workers in Canada by the end of April, compared with about 25,500 at the end of April in 2019.
To get here, all the federal departments involved in the Temporary Foreign Worker program worked together to simplify processes and facilitate as much as possible the safe entry of these workers, including priority processing of applications, highlighting that work permit applicants can continue working with the same employer while they have an extension application being processed, and the measures announced today to fast-track approval for workers in non-SAWP streams to change jobs or employers.
We also increased the maximum duration of employment under LMIAs from 1 to 2 years for employers of workers in the low-wage stream and removed the minimum recruitment requirements for the next 6 months, for workers in agriculture and food processing.
Further to these changes, we are working hard to bolster our domestic labour force to address potential areas of shortages.
On May 7, the Prime Minister announced that the federal Government was putting in place $3 billion to support wage top-ups for essential services. This is another important step to support many of our agricultural producers. We recognize that workers in the food supply chain, from the farm to the food store, are absolutely essential – and we look forward to seeing the provincial plans on these top-ups soon.
We also launched our “Step up to the Plate – Help Feed Canadians” job portal, which is helping to match Canadians with jobs in the agri-food sector and we made temporary changes to the Canada Summer Jobs Program to offer more help to essential services including the agri-food supply chain.
It is also important that workers in the food sector in Canada know they are safe. This week, the federal Government announced that we would be removing the tariffs for the importation of PPEs. We also announced a $77.5M Emergency Processor Fund, which will processors with safety retrofits and PPE costs. And we continue to work with the provinces and territories on other ways to promote worker safety, particularly through our cost-shared Canadian Agricultural Partnership programming.
We recognize our producers and processors are important engines of the economies in their communities and our whole country. We will be there every step of the way to support their safety, their stability and their growth.”
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