February 19, 2021 By KAIROS Canada
Ottawa has set aside $2.18 million to support and to assist temporary foreign workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on the agricultural sector.
Funded by the Government of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the sum has been awarded to KAIROS Canada, a social justice organization that includes 10 Canadian churches and religious organizations. It consists of Indigenous, settlers and newcomers in Canada.
The project targets the Maritimes and Ontario and will end on June 30.
“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed just how essential migrant agricultural workers are to Canada’s food supply. At the same time, it revealed that working and living conditions in Canada often impede workers’ ability to live a healthy and dignified life, and place this community at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. By providing accessible information and services that not only address the practical needs of migrant workers, but also empower them to protect their health and exercise their rights, this project will provide a meaningful service to workers in Ontario,” said Stephanie Mayell, The Neighbourhood Organization (TNO) project coordinator for Ontario, Empowering Migrant Workers Project.
The funds will be used to expand support and services to temporary foreign workers in these regions. “It is a timely and much-needed funding infusion for our partners and community organizations that have been supporting workers with limited means throughout the pandemic,” states KAIROS Canada in a release.
The project’s key components are information sharing, and capacity building to provide access to resources and services for temporary foreign workers.
Through government information resources, tutorials, workshops and webinars, temporary foreign workers will learn about health and safety precautions related to COVID-19, and the proper and effective use of personal protective equipment, hygiene and sanitation, and other related public health protocols.
The funding will be used to strengthen network capacity to accompany workers in accessing services and benefits (including medical), exercising their rights, and receiving direct services and emergency assistance. KAIROS and its partner organizations will also identify any service gaps that need filling.
Partner organizations are Cooper Institute in PEI, Filipino-Canadian Community of New Brunswick (FCNB), No One Is Illegal – Halifax; and in Ontario: The Neighbourhood Organization, Durham Region Migrant Workers Ministry, Centre for Migrant Workers Solidarity in Simcoe. Collaboration with additional community organizations and service providing agencies in these regions is anticipated.
“People brought to Canada from overseas to work here are often not aware of or are unable to access available services or advocate for themselves if their rights are violated, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.” says Connie Sorio, KAIROS Canada’s migrant justice coordinator.
Accounts of unsafe work conditions, underpayment, and inadequate housing, health care and legal or settlement services have been reported, and COVID-19 has dramatically worsened this situation, states KAIROS.
Organizations that support migrant workers have struggled to respond adequately given their size and limited resources. For migrant workers, the increased isolation imposed by COVID-19 makes finding and accessing supports from multiple providers even more difficult.
“This funding from the Government of Canada will help KAIROS and important frontline organizations expand our capacity to serve vulnerable workers,” says Lori Ransom, interim executive director, KAIROS Canada. “We will implement a community coordinated approach, including collaboration with stakeholders to improve and address the identified gaps and challenges to increase the protection and safety of migrant farm workers and minimize the transmission of COVID-19 in places where migrant workers live and work.”
Source: KAIROS Canada
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