December 16, 2020 By Greenhouse Canada
Note: This article was updated Dec 23 with comments from ESDC
Queen’s Park today announced that it would provide immediate support for temporary foreign workers from Trinidad and Tobago who have been stranded in Ontario.
“Approximately 400 farm workers from Trinidad and Tobago who came to work in Ontario under the federal Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program are currently unable to return home as they haven’t received COVID-19 travel exemptions from their home country,” says Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, in an issued statement.
“Our international workers have grown and harvested our food and helped us keep our food supply chain strong throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” continues Hardeman. “Our hearts go out to these stranded workers who may not be able to get home for the holidays. While the federal government is working with consular officials to resolve the issue as soon as possible, farmers continue to be responsible for supporting workers and providing housing until they leave to return to their home country.”
The federal government is working directly with employees, employers and the government of Trinidad and Tobago to ensure that the immigration status of affected workers is extended, stated Hardeman. In addition, Ottawa is ensuring workers are aware of the federal benefits available to them and helping them complete the necessary paperwork.
Both federal and provincial levels of government are making funding available to assist farmers in providing housing, meals, winter clothing and other necessities. Funding for some communications, such as internet, to help workers contact their families, is also being provided.
To expedite payments, a targeted, special category of funding under the federal-provincial Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program will help farmers cover incremental costs and is being added.
Eligible expenses would include accommodations, meals, winter clothing, heaters, equipment, PPE, cleaning supplies, communications, and transportation costs.
Following the extension of their immigration statuses by the federal government, Queen’s Park has also extended OHIP coverage to assist these workers.
Ministry staff will be contacting eligible farmers with more details. In the meantime, farmers can contact the Agricultural Information Contact Centre for more information at 1-877-424-1300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) says they have been working with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), employers, and Trinidad and Tobago to ensure the immigration status of affected workers is extended beyond December 15.
“This has enabled the workers to continue to access employment insurance, medical services and continue their employment. Under their extended immigration status, these workers are permitted to seek alternative employment, provided the hiring employer has been issued a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) by Service Canada.” The respective countries’ governing bodies are working to identify workers that wish to remain in Canada to work and opportunities to transfer to employers in other regions.
Source: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Employment and Social Development Canada
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