There are so many migrant farmworkers in Ontario working during the warm months in huge greenhouses to put fruits and vegetables on Canadian tables. However, due to COVID-19, the industry is straining, exposing cracks that threaten the rights and health of the workers that keep it moving and the flow of Canada’s food supply. Several migrant workers are claiming that their movements in and out of the farms are being controlled.
One farmworker has reported that his contract wasn’t extended after four years at the same farm. He stated that he never took a day off. He has always been on time. According to him, going off-site to see his wife was the reason he believes made his contract not to be extended. His wife is a fellow Mexican, whom he met in Canada. He stated that her wife started bleeding from pregnancy, and he had to go to her for assistance.
There is another worker who is scared of losing her job and says she has torequest authorization to leave the property she works on. She confirmed that she was 40, big woman, adult, and not used to be treated that way. The work is more difficult than ever during a pandemic time, but what these farm workers do is essential to keep Canada fed. Several farmers in the area say they are aiming to put in COVID-19 protections but not trying to control their workers.
To handle their finances without leaving the farm itself, Michael Delsiansio, who manages a small organic farm, stated that he had started online bank accounts for his workers. Delsiansio indicated that encouraging them to try to keep it tight within their own family, just like he would his wife and parents. Since three workers have died, and more than 1,100 have tested positive for the virus, it has become a prevalent concern in the region. Though, according to the federal government, farmers are not allowed actually to confine workers. Besides, according to the region’s medical health officer, migrant workers could be unaware of the particular COVID-19 rules and regulations for Canada.
The federal government is figuring out how to make these farms safer during the pandemic. For workers who are often housed in crowded bunkhouses, they have been promised $58 million to improve their living conditions. The goal is to reduce the ratio of workers to bathroom facilities and reduce the number of workers in each bunkhouse. Farmers are worried that the slow roll-out of these rules and enhancements will leave everybody in limbo. Joe Sbrocchi, GM of Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, stated that about $12.6 million in housing waiting to be built, and everybody is saying, ‘What do I do.’