THE Province is extending its successful quarantine program for temporary foreign workers coming to B.C. for seasonal agriculture work, to ensure the health and safety of the workers and the communities they will be travelling to.
“These seasonal workers are so vital to our farming communities and play an integral role in preserving our province’s food supply,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, on Thursday. “Extending our quarantine program will provide peace of mind to workers, employers and communities that we are doing everything possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I know some of these workers leave their homes to come to B.C. year after year, many returning to the same farms where they have developed close relationships, and we are grateful for their help in growing and harvesting food for British Columbians.”
The B.C. government will continue to fund hotel, food-service costs, laundry services, wellness walks, interpretation and translation services, health screening and other necessary supports for these workers during the quarantine period.
Upon arrival in Canada, temporary foreign workers will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms by federal officials (Canadian Border Service Agency and Public Health Agency of Canada). If they have symptoms, they may be placed in quarantine at the point of entry or be sent to the hospital as per the federal Quarantine Act. If asymptomatic, workers will continue on to the provincial quarantine site for 14 days. Following the quarantine period, if no symptoms develop (or once the employee is fully recovered if symptoms do develop), workers will be safely transported to their farm.
For workers like Juan and Oscar, the quarantine program is helping them feel safe and valued as they leave their families in Mexico and come work on B.C. farms. For Juan, who has three children and one more on the way, the quarantine period is a time for him to connect daily with his family for longer periods of time than he is able to when he’s working on the farm. Juan has worked at the same farm for three years and sends his earnings home to support his growing family. Oscar, who is a farmer and a swim coach back in Mexico, also comes to B.C. seasonally so he can support his wife and two children.
“In the context of COVID-19, the Consulate of Mexico in Vancouver praises the actions taken by the B.C. government to ensure the safety and health of Mexican Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program workers by providing quarantine centres and physically inspecting the housing facilities before their arrival,” said Berenice Diaz Ceballos, Mexican Consul General. “The ongoing collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, and the consulate has allowed us to keep our nationals safe and informed. We look forward to jointly addressing the challenges we face during these complex times and after the pandemic is over.”
All farms receiving workers are required to have infection control and prevention measures in place and require an on-site inspection prior to worker arrival. Farmers and farm workers must also follow all provincial health officer (PHO) guidelines, including the PHO industrial camp order, which covers B.C.’s agriculture and seafood industry.
* The Province spent approximately $17 million on accommodations, meals and laundry service for the 4,997 temporary foreign workers who came to B.C. between April 13, 2020, and December 31, 2020.
* Of those workers who arrived between April and December 31, 2020, 64 COVID-19 positive cases were detected. All recovered while under the care and supervision of the provincial quarantine program.
* Prior to having the quarantine program in place, an additional 2,000 temporary foreign workers (TFW) came to B.C. for seasonal agriculture work, for a total of approximately 7,000 TFWs for the 2020 calendar year.
* In 2021, it is estimated that approximately 11,000 TFWs will come to B.C., similar to 2019 and previous years.