Six workers have died from COVID or in quarantine since pandemic began
Six Ontario migrant farm workers have died, either in quarantine or from COVID-19, and a migrant worker advocacy group has been laying blame on the migrant worker program.
Three Mexican migrant workers died from contracting COVID-19 after coming to work on Ontario farms last year. This year a fourth Mexican migrant farm worker died on May 20, according to the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. He tested negative for COVID-19 before leaving Mexico and tested negative when he arrived in Toronto on Apr. 22. His employer, Procyk Farms, paid for his two-week hotel quarantine. The worker died in a Brantford hospital.
A St. Vincent migrant worker died on April 29 during quarantine period. He was hired to work his fourth season for the Welsh Bros. Farm in Scotland, Ont. A sixth migrant worker — from Guatemala — also died during quarantine. Both workers were found dead in their hotel rooms. The cause of death in both cases has not been made public.
Ken Forth, president of Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services, the non-profit organization that administers the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, said, “We bring in 25,000 workers, every death is a tragedy. But we don’t know the reasons behind these workers dying in quarantine. I can’t confirm they died from COVID-19.”
Advocacy groups say there has been a lack of communication with migrant workers in quarantine, claiming that farmers haven’t been checking up on their workers enough.
“We’re required to call them all the time, we went and saw them every third day on our farm and we talked to them every other day by phone or by text. They had our numbers if they ever needed to call us in between,” said Forth, referring to his broccoli farm in Lynden, Ont. “It’s really easy to blame the farmers, and it’s wrong.”
“The farmers are following the rules,” Forth said. “The protection that the temporary workers have is inherent in the program. The oversight is huge: The Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Health, ESDC, Service Canada, Immigration, OMAFRA, just to name seven, it’s all there. It’s a really good program for everybody.”