WOODSTOCK — Today, Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, issued the following statement:
“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.
Our international workers have grown and harvested our food and helped us keep our food supply chain strong throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
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. In addition, the Government of Canada is ensuring workers are aware of the federal benefits available to them and helping them complete the necessary paperwork.
Together with our federal partners, our government is taking action to help Trinidadian and Tobagonian workers by making funding available to assist farmers in providing housing, meals, winter clothing and other necessities. It will also provide funding for some communications, such as internet, to help workers contact their families as we approach the holidays.
To expedite payments, our two governments are working to add a targeted, special category of funding under the federal-provincial Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program that will help farmers cover incremental costs incurred to ensure the health and safety of stranded temporary foreign workers from Trinidad and Tobago.
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, we have also extended OHIP coverage to assist these workers.
Ministry staff will contact 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.
I want to commend everyone who has helped our international workers over the last few weeks and I hope that our communities will continue to support them through this difficult time. I want the workers from Trinidad and Tobago to know that they have our appreciation and our support until they can get home.”