This June, migrant farm workers arriving at the Montreal-Pierre Elliot Trudeau International airport will be offered the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by members of the Montreal Public Health organization.
Agricultural workers make up more than 60% of all foreign workers coming to Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker program. Migrant farm workers in Canada have been at high-risk of contracting COVID-19 during the pandemic due to poor working conditions. The crisis had become so serious that the Federal Government addressed this issue in March 2021; they announced a plan to work with provinces to better protect these workers. Providing the vaccine to workers quickly upon arriving is one way the provincial governments are attempting to prevent future outbreaks.
Since temporary foreign workers in the agricultural sector are essential workers in environments at high risk of outbreaks, it was essential to find a way to provide them with the vaccine quicklyAndré LAMONTAGNE, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Most of the 50-60k temporary foreign farm workers in Canada are in Ontario (40%) and Quebec (32%). Of the nine COVID-19 outbreaks affecting migrants reported by Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ), 60% were in the agricultural sector.
Ontario migrant workers have experienced similar outbreaks, last year recording 8.7% of migrants in the province testing positive for COVID-19. Ontario had first launched a similar initiative in early April, offering the COVID-19 vaccine at the Toronto Pearson International Airport to incoming migrant farm workers. The province has since recently reported their lowest COVID-19 numbers since October 2020.
Approved COVID-19 vaccines are currently free and available to all eligible age groups in Canada, regardless of immigration status. Ontario had noted an increase in vaccine acceptance rate after hiring community liaisons to translate and discuss public health resources. This helped farm workers arriving to Canada better understand the vaccine consent forms and address their concerns.
Temporary Resident to Permanent Residence Pathway
Farm workers are vital in providing food security to Canadians. This has become increasingly clear throughout the pandemic as agricultural occupations have been deemed essential. In recognizing the contribution of migrant agricultural workers in Canada, the IRCC is providing with a pathway to permanent residence. The Temporary Resident to Permanent Residence Pathway (TR to PR) was implemented for migrants working in an essential occupation in Canada; they must have been working in this occupation for at least one year. This pathway targeted multiple NOC codes of those working in agriculture and other agri-food occupations.