A report from the University of Calgary says that the 14 per cent reduction in temporary farm workers in Canada this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit farms the most.
The first of two reports on the temporary foreign worker (TFW) situation from the university’s School of Public Policy, says that replacing foreign workers with Canadians out of work during the pandemic “may not be practicable”.
The University of Calgary report is an example of agencies and organizations taking a fresh interest in farm labour issues.
“Producers in the secondary agricultural sector, such as meat-processing and seafood-processing facilities, had been experiencing the fastest growth in the use of TFWs until now, and have seen the greatest relative reduction in TFW arrivals in comparison to 2019,” says Robert Falconer, the author of the report.
“Farms, which are primary producers, have experienced the largest reduction in TFW arrivals in absolute terms.”
The report says border restrictions imposed by Canadian governments to control the spread of COVID-19, and the reluctance of TFWs to travel to Canada during the pandemic, have significantly impeded the use of TFWs in Canada’s food-production system.
Other barriers include a slowdown in government services in countries where temporary foreign workers come from, resulting in the slower issuing of travel documents.
The report says that policy changes and long-term repercussion of the pandemic could make getting enough foreign workers into Canada in the future a challenge. That could mean that “Canada’s reliable and affordable food supply may be at risk.”