Statement from NDP Critic for Immigration Jenny Kwan and NDP Critic for Agriculture Alistair MacGregor:
Yesterday, we learned of the first migrant worker death as a result of COVID-19 in Canada. On behalf of all New Democrats, we offer our sincere condolences to his friends, family and loved ones. This young man was in his thirties and came from Mexico. He was here, in the Windsor Essex region, working to help support his family back home while contributing to our agri-food sector.
Canadian food producers and processors rely on these workers, and we all rely on them for the food we put on our tables to feed our families. They deserve to be treated fairly and with dignity.
So far, at least 125 migrant workers at one Ontario farm have tested positive for COVID-19. This is alarming and disturbing. Some migrant workers are living in warehouses with no barriers between each sleeping cot or in crowded communal bunkhouses with no ability to physically distance. No one should have to endure such inhuman housing conditions and risk their lives while trying to support their family. Migrant workers must be afforded their basic human rights including the right to housing which is affirmed in International human rights laws.
For far too long, too little has been done despite numerous reports of abuses and inhuman treatment of migrant workers including inadequate and overcrowded accommodations. Like others, we are angry and frustrated and we want to know what the government has done to ensure the distribution and effective use of the $50 million that they announced in early May to help farmers and agri-food businesses safely welcome temporary foreign workers to be in compliance with the Quarantine Act.
New Democrats have been calling for the government to recognize the rights of migrant workers for years. This pandemic has made their importance to the Canadian economy and to all of us all the more clear. The Agri-Food Immigration Pilot program is a start, but we must honour these workers and the contributions they are making here in Canada. If they are good enough to work, they are good enough to stay.