While COVID-19 doesn’t differentiate among countries, gender, and race; the indigent living conditions of migrant farmworkers compounded by the federal lapse and inaccessibility to legal rights have reportedly predated the virus in Canada.

Ontario is fast becoming a hotspot for migrant deaths due to the viral outbreak, 1000 workers were tested positive, and three fatalities have so far been reported. While employers have implemented stringent rules and spruced up working conditions. Job insecurity is on the rise as labor visas are attached to the employers, leaving them at the risk of being sent home as the management pleases.

The federal government is likely to release a fresh set of policies at the earliest to better the conditions migrant workers as the existing set only seems to aggravate their woes. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has previously allocated a fund of $50m for employers to cover the expenses of the migrant workers on their arrival, costs of hotel rooms and food during the 14-day mandatory quarantine. Yet, legal experts are of the opinion that this money barely ever benefits workers, as it’s often translated to financial aid for employers.

With employers enjoying complete autonomy over the workers’ lives; the challenge gets harder, especially if they fight dismissal, as they’re often sent home even before the scour jobs to work on another farm.

“This is one of the problematic things about the temporary foreign workers' program: employers have a lot of control over who stays and who goes and who gets hired back the next year,” said Labour lawyer Susanna Quail.

Canada’s policies permit farms to hire workers from countries including Mexico, Guatemala, and Jamaica. Approximately 60,000 workers migrate to Canada each year, with the graph seeing a steady upward curve owing to domestic labor shortages.

“[The federal program] is a legal regime set up based on racist immigration that creates a differential set of standards, laws, and practices for migrant workers from the global south as opposed to Canadians,” said Chris Ramsaroop, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers as per a media report.

“It’s a racial structure, it’s a system that’s rooted in a system of indentured labor,” he added, suggesting consumers to put forth relevant questions pertaining to their food’s origin, harvest, packaging and most importantly what the working conditions look like, for its workers.

The new program provides support to the National Urban League, UnidosUS and local nonprofits nationwide to help address rates of infection, joblessness, and the dearth of vital resources needed in Black and Latino U.S. communities disproportionately afflicted by COVID-19. Photo by Tai's Captures on Unsplash

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