In the past week, Mexican migrant farm workers Bonifacio Eugenio Romero and Rogelio Muñoz Santosa have died of COVID-19 in Southwestern Ontario. They lost their lives to feed us and to provide for their families back home.
The National Farmers Union – Ontario (NFU-O) is devastated by their tragic deaths. We extend our deepest condolences to their family, friends, and to all the essential agricultural workers who are risking their health and safety to bring food to Canadian tables every day.
More than 400 migrant farm workers have tested positive with COVID-19 in mass outbreaks across Southern Ontario. It is spreading among migrant workers due to overcrowded, unsanitary housing and unsafe working conditions, and/or a failure to quickly identify and isolate infected workers.
The NFU-O is concerned that not all farmers are complying with government regulations regarding the pandemic. We worry that government inspections of farms and migrant worker accommodations are being conducted remotely and will not be effective in the absence of surprise on-site inspections for verification. We are troubled that some migrant workers are not receiving adequate and ongoing information on health and safety protocols in the language of their choice.
Migrant farm workers are contracting the virus in the local community. They arrive in Canada in good health and are compliant with the 14-day quarantine protocol. Uncoordinated quarantine measures are unfairly stigmatizing these workers, despite the fact that they are not the source of the outbreaks. The NFU-O is against discriminatory exclusionary measures that target migrant workers, such as identification cards and restricted and prohibited movement on and off of the farm. We find the ongoing and systemic racism migrant farm workers experience abhorrent, including reports that they are being denied entry into local grocery stores. Migrant workers deserve to live and work in safety and dignity.
The NFU has a long-standing position in support of migrant workers. The NFU has joined calls for regulatory changes so that migrant workers can change jobs without threat of deportation, have full access to health care and other employee benefits, and be granted permanent resident status.
We stand in solidarity with the Migrant Workers Alliance and Justicia for Migrant Workers in their outrage over the deaths of Bonifacio Eugenio Romero and Rogelio Muñoz Santos and their efforts to improve migrant workers’ housing, working, and status conditions. “Unheeded Warnings: COVID-19 & Migrant Workers in Canada,” a recent report by the Migrant Workers Alliance can be found here.
For more information, please contact the NFU-O office at 1-888-832-9638 or [email protected].