March 23, 2020

Canada Makes Travel Exemption for Farm Workers

Though Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on March 16 issued restrictions on air travel for all foreign nationals excepting the US, the government is allowing foreign nationals who are working in agriculture to be exempted from the ban, it announced in a clarification on March 20, according to media reports.

The move comes after two dozen groups including the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) asked for a workaround to allow foreign workers to enter the country for seasonal farm work. The groups submitted a Temporary Foreign Worker Program COVID-19 Agri-food Risk Management Plan to Trudeau on March 18. 

According to the CPMA, the March 20 clarification by the Government of Canada included information on exemptions for those who have already committed to working, studying or making Canada their home. “Among these individuals are seasonal agricultural workers and all other temporary foreign workers, vital to Canada’s agricultural industry,” it said in a press statement.

“CPMA fully supports the Canadian Government’s proactive measures to prevent the spread of COVID- 19,” said Ron Lemaire, CPMA President. “As we address this pandemic as a unified country, we must also focus our attention on food security. Public Safety Canada has identified the food sector as one of the ten critical infrastructures required in the National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure, and it is important that we ensure the functionality of the agriculture industry to feed Canadians. With this in mind, the industry-led TFWP COVID-19 Agri-food Risk Management Plan was developed to ensure the safety of Canadians and the continuity of our agri-food supply.”

The update from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) acknowledges that “Allowing foreign workers to enter Canada recognizes their vital importance to the Canadian economy, including food security for Canadians and the success of Canadian food producers.”

CPMA emphasizes that those affected by these exemptions should not try to travel to Canada immediately. The Government will announce when the exemptions are in place, which IRCC anticipates will be early this coming week.

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