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Rempel Garner: Fix the quarantine and testing requirements for international farm workers

Conservative Shadow Minister of Health Michelle Rempel Garner and Shadow Minister for Agriculture Lianne Rood sent a letter to the Liberal Health and Agriculture Ministers on Wednesday

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Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal QC
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Conservative Shadow Minister of Health Michelle Rempel Garner and Shadow Minister for Agriculture Lianne Rood sent a letter to the Liberal Health and Agriculture Ministers on Wednesday, calling for immediate repairs to the quarantine and testing requirements for international farm workers.

The letter criticizes the "comprehensive plan" released by Liberal Minister of Employment Carla Qualtrough, saying that it failed to address issues raised by farmers and foreign workers "such as the follow-up COVID-19 test at day 10 following international farm workers entering Canada."

"Under the current requirements, international travellers and workers must register with a nurse to complete an at-home COVID-19 test 10 days after their arrival in Canada, and send their test for processing by mail while they continue to complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine. These requirements assume one's ability to communicate with a nurse, and to access mail delivery services," the statement reads.

The letter lists out issues in the Liberals' plans, as identified by stakeholders, including:

  • Farmers and their workers phoning into the government line to speak with a nurse are facing lengthy wait times;
  • Many international farm workers only speak Spanish, creating a language barrier with contracted nurses;
  • Stakeholders claim that sometimes the use of translators is being refused in some situations due to privacy concerns;
  • Where tests are successfully taken, workers are instructed to send in their tests by Purolator courier service. However, in rural Canada, these services may be limited and unavailable on weekends. This means that completed tests, which are deemed to be reliable for 48 hours, cannot be delivered to PHAC in the specified time window; and
  • Farmers are concerned that they could be put in violation of quarantine rules due to lack of access to Purolator services in rural Canada, putting them at risk of facing $100,000 fines.

"While all Canadians who return from international travel are facing these challenges, this program fails to respond to the unique accessibility needs of rural Canadians. International farm workers play a key role in the production of the food that feeds our country, and the challenges presented by this government’s new, confusing quarantine program could put our supply chain at risk," the letter concludes.

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