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Ottawa to invest $59M on protecting migrant farm workers amid coronavirus

Coronavirus: Trudeau announces $59M investment to protect health and safety of migrant workers
WATCH ABOVE: Trudeau announces $59M investment to protect health and safety of migrant workers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government will invest nearly $59 million to protect migrant workers on Canadian farms amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“This will fund more farm inspections, provide emergency relief when needed and improve the overall living conditions on farms,” he said.

Read more: Ontario migrant worker demands more protection from federal government amid COVID-19 pandemic

Trudeau also vowed that his cabinet ministers would review the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

“This includes measures like developing mandatory requirements for better living conditions for workers, so that we can continue to support and protect the people who keep food on our plates,” he said.

Groups representing migrant workers have been pushing for greater health and safety protections after repeated coronavirus outbreaks.

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Migrant Workers Alliance for Change said Friday’s announcement fell short. They are calling for full, permanent immigration status for migrant workers.

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“We know that inspections can only enforce existing laws, but the existing laws are bad. Migrant farm workers are excluded from basic labour laws like minimum wage or time off, universal healthcare is difficult to access, and there are no real anti-reprisal protections,” Kit Andres, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change Niagara, said in a statement.

Read more: Windsor-Essex is one of Canada’s worst coronavirus hotspots. Here’s why

“More inspections won’t save lives; giving migrants the power to protect themselves and have equality through permanent immigration status will.”

Three migrant workers in Ontario have died and 1,100 have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the group.

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Advocates previously told Global News that the pandemic has exacerbated long-standing, systemic issues in the agri-food sector. Shared, cramped housing has been blamed for contributing to the spread of the disease.

In one region that has been particularly hard hit, Windsor-Essex in Southwestern Ontario, the Red Cross is on the ground to assist workers. That work is being funded by a $100-million investment from the federal government.

–With files from Rachael D’Amore, Global News