Canada is prioritizing Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) in important agriculture occupations to help farms and other businesses during the COVID-19.
Canada wants to reinforce the country’s food security by helping farmers being in the labour they need to plant and harvest crops.
Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), which manages LMIA requests via the Temporary Foreign Worker stream, says priority will be given to ‘occupations in agriculture and agri-food industry’.
The Newfoundland Immigration department says it has supervised the following National Occupational Classification codes are being prioritized:
- 6331 – Meat cutters, Butchers, and fishmongers – retail and wholesale
- 7511 – Transport Truck drivers
- 8252 – Agricultural service contractors, specialized livestock workers, and farm supervisors
- 8431 – General farmworker
- 8432 – Nursery and greenhouse worker
- 8611 – Harvesting labourer
- 9462 – Industrial butcher and meat cutters, poultry preparer and related workers
- 9463 – Fish and seafood plant worker
- 9617 – Labourers in food, beverage and associated products processing
- 9618 – Labourer in fish and seafood processing
Other measures put in place by ESDC include the giving up of minimum recruitment until at least October 31, 2020.
It has also expanded the validity of LMIAs from six (6) to nine (9) months and increased the duration of employment from one (1) to two (2) years for workers in the low-wage program as part of a three-year pilot.
All farms workers are required to complete a health check before boarding a flight, and to isolate for fourteen (14) days upon arrival in Canada.
There have been concerns that the policing of the fourteen (14) day isolation has been left to individual companies.
Canada’s farmers are facing labour shortfalls due to difficulty bringing in temporary foreign workers.
Despite exemptions from Canada’s border restrictions for farmworkers and other temporary workers, fourteen (14)-day isolation requirement and a lack of flights mean it remains logistically difficult to bring in farm workers.
With many visa offices also closed over coronavirus, the once smooth process of bring in workers from overseas has been shattered by the impact of the battle against coronavirus.
Flights are being contracted specifically to fly in workers, with farmers desperate to get early-season vegetables planted on time.
Canada typically welcomes as many as 60,000 seasonal farmworkers each year through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
When Canada shut the country’s borders to all but essential travel in mid-March, it quickly became obvious that exemptions would be required for agriculturer workers and other food processing workers, who work to ensure Canada’s food security.
But with spring around the corner, the concern is that giving these workers an exemption on paper does not mean they will begin arriving as normal.
The issue is affecting farmers from across Canada’s regions.
The travel restriction exemptions innitially announced on Friday, March 20 are in place as of Thursday, March 26. Those who are exempt can now come to Canada.
The exemptions include:
- Seasonal farmworkers, fish/seafood workers, caregiver and all other temporary foreign workers.
- International students who possess a valid study permit, or had been approved for a student visa, when the travel restrictions took effect on March 18, 2020.
- Permanent resident candidates who had been approved for permanent residence before the travel ban was announced on March 18, 2020, but who had not yet come to Canada.