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Upcoming virtual event hopes to address plight of migrant workers

This online event will take place on Thursday, April 30 at 3:30 p.m

While the COVID-19 pandemic has locked down travel around the world, over the past few weeks one group of necessary workers have made their annual return to Niagara.  

Nearly 55,000 migrant farm workers come to Canada each year to work in farms, greenhouses and other agricultural settings across the country, with many taking jobs in Niagara the spring, summer and fall. However, this year’s jobs come with a plethora of new obstacles and restrictions  

To address the plight of migrant farm workers in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canada-Caribbean Institute founded by Brock University and The University of the West Indies (UWI) will be hosting a free online discussion Thursday, April 30. It will identify areas for research, inform policy on the issue of seasonal work and determine what interventions could be used on the ground to prepare for the adjustments and hardships they may be facing.  

Liette Vasseur, Professor of Biological Science and UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability: From Local to Global, says workers have had to overcome significant challenges just to get here.  

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, the first obstacle was to know if they could come or not, then they had to sign a waiver in Jamaica stating that the government was not responsible if they are sick,” she says. “Once here, there was a 14-day quarantine.”  

Taking place Thursday, April 30 at 3:30 p.m., the online event will be hosted by Ambassador Richard Bernal, Professor of Practice, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Global Affairs at UWI and will take place on the Zoom video communication platform.  

Along with Assistant Professor of Labour Studies Simon Black and two presenters from UWI, Vasseur will present and participate in the discussion, which she says will shed further light on the importance of migrant workers to the Canadian economy and the economies of their home nations during a complex time.  

“It will help understand the situation and how this is impacting the current system,” she says. “For the foreign workers, it is the importance to have an income for the families that are staying home and for our farmers to secure people who can work and have the skills to help them in their fields. I think people don’t realize that without these foreign workers, food production is in jeopardy in Canada. Canadians don’t want to do this work and, in many cases, don’t have the capacity nor the skills for this. This is hard work.”  

Interested participants are invited to register by sending an email to [email protected] by Wednesday, April 29 (they must use their institutional email address). A Zoom link and password will be sent to the provided email address.  

What: Online discussion about the issues facing seasonal workers in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic
Who: The Canada-Caribbean Institute
When: Thursday, April 30 at 3:30 p.m.
Where: Virtual meeting will take place on Zoom. Email [email protected] for the link and password