Report 13—Health and Safety of Agricultural Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic
At a GlanceReport 13—Health and Safety of Agricultural Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada During the COVID‑19 Pandemic
Why we did this audit
- Agricultural temporary foreign workers are an integral part of the workforce that supports Canada’s food system. Since 2017, Employment and Social Development Canada has identified agricultural temporary foreign workers as highly vulnerable. Protecting those who live in group settings, which includes most agricultural temporary foreign workers, became even more important during the COVID‑19 pandemic.
- Inspections are the main tool that Employment and Social Development Canada uses to know whether employers are adhering to requirements to prevent the spread of COVID‑19 and providing safe conditions for agricultural temporary foreign workers. Having identified temporary foreign workers in this sector as highly vulnerable during the pandemic, it is critically important that Employment and Social Development Canada implement a robust inspection regime.
- Inspections provided little assurance of protection for the health and safety of agricultural temporary foreign workers.
- Employment and Social Development Canada did not address longstanding concerns about worker accommodations.
- Employment and Social Development Canada did little to meet the commitments to improve living conditions for agricultural temporary foreign workers that it had made in previous years.
Key facts and figures
- From March 2020 to June 2021, more than 79,000 workers arrived to work in Canada’s agricultural sector.
- In 2020, the department evaluated almost all employers as compliant with the COVID‑19 regulatory requirements that the government had established, even though most quarantine inspections that we reviewed had little or no evidence to support that assessment.
- In total, we found problems in about 73% of the quarantine inspections that we examined in 2020. This rose to 88% when we examined the department’s 2021 quarantine inspections.
- Employment and Social Development Canada received $16.2 million in July 2020 in support of commitments to improving its inspections.
Highlights of our recommendations
- Given the importance of rigorous assessment of employer compliance with the Immigration and Refugee Protect Regulations, Employment and Social Development Canada should, without delay,
- re-examine its system for identifying and assigning inspections to factor in the collective workload capacity of its inspectors to complete them in a timely manner,
- train and support its inspectors to collect sufficient and appropriate evidence, as outlined in the department’s policies and procedures, and
- improve its quality control system to monitor the progress and quality of inspections at various stages of completion and to ensure timely follow-up and application of appropriate corrective actions or consequences, as outlined in the department’s policies and procedures.
- Given Employment and Social Development Canada’s repeated commitments over the years to improve workers’ living conditions through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the department should expedite the development and implementation of minimum accommodation requirements as an eligibility condition of this federal program, in consultation with provinces, territories, and other jurisdictions.
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|Completion Date||12 October 2021|
|Tabling Date||9 December 2021|