COVID-awareness course, health and safety support coming for seasonal fruit pickers
A farm worker is seen in this undated file photo.
VANCOUVER -- Seasonal fruit pickers heading to B.C. will soon be required to take an online COVID-19 awareness course, as the province also promises funding for safer accommodations during the 2020 season.
Earlier this week, Mexican Ambassador to Canada Juan José Gómez Camacho warned his country wouldn't send any workers to farms that failed to follow COVID-19 rules.
That came after Mexico had paused its temporary foreign worker program last week when two workers died from COVID-19 while working in Canada.
But on Thursday, B.C. announced new measures to ensure seasonal fruit pickers in the Okanagan have safe living arrangements and are educated about COVID-19.
"Seasonal fruit pickers are a crucial part of our food supply system, helping to get delicious, B.C.-grown fruit, such as cherries, apples, grapes and berries, onto our plates," said Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham in a news release.
"Our government is protecting these workers and local residents by making sure workers have a safe place to camp and are educated on the rules and guidelines Dr. Bonnie Henry has put in place here in British Columbia. The goal is to ensure community safety and this is an important step towards that."
In late March, a large community outbreak was recorded amongst a group of temporary foreign workers in West Kelowna. While the public wasn't considered to be at risk, more than a dozen workers tested positive for the virus before the outbreak was finally declared over more than a month later.
The new measures implemented by the province include a new online COVID-19 awareness course that all fruit pickers will be required to take. The course explains the rights and responsibilities of both employers and workers when it comes to the virus. It also explains Henry's rules and guidelines.
As well, the province is giving $172,000 to authorities in the Okanagan-Similkameen and Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake regions to support multiple camping accommodations, and to ensure they meet health and safety standards.
"Domestic temporary workers are a designated essential service and they are a crucial and appreciated resource in maintaining part of the food supply system," said Karla Kozakevich, chair of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, in a news release.
Other campsite accommodations are also being considered in Summerland, Osoyoos, Naramata and the Similkameen.