Federal Government Failed Migrant Workers During Pandemic, Auditor General Finds
A report published by Auditor General Karen Hogan said the federal government has failed to properly enforce pandemic safety regulations.
From CBC News: A scathing report by Auditor General Karen Hogan said the federal government has failed to properly enforce pandemic regulations designed to protect temporary foreign workers from COVID-19, CBC News reported Thursday.
- According to the report, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) failed to ensure employers were offering workers drinking water, cleaning products, extra accommodations for those who fell sick and quarantine spaces for self isolation.
CBC noted that migrant farm workers are particularly vulnerable as they are frequently forced to live in crowded accommodations while they are employed in Canada.
- At least three migrant farm workers in Canada have died from COVID-19 so far, according to Hogan’s report.
The auditor general found problems in 73 per cent of all quarantine inspection reports filed in 2020.
- Despite Hogan’s warnings that safety enforcement needed to improve, things only got worse this year, as she found 88 per cent of all the 2021 inspection reports that she reviewed were deficient.
In many cases, ESDC inspectors approved employers' pandemic protocols even though "poor-quality evidence or no evidence was collected,” Hogan noted. In 16 per cent of cases, inspectors had evidence that rules weren’t being followed, but gave employers a passing grade anyway.
- Hogan told reporters Thursday that ESDC is grappling with "systemic problems throughout the entire regime.”
In one case, it took a week for an ESDC inspector to contact an employer after they reported a COVID-19 outbreak. In other cases, the agency failed to follow up with employers where insufficient evidence for safety protocols was documented, or where evidence showed the employers’ practices were clearly unsafe.
- In half of all inspections, ESDC inspectors did not interview the required number of workers, CBC noted, and in some cases there was no evidence they followed up when workers raised serious concerns about issues such as a lack of access to food while in isolation.
Syed Hussan with Migrant Workers for Change told CBC: "The fact that these inspections found all employers are compliant shows that the federal government is unable and unwilling to protect migrant farm workers."
Read CBC’s full story here.