COVID-19 test requirement to enter Canada a burden for migrant workers, advocacy group says

·2 min read

A new COVID-19 testing requirement for those entering Canada has sparked concern among advocates for migrant workers.

Under the new federal rules that took effect on Jan. 7, anyone entering Canada who is older than four will have to have to present a negative COVID-19 result from a test that was completed within 72 hours before boarding.

The group Justice for Migrant Workers raised concerns in a letter to the federal government earlier this week about the burden the new COVID-19 testing policy is having on migrant workers.

Tests could cost $350, advocate says

"Rural Mexico, for instance, have to travel for a day, day and a half, to get these tests, and then they have to return home, so there's added cost to travel," said Chris Ramsaroop, who is an organizer with the advocacy group.

"Workers are putting themselves at risk to have these tests, of getting the virus itself, and then there's the exorbitant cost. We're hearing concerns that workers are paying up to $350 for this test."

He said it would be better if they were tested upon arrival in Canada.

"These workers, who are putting food on our table, should not be put under this unnecessary burden," he said.

Migrant workers have been among the hardest hit groups during the pandemic, and COVID-19 has brought national prominence to their treatment in Canada. Nearly 2,000 workers contracted the virus across the country and three have died from it.

Advocates say they live in overcrowded housing conditions that place them at high risk.

Joseph Sbrocchi, the general manager of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, said sector has followed government recommendations when it comes to housing.

"In general, greenhouse workers tend to be in pretty good accommodations and residences because they're here for so long."

Temporary workers subject to standard requirements

In an emailed statement to CBC News, the federal government said that temporary foreign workers are subject to the same requirements other travellers to Canada.

"Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada has made significant investments and taken important action to increase protections for temporary foreign workers, prevent the spread of the virus, and address outbreaks on farms when they do occur," the statement said.

The federal government's website says that there are limited exceptions to the testing requirement. If a traveller cannot get a test, they will typically have a choice between taking one upon arrival or being sent to a federal quarantine facility.

Despite the new testing requirement, the mandatory 14-day quarantine for those entering Canada remains in effect.