Across Canada, growers are experiencing extreme delays accessing seasonal agricultural workers. In British Columbia, for example, Okanagan Valley fruit farmer Sukhjit Sidhu recently appeared on television lamenting lack of Mexican workers for pruning in orchards. The blame is on a backlog at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).
Currently, ESDC, foreign governments (labour departments and consulates), provincial government regulators (labour, health and agriculture), and employer representatives (CHC, FARMS, FERME, and WALI) are engaged in ensuring program integrity. The agricultural associations, including the BC Fruit Growers’ Association (BCFGA) are concerned that radical activists are being provided funding and treated as legitimate stakeholders in this process.
The BCGFA supports the involvement of legitimate organizations such as churches and immigrant resettlement associations to assist with translation and orientation services says Glen Lucas, general manager, BCFGA.
“The radical associations, in the view of the BCFGA, are not legitimate stakeholders and only seek to attack the program,” says Lucas. “The BCFGA feels that the federal government needs to recognize that there is an existing legitimate stakeholder group involving foreign governments, provincial regulators, and employer representatives.”
At the national level, the Canadian Horticultural Council is working with federal agricultural minister Lawrence MacAulay as well as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, and ESDC, to draw attention to these priority cases. If you are in such a situation, email Jennifer Babcock (firstname.lastname@example.org) with farm name, LMIA number and a brief description of the problem.