The following is a statement from CFA President Mary Robinson on the recent deaths of three Mexican farm workers from COVID-19.
Ottawa, June 24th – We at CFA are extremely sad to learn of the deaths of Bonifacio Eugenio Romero, Rogelio Muñoz Santos, Lopez Chaparro caused by COVID-19.
This situation is heart breaking. No one coming to work in Canada should ever have to fear for their safety or their lives. My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of these three men. These men came here for opportunity and to improve their families’ lives at home. Their personal outcome is devastating.
CFA feels strongly that the particular details of what led to these deaths needs to be rooted out and addressed quickly. The farmers I know, who rely on foreign workers, treat their workers in a manner that makes me fiercely proud. They do not take lightly the weight placed on them to provide a safe and comfortable workplace for all their workers. In fact, many foreign workers come back to the same farm, year after year, for decades in some cases.
COVID-19 has created a set of extremely difficult circumstances that none of the world was prepared for. As the foundation for our food supply chain, Canadian farmers and farm workers have been appropriately deemed essential. Like other sectors, the designation of essential has plunged farmers into navigating a public safety crisis that they were not properly equipped to deal with, neither on a personal level nor in terms of existing on-farm infrastructure.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, farm employers and farm associations have been working in close contact with government officials across all orders of government to understand and develop appropriate guidance to mitigate risks wherever possible.
The travel, working, housing and living arrangements offered on farms are designed to ensure all workers can remain safe and comfortable during their time working in Canada.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed new vulnerabilities, making us all realize we need to take a closer look at how we do things. We need to understand the causes of these outbreaks and respond as quickly as possible to ensure that no more farm workers contract this virus.
Farmers agree that everyone involved in this process has to do better. Canada’s foreign worker programs are essential to the security of our food supply and the viability of farms and rural communities across Canada. Immediate steps need to be taken under these new conditions to protect the health and safety of all workers on our teams.
The CFA strongly encourages farm employers to follow public health guidelines, continually communicate with workers, and where called for facilitate and encourage all their workers to be tested. We must all work together to keep our workers safe and avoid further tragedy.
The vast majority of farm employers are doing everything they can in this rapidly evolving situation to stop COVID-19, and we must not let up in our efforts.
I am deeply saddened by the loss of these three men. We are committed to making sure that this tragedy serves as the impetus the prevent any further loss of life on Canadian farms.
President of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture
Director of Communications and Stakeholder Relations