Report by Deputy Chief Coroner points to major problems facing migrant workers amidst pandemic

ONTARIO — A report released recently by the province’s Deputy Chief Coroner, Reuven Jhirad, has outlined steps that need to be taken by the federal and provincial government to better protect migrant workers from COVID-19. This comes after the death of three farm workers who arrived from Mexico before the beginning of the pandemic as part of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. Bonifacio Romero, Rogelio Santos, and Juan Lopez Chaparro were among hundreds of migrant workers who contracted COVID-19 during multiple farm outbreaks reported in 2020.

Jhirad’s report tells of cramped bunkhouses, where workers live during their stay in Canada, and poor working conditions. These have likely been contributing factors to the increased risk of infection migrant workers face in Canada. Additionally, workers reported difficulties in getting tested for COVID-19, difficulty finding timely transport to hospital, and obstacles reporting a possible case of the virus.

Given these glaring issues, the report recommends an anonymous phone line for reporting, dedicated isolation centres with transport services available, better living conditions, random testing, and priority vaccination.

“We should not forget that this review and its recommendations arise out of the unfortunate and untimely deaths of three men who left their home country to work in ours,” Jhirad said in the report.

In the report’s conclusion, Jhirad highlights the need to follow up with farms and processing plants where migrant workers are employed to make sure these recommendations have been implemented.

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