Local MPP calls for pandemic protection for migrant workers

Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield of the NDP rises on the floor of the Ontario Legislature, Toronto, November 17, 2020. Image courtesy Ontario Legislature.

A local member of the Ontario legislature has urged the government to do more in keeping agricultural workers safe from the effects of COVID-19.

Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield rose at Queens Park Tuesday to call attention to the ongoing issues concerning migrant workers, in relation to the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hatfield, of the NDP, charged the Ford government with turning a blind eye to what was happening among the migrant worker community in Windsor-Essex, particularly in Leamington and Kingsville.

“Migrant workers down in my area were the hardest hit,” said Hatfield. “The government’s response at that time was to allow them to keep working if they were infected but asymptomatic. Hundreds were contagious. Three migrant workers died in Ontario.”

Dozens of migrant workers contracted the virus earlier this year during the first wave of the pandemic, and all three of the workers who died were working on Windsor-Essex farms.

“What is the government’s plan today to get ahead and stay ahead of this next wave when it comes to the men and women from other countries working in our fields and greenhouses?” asked Hatfield.

In response, Government House Leader Paul Calandra agreed that more had to be done to protect workers.

“This is something that we’ve worked in cooperation with the federal government on,” said Calandra, the Conservative MPP for Markham-Stouffville. “He [Hatfield] is right, there was certainly a problem, and we’ve learned a lot from the first wave.”

The Globe and Mail reported in July that during the first wave of the pandemic, about 950 migrant workers across Ontario had tested positive for COVID-19, accounting for 10 per cent of all agricultural workers in southwestern Ontario.