Mitigating the Effects of Epidemic/Pandemic Outbreaks on Temporary Foreign Agricultural Workers and Farm Operations in British Columbia

Jardine, Cynthia | $348,075

British Columbia University of the Fraser Valley 2021 CIHR Project Grant

Temporary foreign workers (TFWs) employed for seasonal agricultural work play a vital role in preserving Canada’s food security. However, TFWs are known to experience many health and structural inequities such as occupational health hazards, inadequate hygiene, and barriers to health services. Often they accept these conditions for fear of losing their jobs. This situation was made worse during the COVID‑19 outbreak. Federal and provincial government agencies subsequently announced several programs to safeguard TFWs and relieve the burden on farmers. Our research will determine the COVID‑19 experiences of TFWs and farming operations in British Columbia during the 2020 season. We will also assess whether workers and farmers think the government programs to safeguard them from COVID‑19 were effective in controlling disease transmission and making it easier to continue farming operations in both 2020 and 2021. We will do this research by interviewing 40 TFWs and 20 farm owners who employ TFWs for seasonal agriculture work in the Fraser Valley area of British Columbia, as well as 8 members of BC agricultural councils. This research is being conducted by researchers from the University of the Fraser Valley who have extensive experience in working with immigrant populations and infectious disease, community health and qualitative methods. The inclusion of appropriate Knowledge Users (including the BC Provincial Health Officer, BC Centre for Disease Control, BC Agricultural Council, regional health organizations and community organizations who provide assistance to TFWs) will ensure the research meets their needs and is conducted appropriately and respectfully. Their involvement also means the results can be readily mobilized into practice. The results from our research will be used to develop recommendations to continue to reduce the inequitable burden of disease for this population now and in the future, and to ensure food security for Canadians.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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