The federal department charged with analyzing farms that hire transient overseas staff failed to keep tabs on how neatly employers have been protecting their workforce through the pandemic, Canada’s auditor normal said these days.
Auditor Common Karen Hogan mentioned inspectors working for Employment and Social Construction Canada (ESDC) did not correctly enforce new pandemic rules designed to offer protection to employees from COVID-19 — ceaselessly skipping exams on whether or not employers presented consuming water, cleansing products, separate lodging for infected workers and devoted quarantine spaces for employees who had been speculated to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Canada.
Foreign farm employees — who come to Canada on a seasonal basis to fill labour shortages within the agricultural sector — are uniquely at risk of COVID-19 as a result of they generally reside in tight quarters in shared supplier-provided accommodations.
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there were massive outbreaks on some farms within the early days of the pandemic. a minimum of 3 foreign farm staff have died from COVID-19, the AG discovered.
To deal with the gaps that were making employees ill, the federal government in July 2020 earmarked $16.2 million in new funding to ramp up ESDC’s agricultural inspections. The AG discovered the brand new money did little to improve the quality in their work.
Mexican and Guatemalan staff pick strawberries at a farm in Pont Rouge Que. on Tuesday, August 24, 2021. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)
The auditor general found that, over a two-12 months period, the dept’s inspectors produced shoddy reports such a lot of the time.
The AG found problems in SEVENTY THREE in line with cent of all quarantine inspection experiences filed in 2020.
The AG stories that despite the fact that her place of job flagged those “important” shortcomings to the department’s most senior bureaucrat in advance this yr, the issue simplest got worse in 2021 — when 88 in keeping with cent of all inspections examined showed deficiencies. Inspectors also didn’t “whole the vast majority of inspections in a well timed method,” the AG said in her report.
Department ‘did not do a fair activity’
chatting with newshounds after the document’s unencumber, Hogan mentioned the dep. “did not do a fair job.” She said ESDC is grappling with “systemic issues within the whole regime” and needs to “step back” and “do issues in a different way going ahead” to turn they really care concerning the welfare of brief overseas staff.
WATCH: AG says there is a ‘systemic downside’ with inspections within the temporary foreign employee program
AG says there’s a ‘systemic downside’ with inspections in the temporary foreign worker application
Auditor Basic Karen Hogan says the shortage of pandemic inspections in the temporary overseas worker application indicates a “systemic problem within the entire regime.” 1:11
The AG’s file presentations that, in many cases, ESDC inspectors licensed employers’ pandemic protocols even if “poor-high quality proof or no proof was once accumulated” in such a lot inspections “earlier than employers have been discovered compliant or the inspection was inactive.”
In different circumstances — SIXTEEN in keeping with cent of all inspections reviewed by way of the AG — inspectors had actual evidence that an organization wasn’t compliant with the pandemic regulations, but ESDC bureaucrats gave them a passing grade besides.
A lack of ‘diligence’
This year, ONE HUNDRED in keeping with cent of all inspected employers were discovered to be in compliance, regardless of the reality that in many cases, ESDC inspectors didn’t in truth verify if workers’ housing was once unfastened from serious well being and safety risks.
The AG mentioned the inspections lacked “diligence” and “urgency,” shortcomings that left staff uncovered to a dangerous virus throughout a health drawback.
While ESDC investigators had been tasked with ensuring farm staff had space to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Canada, the AG discovered many inspections had been delayed for so long that opinions “had been nonetheless incomplete and inactive long after workers’ quarantines had ended.”
And while COVID-19 outbreaks were known on farms, the AG found inspections had been initiated temporarily “however have been inactive for long periods” — which means ESDC investigators did little to help lower lively infections.
A migrant employee from Mexico uses hand sanitizer as he boards a bus after arriving at Montreal’s global airport on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)
In One particularly troubling case pointed out by means of the auditor normal, it took per week for an ESDC inspector to first make touch with an supplier once they stated a pandemic.
The auditor’s document says that during an interview with the inspector, the business enterprise said they were not offering separate lodging for workers who tested certain — each infected and non-infected workers had been also sharing a bathroom and a kitchen.
After learning of this serious breach, the ESDC investigator “did not observe up on corrective measures for more than one month,” the AG found.
The AG supplied different examples of insufficient paintings produced by way of ESDC over the final years.
Throughout one 2020 inspection, bureaucrats have been seeking to resolve whether or not 26 temporary overseas workers may properly quarantine at a particular farm. The evidence collected to show there has been ok social distancing in the employees’ quarters amounted to only footage — one in every of a table and certainly one of a unmarried bedroom.
“No apply-up came about, and the business enterprise used to be found compliant,” the AG said.
Right Through every other 2020 inspection, bureaucrats assessed the quarantine lodging for 3 temporary overseas employees. The employer despatched alongside photos that obviously verified the space between workers’ beds in a shared bedroom was a ways not up to the required metres.
Again, “no follow-up passed off, and the agency was discovered compliant,” the AG stated.
In a 2021 inspection to assess whether or not 10 workers could appropriately live in a selected facility, inspectors discovered the agency compliant after only reviewing “one picture of 1 bedroom.” This review used to be additionally conducted months later than required by means of departmental pointers.
These aren’t distinctive instances. The AG discovered that in 76 per cent of all inspections reviewed, EDSC bureaucrats amassed “terrible-high quality evidence or no proof” to show compliance with the 2-metre distancing law.
Migrant employees prune fruit timber in Pereaux, N.S. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)
At The Same Time As ESDC inspectors were tasked with interviewing workers approximately their dwelling conditions as part in their assessments, most did not hassle. In half all inspections, ESDC inspectors did not interview the required collection of employees. In a few cases, no employees have been interviewed at all.
and even while the workers interviewed flagged severe considerations — some workers mentioned that they had no get admission to to food even as in isolation — the AG found no proof that inspectors had acted to address these problems.
Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough, the minister responsible for ESDC, mentioned Thursday she accepts the AG’s findings.
Qualtrough mentioned the department employed extra inspectors, implemented a tip line and invested cash in migrant workers’ associations remaining yr.
“Clearly, regardless of our efforts, we fell brief,” she stated.
Qualtrough pledged to “rebuild” the temporary international employee inspection software and do extra to beef up the inspectors tasked with finishing up this work within the long term. “Rest confident, we’ll do higher,” she mentioned.
Syed Hussan, government director of the advocacy team Migrant Workers for Amendment, said the AG’s file is “deeply, deeply relating to” but now not all that unexpected, given ESDC’s observe report in this house.
“The auditor normal is announcing what we already understand — inspections cannot and can no longer protect migrant farm staff,” Hussan stated in an interview. “ESDC used to be no longer created to protect migrant farm employees. It was once created to ensure a gradual supply of inexpensive labour.
“The incontrovertible fact that these inspections discovered all employers are compliant displays that the federal executive is not able and unwilling to give protection to migrant farm workers.”
Hussan said the federal executive must make all could-be farm staff permanent residents so that they can experience extra legal protections.
Conservative MP Stephanie Kusie, the party’s employment critic, referred to as the situation “simply unacceptable.” She stated that despite the fact that the auditor general warned in advance this year that ESDC’s tactics had been “fallacious”, the monitor file of the inspectors only were given worse.
“once again, this Liberal government has been stuck saying the precise things to reassure Canadians, however failing to take motion,” Kusie mentioned.