Travel restrictions won’t affect foreign workers: federal sources

New travel restrictions imposed on Canadians by the federal government won’t impact the arrival of temporary or seasonal foreign workers, according to sources.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Jan. 29 that Canada’s air carriers had agreed to suspend services to sunny destinations. Flights to tropical locations, like Mexico, are being cancelled by Air Canada, West Jet, Sun Wing and Air Transat until the end of April.

People from Mexico and Caribbean nations make up a substantial amount of Canada’s temporary foreign workers.

Trudeau restricted all international arrivals to four airports: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. Travellers have to wait for up to three days at an approved hotel for their test results, at their own expense, which is expected to be more than $2,000.

“Those with negative test results will then be able to quarantine at home under significantly increased surveillance and enforcement,” said Trudeau. “Those with positive tests will be immediately required to quarantine in designated government facilities to make sure they’re not carrying variants of potential concern.”

Federal officials quelled any fears the restrictions would prevent foreign workers from arriving in Canada. According to sources, temporary or seasonal foreign workers aren’t being subjected to the same quarantine orders.

Workers are deemed “essential” by the federal government and won’t be required to quarantine at an approved hotel as they await test results. Instead, they’ll be able to wait out their 14-day quarantine on-farm.

Transport Canada is believed to be working with the major airlines to ensure flights carrying temporary foreign workers can land at any Canadian airport capable of welcoming them, rather than in one of the four designated cities.

According to sources, federal officials are also trying to find ways of ensuring the arrival of workers despite flights being suspended. Chartered flights are being considered — and indeed, already used often to bring in seasonal workers; but the federal government is also working to ensure foreign airlines carrying foreign workers can land in Canada.

Each year, about 60,000 seasonal foreign workers come to work on farms in Canada — but there are a little more than half a million temporary foreign workers, thousands of whom play an important role in the production of food.

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