For decades, Ontario’s agri-food sector has been dependent on migrant workers to fill in the gaps in its available workforce. Programs such as the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program Temporary Foreign Worker agricultural stream have become an essential and growing supply of labour for farmers who struggle to find sufficient numbers of local workers. Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, this model has been disrupted. The interruption to international travel caused by the cancellation of flight routes, restrictions on foreign visitors, and mandatory quarantine orders for new arrivals to Canada have resulted in many Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) arriving to their place of employment late or not at all. The economic and social impacts of this event on the agri-food sector, TFWs, and rural communities is something that we seek to understand.

This research initiative, funded in partnership with Mitacs and the Ontario Cooperative Association, examines these impacts through key informant interviews with agricultural employers and TFWs. Key research concerns include the financial impacts of COVID-19 on both of these groups, changes to worker recruitment and farm management strategies, and the future of migrant labour in Ontario agriculture.

Agricultural employers and TFWs are currently being invited to contribute to this project through key informant interviews. If you are a member of one of these groups and wish to participate in the study, please contact Louis Helps ([email protected]).