Ontario hands out 'cultural resources' for agri-food workers

Library of info includes videos, images, guidelines to boost COVID safety

Ontario hands out 'cultural resources' for agri-food workers
The library will be distributed to farms, greenhouses and food processing operations across Ontario.

Ontario is developing specialized COVID-19 resources to better protect the health and safety of temporary foreign workers and others employed in the agri-food sector.

The province is investing up to $118,500 for the "Cultural Resources Library," which will be designed by the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association in a variety of languages and formats. The library will be distributed to farms, greenhouses and food processing operations across Ontario.

"Our international workers have grown and harvested our food and helped keep our food supply chain strong throughout the COVID-19 pandemic," says Ernie Hardeman, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. "These new resources will ensure that all of our agri-food workers are well informed so they can help stop the spread and keep COVID-19 out of our workplaces."

Ontario has also launched a portal to connect farms and other agri-food sector business with labour needs to job seekers, and invested an additional $50 million into the Risk Management Program, one year earlier than originally promised.

The new investment is part of the province’s $25.5 million Agri-food Prevention and Control Innovation Program, which aims to help reduce disruptions in business operations and risks of COVID-19 exposure in the workplace, launched in partnership with the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association (OFVGA). The strategy provides guidance on how to prevent and control COVID-19 on farms, protect farm worker safety and wellness, and maintain the sustainability and viability of the agri-food sector.

"This project is one of many initiatives that the OFVGA and the Ontario government are partnering on to ensure the health and safety of this critical workforce," says Bill George, chair of the OFVGA. "The safety of the international farm workforce has been paramount since the beginning of the pandemic, and the resources developed through this project will further support the efforts of Ontario's farm employers to keep all farm workers safe while producing food for Canadians."

Variety of resources available

This new library includes videos, image and pictogram-based factsheets and posters in English, French, Spanish and Thai.

“Image-based posters need to be presented or explained to workers to be effective. Putting up a poster, without explaining key messages, can lead to misinterpretation by workers,” says the library. “If text-heavy resources are used, ensure key information is reviewed with workers orally, in their language, so those with literacy challenges understand.”

The resources cover a number of topics including: safety guidelines for employers, isolation and quarantine periods, hygiene safety practices and physical distancing, shared housing and shared transportation safety, vaccine information, and workers’ rights and responsibilities.

In October 2020, applications opened for the federal government’s Emergency On-Farm Support Fund, which provides a $35-million investment to improve health and safety on farms and in employee living quarters to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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