Google image of Bylands where employees have tested positive for COVID-19

Migrant worker advocates blame feds, employers for COVID-19 outbreak at B.C. garden store

Migrant farm worker group calls on government for adequate health and safety requirements

A group advocating for migrant farmworkers is claiming government and employer negligence resulted in an outbreak of COVID-19 at a West Kelowna agricultural business.

The Migrant Rights Network (MRN), Canada’s migrant alliance, is calling on the federal government to immediately require employers of migrant workers to provide adequate health and safety protections to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. A total of 19 cases has been confirmed at Bylands Nurseries Ltd. among 75 workers — 63 migrant and 12 local — which the MRN cites as a direct result of substandard housing and working conditions.

READ MORE:Interior Health confirms five additional cases in West Kelowna COVID-19 outbreak

According to the MRN, thousands of workers are expected to arrive in Canada in the coming days.

The MRN has sent a detailed letter to the federal government outlining necessary changes and requesting a consultation to create regulations that ensure worker rights and safety, as part of our broader demands for migrant justice during COVID-19.

“Unsafe housing and lack of labour and immigration rights have put migrant farmworkers at immense risk,” said Byron Cruz from Sanctuary Health in Vancouver. “Already workers in Kelowna have become infected because of lack of enforceable quarantine requirements. We are worried about the lack of plans from the relevant health authorities to provide adequate access to health care for migrant workers.”

Sanctuary Health, a group united for refugee and migrant health, is supporting workers who are in quarantine on several farms. The group claims workers have been abandoned by employers and are relying on the support of community groups for food.

“This crisis has made it urgently clear that employer and government negligence to ensure decent housing and working conditions must end. In a public health crisis, we cannot protect anyone if we do not protect everyone,” said Syed Hussan, Executive Director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

Kelowna Capital News reached out to Bylands Nurseries’ vice president of sales and human resources, Mike Byland, for comment but did not receive a response specific to the allegations. Byland said at this time the company is focused on the health and safety of its employees and nobody will be speaking publicly, however, the company is issuing statements on its social media pages.

On April 1, Bylands Nurseries’ Facebook page read the following:

“Bylands Nurseries Ltd has been participating in the established, government-led Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program since 2004. This mutually beneficial program allows us to meet seasonal business demands while providing workers with wages that allow them to support their families at home with education and medical needs. Many of our guest workers return to Bylands year-after-year – some have continued to work with us since 2004 and, over the last 15 years, have become part of the family at Bylands. We have been recognized as one of the best employers of temporary foreign workers in BC for our accommodations and internal processes.”

Dear friends and customers,

We want to thank you all for your continued support during this time.

The health and…

Posted by Bylands Nurseries on Wednesday, April 1, 2020

READ MORE: ‘We will get through this’ B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57 per cent have recovered


@VernonNews
newsroom@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusHealthMigrant Workers

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Salmon closures announced for Skeena and Nass watersheds

DFO notice expands on May 21 chinook ban throughout Skeena watershed

Small fire extinguished at Thornhill community grounds

Camper destroyed and some trees burned

Tradition and technology: Nisga’a Elementary Secondary’s plan for grad

NESS joins other schools in northwest B.C. using video and streaming

What happens to a community garden during a pandemic?

Green Thumb Garden Society has made some changes, hopes for more volunteers and members

Firefighter drops eggs 65 ft. for kids’ science project

Elementary students attempt to determine ideal packaging to cushion eggs

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

Facing changes together: your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

DFO allowing at-sea observers again if safe work procedures in place

May 15 fishery notice lays out conditions for allowing at-sea observers onboard amid COVID-19

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Nanaimo senior clocked going 50 km/hr over limit says her SUV shouldn’t be impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

Most Read