Harry Siemens – “Yeah, we did but again when you see something like this, it’s almost so surreal it doesn’t make sense,” said Rick Bergmann of Steinbach, MB. “You question how to respond, but there’s no way that somebody is going to walk into any multi-million dollar hog farm in Canada and take their position in front of the computer and go through the records there. It’s so far fetched I can hardly believe it’s accurate but they can do this.”
Reports suggesting a policy that allows Service Canada officers to conduct surprise inspections and require employers of temporary foreign staff to allow investigators to search their computers, electronic devices, and all documents — or risk losing their workers — is causing severe concern within Canada’s agriculture industry.
Rick Bergmann of Steinbach, MB, chair of the Canadian Pork Council said initially even the thought of something like this happening where officers from Canada Service can come onto farms without warning, check everything out regarding as it pertains to hiring people under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, TFWP, unthinkable despite seeing it coming.
“Yeah, we did but again when you see something like this, it’s almost so surreal it doesn’t make sense,” said Bergmann. “You question how to respond, but there’s no way that somebody is going to walk into any multi-million dollar hog farm in Canada and take their position in front of the computer and go through the records there. It’s so far fetched I can hardly believe it’s accurate but they can do this.”
He said with the PED virus outbreak in different parts of Canada, and in Manitoba, people know how easily it spreads.
“Imagine somebody not educated on biosecurity and attempting to reach places, so I think it’s a huge liability concern for people within the Service Canada to do this because producers work long and hard to ensure that the biosecurity of their farms is well taken care of,” said Bergmann. “I’m trying to understand the foundation of all of this, and I understand now that the temporary foreign workers or the Service Canada’s wanting to ensure people don’t mistreat the temporary foreign workers and I applaud that. I think every employee in Canada needs to be looked after well and I know that there’s a significant investment from the pork industry. When a producer wants to employ temporary foreign workers, there’s a significant engagement that needs to take place to have these people on the farm and also look after them well.”
The CPC chair and Manitoba hog producer said there’s obligations, absolutely and appreciates they’re wanting to ensure there’s no mistreatment but they’re mistreating the hog sector by the process that they’ve outlined.
“I think it’s fantastic that we have people that are wanting to look after temporary foreign worker placements well,” he said. “But I think the solution isn’t rolling into farms across Canada and with a heavy stick and ability to look at the computer records and that sort of thing, which is somewhat bizarre. We wait for the telling of the rest of the story.”
Gerry Demare, a grain and special crops farmer near Somerset, MB there’s a push for Canada wide environmental farm plans.
“Probably allow a government official to search a farmer’s purchases and charge the tax on US side products. The precedent is the Service Canada officials are gaining access to farm books already,” said Demare.
In February it was announced the government setting up an inspection force of 120 officers. Any business employing TFWs would be subject to surprise searches of their premises and documents, computers or ‘other electronic devices’ without a warrant and any warning.