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

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

Surrey RCMP photo
Police seize loaded gun after car speeds off in Newton

A man and woman were arrested Thursday in an underground parking lot in the 8200-block of Scott Road

Michael Bublé in video posted to Arts Club Theatre Company’s Youtube channel.
VIDEO: Arts Club alum Michael Bublé backs theatre company’s re-opening campaign

Pandemic has caused 15 months of suspended operations for Arts Club, founded in 1964

Linda Annis, Aug. 12, 2020. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Council sinks Annis’s call for independent auditor general for Surrey

‘Surrey taxpayers deserve the best possible oversight of the tax dollars they send to city hall,’ Surrey councillor argued

Maintaining a routine can help to normalize your day-to-day during social distancing amidst COVID-19. (Corey Bullock file)
Group offering support to Surrey, White Rock residents who are dealing with anxiety

Recovery International hosts virtual meetings every Thursday

Car found burned in back alley Sunday near 9700-block of Princess Drive in Surrey. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
IHIT looking for dash-cam footage of burned Surrey car believed related to YVR shooting

The burned vehicle was found near the 9700-block of Princess Drive

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

(Pixabay)
B.C. doctors could face consequences for spreading COVID misinformation: college

College says doctors have a higher level of responsibility to not spread incorrect information

Kelowna resident Sally Wallick helped rescue a kayaker in distress a week and a half ago. (Sally Wallick/Contributed)
VIDEO: Kelowna woman rescues capsized kayaker in Okanagan Lake

Sally Wallick is asking people to be prepared for the cold water and unpredictable winds

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald pauses while speaking during a news conference in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘We will do everything we can,’ B.C. police say to reassure public amid gang violence

Active officers in the Lower Mainland, including those from the Integrated Homicide Investigations Team, are being recruited to an ‘inactive potential future police service’

Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about phase two in B.C.’s COVID-19 immunization plan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
All of B.C. will eventually ease out of COVID-19 restrictions at same time: Henry

People who have received two doses of a vaccine can’t yet return to post-pandemic activities with each other, she says

Winnipeg Jets’ Andrew Copp (9) and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) watch an incoming shot during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, April 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
‘Very jealous’: Canadian teams can’t take advantage of NHL’s relaxed COVID-19 rules

League eased some tight COVID-19 health and safety protocols over the weekend for fully vaccinated clubs

A map of Huu-ay-aht-owned forestry cutblock. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
B.C. First Nations restrict access to territory in wake of forestry standoffs

Huu-ay-aht set up checkpoints after heated and dangerous incidents on southwest Vancouver Island

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

Most Read