City needs to help ensure foreign workers properly treated: councillor

Coun. Ross Siemens says city should do what it can to ensure buildings housing workers are in good conditions.

Coun. Ross Siemens

Coun. Ross Siemens

The city needs to do what it can to ensure those who bring temporary foreign workers to Abbotsford are providing adequate housing, Coun. Ross Siemens said Monday as council allowed a farm to continue housing its workers in a renovated machine shed.

And an advocate for such farmworkers says the federal government also has to take a look at its rules allowing workers to be housed on-site.

Council unanimously approved the continued use of the 3,847-sq.ft. building, which includes 16 bedrooms, a mudroom, and a large kitchen.

It had exceeded a previous limit on the size of such structures. And while there was no indication of housing problems at the berry and crop farm – which employs and houses 28 temporary workers through the federal government’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program – Siemens told council he has heard of cases where temporary workers were mistreated.

The federal government oversees the program and is responsible for annual inspections of such buildings, but Siemens said the city should do what it can to ensure accommodations are maintained and used properly.

“We’ve heard of instances in the past where there has been substandard treatment of these people because they are not residents,” Siemens told The News.

He said the housing of farmworkers is one of the things being looked at by staff as they conduct their AgRefresh review of the city’s thousands of acres of agricultural land. While the city doesn’t have jurisdiction over the program and the rules that govern those employed under the program, it can enforce bylaws that regulate structure.

A 2012 report by the Parliamentary Budgetary Officer suggested foreign workers didn’t comprise an abnormally large part of the Abbotsford workforce – at just 0.5 per cent. But Claudia Stoehr, a legal advocate with Abbotsford Community Services, said the number has grown considerably in recent years and that she hears weekly from temporary farmworkers in the Fraser Valley those who feel they have been mistreated.

While many employers treat their temporary workers well, others do not, Stoehr said. And housing is a common problem, particularly for those living at the farm where they are working.

“It’s not a home,” she said. “Sometimes it’s in a garage; sometimes it’s 20 workers in a house.”

She said there are occasions where accommodations don’t have facilities for cleaning clothes, or where kitchen facilities are inadequate for large numbers of workers.

In other cases, conflicts arise that have nothing to do with a seasonal employees’ work, but are rather linked to the fact they are living in close proximity to their boss.

“It’s not all the farms, but on some of the farms, it’s really, really bad,” she said.

Stoehr said she has spoken to workers who weren’t permitted to leave the farm unescorted.

“You live like a prison.”

She said federal rules should be expanded to provide more living space for workers, and mandate they not be housed on-site

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Posted

Alexis Paige Simpson has not been in contact with her family in two months. (RCMP photo)
Chilliwack RCMP looking for missing 20-year-old woman

Police say Alexis Paige Simpson has not been in contact with her family in two months

(Maps.Chilliwack.com)
RCMP seek dash-cam footage after Chilliwack road rage incident

Male driving a black pickup stopped and allegedly threatened to punch another driver

Deepak Sharma of Abbotsford has been convicted of the sexual assault of one of his cab passengers in West Vancouver in January 2019.
Former Abbotsford Hindu temple president convicted of sexual assault

Deepak Sharma assaulted a female passenger when he was a cab driver

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Agassiz toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

Woody’s RV World hosts a grand opening for its brand-new Abbotsford location on Saturday. (YouTube)
Woody’s RV World hosts Abbotsford grand opening on Saturday

First-ever B.C. location for successful RV chain, located on Marshall Road

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read