Members of a Brantford committee working to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community is denouncing racist language targeting seasonal farm workers.
In a news release issued on June 5, the Emergency Operations Centre Advisory Committee, made up of representatives from local government and other organizations, said “some individuals in our community have chosen to unfairly target” migrant workers who are isolating in Brantford hotels.
About 120 migrant workers from a Norfolk County farm where 164 people have tested positive for COVID-19 were taken to two city hotels last weekend to quarantine. Some of them have tested positive for the disease and others have been in close contact and are also required to self-isolate for 14 days.
“As our community, our nation and the world come to grips with how COVID-19 has altered our lives, social stigma can unfortunately be a side effect,” said the release. “Stigma occurs when people associate a risk with specific people, places or things, such as a minority population group. Sadly, stigmatization is common in disease outbreaks.
“Over the last few days, it has come to the attention of Emergency Operations Centre Advisory Committee that some individuals in our community have chosen to unfairly target seasonal farm workers.”
The committee said it “denounces racism and bigotry in any form and unequivocally condemns any negative or disparaging remarks against anyone in our community, including seasonal farm workers.”
The committee said that, “in no way do we view what has transpired as the fault or responsibility of the workers who come to this province each summer and work hard to provide for themselves and their families. This includes those working on farms within the County of Brant.
“The work of these individuals is integral to local farming operations and ensures the security of our provincial food supply chain.”
The workers currently isolating at city hotels have all previously undergone a 14-day isolation period when they arrived in Canada. A number of compliance audits were completed for these periods and no issues were reported and no reports of non-compliance have been expressed in the past, said the release.
Each worker is contacted daily to support their isolation and to ensure wellness and compliance. Workers have been given information on who to contact if any issues arise. The Brant County Health Unit is supporting these efforts and providing direction to hotel staff regarding strict, preventative measures that must be followed to ensure employee safety. Workers are respecting and complying with isolation protocols while quarantined, said the release.
The committee said it “encourages the people of Brant to stay informed and understand the facts about the pandemic, to help stop false assumptions and protect the well-being of everyone.”
“We have an opportunity to be part of the solution by correcting misinformation, challenging myths and rumours and showing empathy and respect for others. As we have all learned from this pandemic, we are all in this together and we are stronger together.”
The advisory committee comprises representatives from the City of Brantford, County of Brant, Six Nations of the Grand River, health unit, Brant Community Healthcare System, Brant Brantford Paramedics, Brantford police, Brant OPP, both local school boards and Enbridge Gas.