Canada’s Largest Province Grapples with Food Rules During COVID-19
Late Tuesday night, dozens of customers lined up outside a popular bar in Toronto. At midnight, the bar opened its doors, welcoming drinkers into its open-air patio for the first time in months after mandatory closures meant to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Given America’s close cultural, economic, and geographic links to Canada, and the fact that country has—like nearly every country to date—done a better job containing COVID-19 than has the United States, it’s worth taking a look at how Canada is reopening its food economy even as some U.S. states that reopened in part are being forced to pump the brakes due to rising numbers of COVID-19 diagnoses and hospital admissions.
Toronto, Canada’s most-populated city, is situated in the province of Ontario. It is Canada’s most populous province by a wide margin. Nearly four in ten Canadians reside in Ontario. The province also boasts more residents than its closest challengers—Quebec and British Columbia—combined.
Canada is facing many of the same challenges with its food system that Americans have been dealing with during the pandemic. Just like here in the United States, for example, while many smaller meat producers are thriving, larger meat processors have been hit by COVID-19 outbreaks among employees. Just like here in the United States, that’s hurt foreign workers particularly hard, given the fact tens of thousands of guest workers from Latin America and other countries plant, harvest, and process much of the food grown in Canada.
“Without them, Canadian farmers can’t feed us,” the Toronto Star editorial board wrote earlier this month. “There’s nothing more essential than that.”
After several Mexican agricultural workers died from COVID-19, in cases linked to outbreaks at more than a dozen Canadian farms—including a particularly severe outbreak in southwestern Ontario—Mexico announced it would halt plans to send vital workers to Canada unless the country agreed to implement steps to reduce the risk of infection among guest workers. After Ontario’s Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association recommended this week that all agricultural workers be tested for COVID-19, the province announced it would implement that step and others. Mexico and Canada reopened the worker pipeline this week.
Just as some state and local governments here in the U.S. have done, Ontario lawmakers and regulators have acted to red
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