Temporary Domestic Agricultural Workers in the South Okanagan Similkameen – two sites contemplated
• Temporary domestic agricultural workers are considered essential and provide support to our local agricultural economy. There are currently not prohibitions in place with respect to interprovincial travel, and specifically for workers considered essential.
• This is traditionally, an informal workforce, and workers come from predominantly Eastern Canada to work in the tree fruit and viticulture industries.
• A large number of workers are needed specifically for the harvest times – peaking in June/July for cherries, and then with smaller numbers extending into fall for apples and grapes.
• Historically, some workers are accommodated on farm, but many are not, and seek ad-hoc places to camp in and around communities that lack facilities and safe sanitation systems.
• It is anticipated that there may be less workers travelling to BC to work on farms (estimated 1000-1500), however due to social distancing guidelines and standards for on-farm accommodations, there may be less places to be accommodated on farm.
• This year with COVID-19 and the need for increased precautions, the Province is looking at how to partner with and support agricultural associations, local governments and regional
districts to establish safe and sanitary accommodations for domestic migrant workers arriving in the Okanagan Similkameen to work on farms. This is in support both of worker and community health and safety.
• This builds on the good work done already by the RDOS, Interior Health and BC Housing to support the Loose Bay campground in the Okanagan to ensure it has sanitation and safety requirements in place.
• A Steering Committee has been established with membership from the BC Ministry of Agriculture, tree fruit/cherry/grape grower associations, Interior Health, and local and regional
government staff to continue the implementation of Loose Bay requirements, and explore COVID compliant accommodation needs for additional areas of the Okanagan Similkameen region. The Province has sought funding through Treasury Board to support this project (decision pending).
• Staff have been working with Steering Committee contacts to identify a number of possible options to locate a supported accommodation hub for these workers to serve the area around
Osoyoos. It has been a difficult process to finalize a suitable site. Considerations include proximity to work, essentials and groceries, access to WIFI, shade, and consideration of neighbours/other users.
• Safe and sanitary accommodation hubs are being considered that may include socially distant camping sites, with sanitation facilities, health and safety and security personnel, COVID
screening/training/orientation, encouragement of social distancing, increased access to isolation plans/supports, IH and contact tracing. Liaison with community bylaw and RCMP. No
campfires. In Osoyoos, many options and locations were considered, including multiple gravel pits, crown land sites, private properties and others. The two remaining options are presented here for consideration for support by Council. Again, the funding has not been finalized or approved yet by the Province.
1. Osoyoos Baptist Church site (on ALR, requires Town of Osoyoos and may require ALC support). Toilets, sinks, shower and laundry facilities already on site. WIFI available. Power on site. May require additional sanitation assets (porta potties/handwashing sanitizer stations/dishwashing stations). Health and Safety, Security personnel needed. Infection Control Plan, Safety and Emergency plans required.
2. Desert Park Environs (not on ALR, requires Town of Osoyoos support). Toilets and sinks already on site. WIFI could be made available. Power on site. May require additional sanitation
assets (porta potties/handwashing sanitizer stations/dishwashing stations, shower facilities). Temporary fencing, Health and Safety, Security personnel needed. Infection Control Plan, Safety and Emergency plans required. Duration and capacity. May require site grading and other preparation prior to use.