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Ontario Divisional Court Restores Public Health Order to Protect Migrant Farmworkers from COVID-19

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27 August 2020
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On August 27, 2020, the Ontario Divisional court released its decision in Schuyler Farms Limited v. Dr. Nesathurai 2020 ONSC 4711, an appeal by the Medical Officer of Health of Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit to restore an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act to protect the health of migrant farmworkers in the midst of the global pandemic of COVID-19.  Danielle Bisnar and Aminah Hanif represented the intervenor, Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights, in supporting the appeal.  The Divisional Court allowed the appeal and reinstated a limit of three migrant workers to a bunkhouse during a period of quarantine upon arrival in Canada. 

The Court recognized the exceptional vulnerability of migrant farmworkers and held that Canada’s international human rights obligations are relevant to public health interventions to protect them. In recognizing the relevance of the international human rights to racial equality, health, housing and safe working conditions, the Court stated: “In the public health context, these principles require implementing measures that recognize the vulnerability and health inequities experienced by MFWs so as to eliminate the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on them” and held that in making the order under appeal the Medical Officer of Health was obligated “to ensure that the quarantining conditions for MFWs did not expose them to more risk than the risk that would be tolerated among the other members of the health unit when they quarantined”.

A copy of the decision can be found HERE.

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