Ontario Premier Doug Ford said people who are homeless can’t sleep in tents in the city because “it looks terrible.”

The comment was made during Ford’s Wednesday COVID-19 briefing, after a reporter asked about the recent discovery of a body in an encampment underneath Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway.

Ford acknowledged that people don’t like living in shelters as many report that stuff is stolen and sometimes people are beaten up, so they prefer to camp outside, especially in the summer. But, he said, you can’t camp in a public park or underneath the Gardiner.

“Number one, I think it looks terrible, and we have tourists from around the world, not now, but when we did before,” said Ford. “And I understand you want to stay outside in a tent—it’s probably better living quarters, but that’s an ongoing issue. Just don’t hang out in the parks. Simple. I wish I could tell you where to hang out, but, I know, it’s tough in these shelters.” 

Ford also announced Wednesday that Windsor-Essex will be moving to Stage 2 of COVID-19 re-opening as of Thursday, with the exception of Leamington and Kingsville due to a continued increase in cases among workers in the agri-farm industry.

On Monday, Windsor-Essex reported 32 new COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period, 31 of which were in the agricultural-farming sector, according to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

Every year, thousands of migrant workers travel to Ontario to work on farms. They often live in close quarters. Earlier this month, Leamington’s Erie Shores Hospital set up a testing centre specifically for farm workers, but closed after nine days, noting fewer than 10 per cent went to be tested. Advocates have been calling for more protection for migrant workers, saying many fear they will not be paid if they are not able to work.

Ontario is expanding on-site testing on farms and continuing farm inspections to ensure migrant workers are safe. Ford said that temporary foreign workers will not lose their job or be sent home if they do test positive for COVID-19.

The connection between workplace safety and economic success is “crystal clear,” said Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, Monte McNaughton.

Ford is not naming farms that have outbreaks or that are not cooperating with the government, although he did name long-term care homes. He says he wants to protect the farmers and workers as they put food on our table and farmers could lose their business.

“The only time I name people is when they purposefully try to gouge someone or hurt someone. A farmer’s not out there to hurt someone. I can assure you that. They’re there to help people,” he said.

Additionally, Ford was asked about reports of racial slurs yelled at migrant workers in Brantford.

“I just won’t tolerate that for a second,” he said. “If you don’t appreciate the migrant workers, then you go out in the fields and start working your back off when it’s 100 degrees.” He suggested thanking a migrant worker if you see one.

There is also new public health guidance to allow asymptomatic farm workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 to live and work isolated from others.

More to come.

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