113 farm workers off to Canada

A total of 113 Jamaicans left the island Tuesday for Canada under the Seasonal Agriculture Workers’ Programme (SAWP), more popularly called farm work programme.

The Ministry of Labour’s Overseas Employment Centre in downtown Kingston hosted a send-off ceremony for the workers before they departed. Among those in attendance were Labour Minister Shahine Robinson; Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen and the Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica, Laurie Peters.

Eleven of the workers were first-time participants in the 53-year-old programme. The oldest among the overall group was 65-year-old Michael Grey while the youngest was 23-year-old Chevaun Thompson, who is among the first-timers.

According to Robinson, the farm work programme with Canada benefits every family and community in Jamaica.

Stressing what she said was the importance of ensuring that the rights of the Jamaican workers were protected, Robinson explained that government representatives of both Canada and Jamaica along with Non-Government Organisations (NGO) and employers meet each year to discuss the terms and conditions for the workers.

She said, “we seek to guarantee at all times that the labour standards governing employment on these farms are enforced. Most importantly, we take into consideration the safety and well-being of our farm workers.”

Robinson implored the workers travelling for the first time to learn from the experienced members who will be travelling with them. She also encouraged them to respect authority and carry out their respective tasks diligently and professionally.

According to Hussen, Jamaica was the first country to sign a farm work agreement with Canada, and he said the island’s workers have made tremendous contributions to Canada’s economy throughout the programme. He said that over 10,000 workers are involved in the programme annually.

Hussen noted that the two countries share strong bonds among governments, businesses, family and friends.

He said, “our growing and vibrant Jamaican community in Canada, which numbers over 300,000 people, also helps to maintain the vital links between Canada and Jamaica.

We are also pleased that many people from this country are visiting family members and friends in Canada and studying at Canadian colleges and universities. Last year, more than 405,000 Jamaicans visited Canada as tourists and more than 3,500 pursued long-term studies in Canada,” Hussen said.

In the meantime, first-time participant Thompson told Loop News after the ceremony that he was “nervous, but hoping for the best”.

Thompson, who is from Sanguinetti, Clarendon and lives with his mother and sister, is optimistic that the programme will impact his life positively.

He said, “I think this will impact me in a positive way. It is the only option I see right now to improve certain things in my life.”