JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The 200,000th work permit under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP) in Canada was handed over to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in a ceremony at the Canadian High Commission in Kingston on June 30.
  • Minister of Labour, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Derrick Kellier, in his address, heaped praises on SAWP which has “contributed considerably to the capacity building potential” of the country through the provision of employment for Jamaicans.
  • According to the Minister, the programme has provided critical support to families, higher levels of productivity, greater access to educational opportunities for children and access to farming technology and social amenities.

The 200,000th work permit under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP) in Canada was handed over to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in a ceremony at the Canadian High Commission in Kingston on June 30.

Minister of Labour, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Derrick Kellier, in his address, heaped praises on SAWP which has “contributed considerably to the capacity building potential” of the country through the provision of employment for Jamaicans.

“Over these many years, the evidence indicates that, at the micro level, the Canadian Overseas Employment Programme represents, beyond any shadow of doubt, a vital source of employment for many rural-based Jamaicans,” he said.

According to the Minister, the programme has provided critical support to families, higher levels of productivity, greater access to educational opportunities for children and access to farming technology and social amenities.

Minister Kellier also called for continued support for the programme as both countries work to ensure lasting success.

“Let us continue to work together in the interest of enterprising Jamaicans and the bold and visionary members of the Canadian private sector to the lasting success and benefit of the flourishing partnership between Jamaica and Canada,” he said.

For his part, Canadian High Commissioner, His Excellency Robert Ready, said the programme, which started almost 50 years ago, highlights the continued bilateral relationship between the two countries.

“Almost 50 years ago in 1966, when Canadian farmers in Holland Marsh, Ontario, asked the High Commission to approve work permits for 264 Jamaican farmers to…work for the summer…at that time we did not realise that this would evolve into the first and longest, continuous bilateral labour movements that we have,” he said.

Since then, Mr. Ready added, the demand for Jamaican workers has grown along with the enormous financial benefits to Jamaica.

“At the macro level I read with great interest that the Ministry…estimates that the remittance flow from the programme represents J$1.7 billion,” he said.

Another benefit, the High Commissioner highlighted, is the transfer of knowledge from Canadian farmers to Jamaican ones.

This, he said, has enabled many farmers in rural Jamaica to improve their own small farms and in some cases develop commercial farms and, in doing so, create employment and promote food security.

Mr. Ready said he is hopeful the programme will help to improve Jamaica’s food security through the modernisation of farming techniques and by encouraging “young Jamaicans to return to the agriculture industry” as the country moves towards achieving its Vision 2030 goal in this area.

The first work permit under the SAWP was issued in 1966 following the signing of a bilateral agreement between the Jamaican Government and the Federal Government of Canada for the supply of agricultural workers to Canada.

Last year approximately 7,700 Jamaican farm workers travelled Canada for the 2014/15 season. This figure does not include Jamaicans participating in the Canadian Low Skilled and Skilled Workers Programme.

Today, the programme has been expanded to include other Caribbean countries, namely Barbados, Trinidad, and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and Mexico.