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JIS News

When Rupert Douglas went to Canada as a farm worker for the first time in 1972, a lot of things were different.
For one, his salary was 65 cents per hour and the Ontario farm on which he worked, H. W. Holdings Limited, only produced peaches.
Thirty-seven years later, the Port Antonio native is still making the trip every year from Jamaica to Canada, but his salary is now approximately C$9.50 per hour.
Even the Canadian farm on which he has worked for so many years has changed. No longer just a peach farm, the owners have diversified into the planting of cherries and pears, and process cherries and peaches.
Speaking with JIS News recently, the 67-year-old Mr. Douglas and fellow co-workers, 65-year-old Izett Brown and 45-year-old Jonathan Kirkpatrick, said that the Farm Work Programme has literally saved their lives and the lives of their families. The three have together logged close to 100 years at the same Canadian farm.
Mr. Kirkpatrick, who hails from Spanish Town, St. Catherine, and who first came on the programme in 1987, told JIS News that: “if it wasn’t for this programme, I wouldn’t be able to send my kids to school or have a house.”
His daughter graduated last year from the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies and now practices at a health facility in Spanish Town.
“I have to thank the boss for giving me this opportunity to stay with them this long. I just work hard to get along. It’s not the best job and it’s not the worst job; but you have to make use of it,” Mr. Kirkpatrick said.
Mr. Brown, who hails from Brighton, St. Elizabeth, admitted that the workers spend more time in Canada than in Jamaica, but it is a sacrifice they are willing to make.
“I have encountered Canadian winter,” said Mr. Douglas, recalling that one year he went back to Jamaica just a few days before Christmas.
The farm, H.W. Smith Holdings Ltd., takes only Jamaican workers and 23 arrived on April 3, including the three men. John Smith, the owner of the farm, said the three men are the core of the 67 Jamaican workers that he will have on the farm when it is in full production this year.
“These men are the ones who come early in the season and the last to leave at the end of the season. These are three nice guys out of a group of really nice guys,” Mr. Smith said.
He said that for the 43 years that he has been a part of the Farm Work Programme, he has only taken Jamaican workers because “Jamaican workers are the best”.
Approximately 6,000 Jamaican workers are expected in Canada this year to work on Canadian farms.

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