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Minister of Labour and Social Security, Horace Dalley, expects that by the year 2007, there should be at least 7,000 Jamaican men and women working in Canada, as part of the overseas employment programme.
“Last year was our best year in Canada. We had 5,700 workers and 576 Canadian employers. My mission is for Jamaican workers to reach the 7,000 mark by 2007,” he said.
The Minister was addressing Jamaican farm workers on the DiCiccio tomato farm in Leamington, Ontario, Canada, during his annual tour of Canadian farms where Jamaicans are employed, to speak with employers and workers and to inspect workers’ accommodations. While on his six-day visit to Canada (September 13 to 19), Mr. Dalley and his delegation, which included Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Canada, Carl Marshall and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Alvin McIntosh, visited nine vegetable, fruit and tobacco farms which employ more than 220 Jamaicans. Although the Minister visited farms only in the province of Ontario, Jamaican workers are also in Nova Scotia and the French province of Quebec.
Expanding on his vision for the programme, the Minister said the expansion would be achieved by increasing the training of Jamaicans and then exporting those skills. He noted that the first workers sent overseas were cane cutters, adding that Jamaican workers were now skilled in several areas. He said for the first time next year, Canada would take Jamaican workers in the hotel industry.
“In the United States, we are now sending trainee middle-level managers. We are going to go out and aggressively find the jobs for our workers,” Mr. Dalley said.
The opening of a sub-office earlier this year in the heart of the farming community of Leamington would also help to increase the number of workers in Canada, by making Jamaican workers more accessible to Canadian employers, he said.
Describing the farm workers as true ambassadors of Jamaica, the Minister encouraged them to continue to lift the flag of Jamaica high.
“Remember, every time you walk on the road, every time you go into a store, you must go in as a proud Jamaican and lift the flag high,” he said.
Mr. Dalley reminded the workers that their employment in Canada was beneficial to both Jamaica and Canada. “Work and make money for your employers and make their businesses successful. If they are successful, you are successful,” he added.
At Great Northern Hydroponics, a tomato greenhouse which employs both male and female workers, the Minister noted that the management had indicated their satisfaction with Jamaican workers by increasing the number of workers this year.
The farm, which last year employed 39 workers, has this year increased that number to 55 workers – 25 females and 30 males.
Member of the Farm Work Management Committee, Vin Morrison told the workers that the Government of Jamaica has placed a lot of emphasis on the programme and was working to improve it.
However, he said there would be no improvement if workers break their contracts and leave the programme. Those workers who disappear, he said, only succeed in hurting the programme, so “you should learn, earn and return” to Jamaica.
Other members of the delegation included Barrington Bailey, Director of Manpower in the Ministry; John Wright, Chief Liaison Officer; Vernon Melhado, Deputy Chief Liaison Officer; and Steven Day, Liaison Officer in charge of the Leamington sub-office.
The Canadian Farm Work Programme began in 1964 with 150 workers.