As host of the 2013 Review Meeting of the Canada/Caribbean Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (CCSAWP), I take great pleasure in extending a very warm Jamaican welcome to everyone here this afternoon. A very special welcome to our friends who have travelled from overseas to be here with us today and for the rest of this week as we seek to deliberate and make crucial decisions on matters concerning the future of the Programme.
I want to welcome our Canadian Employers, the delegation from FARMS as well as the representatives from British Columbia. As you know, without the investment and of our employers this programme would not be possible. The partnership between Canadian employers and the Caribbean has been in place for close to 50 years. I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to strengthen the collaboration with you for at least another 50 years.
We are extremely thankful for the significant contribution that the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme is making in the development of our economies particularly its positive impact on employment. We would not have achieved this without the support, cooperation and guidance of the Canadian Authorities. Allow me to welcome the representatives from Service Canada and the High Commission of Canada in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
Service Canada is the branch of the Canadian Government which is vested with the authority to regulate the terms and conditions under which the workers under the SAWP are hired by the employer and are allowed to work in Canada. The High Commissions work with the teams of Ministries of Labour around the Region on a daily basis to ensure that the visas are prepared to facilitate the timely dispatch of the workers to their employers. Please accept a warm, hospitable Jamaican welcome.
I want to also welcome members of the delegations from our sister islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Montserrat. I am sure I speak for all when I say that we are grateful that the number of workers that we have been able to send to Canada has remained consistent and, in some cases, has grown.
Since 2007, the global economy has been struggling to overcome an employment crisis the likes of which none of us has seen before. Developed and developing countries alike have all had their share of economic downturn, instability in financial markets and increased joblessness.
Within this context, small open economies like ours face so many challenges as we attempt to address the ills of our society which threaten to undermine both political and economic stability, diminish the quality of life of our people and result in the dislocation of the most vulnerable. Some of these include, high debt burden, high inflation and low growth rates.
In addition, we frequently contend with the effects of natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural phenomenon. Over the years, our agriculture has taken a battering from these and entire crops have been wiped out. Of course, this impacts negatively on the viability of the agricultural sector and the potential to generate high levels of sustained employment. This is one more reason that we are grateful for the contribution of the CSAWP.
At a time when there is so much uncertainty around us, so many changes taking place on a daily basis it gives us some degree of comfort knowing that we can count on the stability of the programme and its many benefits to our workers and, by extension, our economies. It is also an opportune time to reflect on the past in order to determine the way forward and so I would like to reiterate the importance of this meeting.
Coming together in this fashion at the end of each season gives us a chance to address any issues which may be a having a negative impact on the operation of the programme. We also get the opportunity to discuss, deliberate and negotiate on matters which directly or indirectly affect the worker in his/her place of employment. Don’t forget the chance to share ideas and to nurture and deepen the bonds which have been created as we maintain regular contact over the years.
The sustainability and longevity of the SAWP even in the face of a global employment crisis speaks to the depth of the partnership between Canada and the participating countries. This programme has survived restructured trade regimes, economic recessions and negative publicity and has remained alive and strong. This reflects the demonstrated care and commitment of all stakeholders.
I would like to thank the staff of the Liaison Service and the team at the Ministry for the hard work that they put in everyday to make this work. I also want to express gratitude to the Management Committee of the Canadian Programme for the oversight and general management of the programme. Thanks to the members of the organising team for your efforts in putting this meeting together. I am sure that it will be a great success.
Let me express profound thanks to all of you for taking the time to come and join us for this very important meeting. When we have dispensed with all the formalities an exciting set of activities has been put together for your enjoyment. I invite you to partake of the offerings and to experience a taste of Jamaica. I guarantee that you will have an absolutely fantastic time. Do enjoy.
Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your attention.