St. Lucia (OECS Commission)- On Thursday, May 13th, the OECS Commission facilitated yet another charter flight to assist farm workers with travel to Canada.
This marks the 3rd charter flight for 2021, since commercial flight cancellations between Canada and the Eastern Caribbean due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
The OECS Commission, through its Eastern Caribbean Liaison Service (ECLS), has defied all odds to continue expanding participation of OECS nationals in the Canada-Caribbean Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme – with over 1000 OECS workers in 2020 contributing approximately EC$37 Million dollars in remittances among the OECS and with similar expectations for 2021, amid the travel limitations and health risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 1st charter flight, scheduled to depart St. Vincent and the Grenadines on April 9th was delayed due to the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano and the subsequent implementation of emergency security measures.
Despite these difficulties, the OECS Commission has since mobilized 3 charter flights to move 318 OECS nationals to Canada – including 152 workers from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, many of whom are from communities in the red or orange zones and have been staying in shelters since the volcanic eruption.
It is worth noting that these workers, along with their fellow OECS counterparts, will soon be gainfully employed and able to support their families and communities – this is especially important to the ongoing relief and rebuilding efforts in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Once again, OECS farm workers have displayed resilience and courage as they venture back to Canada for employment in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec, and a new addition – Saskatchewan, where 2 women from the Commonwealth of Dominica will commence employment as the first OECS farm workers in that province.
Strict COVID-19 ‘Health and Safety’ protocols continue to be reinforced by the OECS Commission in close collaboration with Ministries of Labour, Ministries of Health, and Canadian authorities, prior to the departure of the workers.
Some of the revised 2021 Health and Safety protocols are as follows:
1. Covid-19 testing, within 72 hours prior to departure, so that test results can be presented on arrival in Canada;
2. Workers provided with travel kits containing face masks and hand sanitizer;
3. COVID-19 vaccinations administered to interested workers on arrival in Canada;
4. Workers to be quarantined for 14 days on arrival in Canada – WITH FULL PAY;
5. Additional supplementary insurance to cover workers for all eventualities, including with COVID-19;
6. Farm accommodations have been sanitized under the supervision of Canadian Health authorities and the ECLS; and
7. Each farm has an appointed worker representative and is part of a WhatsApp group with the ECLS team in Canada with 24-hour hotline support.