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Labour Minister Dr. Virginia Albert-Poyotte has announced a full investigation into reports that Saint Lucian farm workers suffered ill-treatment in Canada.
“The OECS and the Labour Department that is responsible for the farm workers in Canada – they are actually carrying out a full investigation,” the former trade unionist told reporters on Monday.
Last week, Saint Lucian Latoya Ben claimed that female workers were subjected to physical and verbal abuse on a strawberry farm in Canada, including being called ‘hungry dogs’.
“I am fully aware of the situation but I cannot give you the details of what exactly transpired, to what extent what the lady said is true or not true. So when we get the report that is coming out of the investigation we will make it available to the media,” Albert-Poyotte stated.
She disclosed that the OECS will also issue a press statement.
“I leave the departments responsible for the workers that went to Canada to speak very forcefully and in detail in giving the public the necessary information that they need,” the Minister stated.
Forty Saint Lucian women made history earlier this year as the first batch of females to enroll in the seasonal farm workers programme in Nova Scotia, Canada.
But Jamaica is reported to have withdrawn its workers from four Canadian farms since the start of this year due to unacceptable conditions.
Migrants and migrant-led organizations in Canada are urging equal rights, benefits and essential services for migrants.
One of them is the grassroots movement for migrant workers’ rights – ‘No One Is Illegal’ (NOII).
On its Facebook page, NOII said it regularly receives reports of abuse from migrant farm workers throughout the province and is supporting workers to organise.
According to the group, temporary immigration status in Canada makes it difficult for migrant workers to speak out about the abuse they are experiencing.
NOII explained that those who speak out can be fired, sent back to their home country, and not called back again.
Headline photo: Stock image