By Sue-Ann Wayow
THE Canadian Government has reached out to stranded Trinidad and Tobago nationals working on farms in Canada.
They will now be able to apply for open work permits while they wait to return home.
With the open work permits they will be able to access health care and employment insurance.
The Canada Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) published on its website on Wednesday that the office of the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC) issued a statement saying the Canadian government was “seized” with the situation and working to ensure T&T nationals have access to housing and other services.
The article was published the day after National Security Minister Stuart Young and Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne met with Canadian High Commissioner Kumar Gupta to discuss the repatriation of farm workers in Canada.
An email from press secretary Alexander Cohen stated, “IRCC has issued a public policy that allows the workers to apply for an open work permit, which will formalize their status and help them get access to health care and employment insurance, among other support measures.”
Advocacy group Justice for Migrant Workers described the open work permits as a “proactive step,” but said more details are needed and that open work permits should be provided for all migrants, CBC stated.
CBC reported, “Staff with the IRCC and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) say they have been working to help the workers fill out applications before their current permits expired on Dec. 15 and making sure they know about what services are available. ESDC also says it’s working with local authorities and consular officials to look after the workers and help them return as soon as possible.”
The news agency spoke with several nationals in Canada who said they were just trying to make ends meet.
Kenneth Sookdeo, a worker at Schuyler Farms near Simcoe, Ont., previously told CBC that he had applied for employment insurance but was rejected.
Most of the money earned during the pandemic was sent back to families in Trinidad and Tobago.
He said, “It’s just whatever little that we have in savings. That is what we are using right now to buy our groceries.”
Sidique Ali-Hosein, another worker stuck at Schuyler Farms, lamented being away from his family especially during the holiday season.
He told the CBC, “As bad as it is with Covid and everything, you’re still looking forward to spending that time with your siblings and extended family and having that special time. You know, that Christmas spirit. It was a huge sacrifice for everybody to leave their family and come over here and work to get an income to go back. It was kind of heart-wrenching.”