The government, farmers, and members of the community are all pitching in to help Trinidadian and Tobagonian farm workers unable to travel home for the holidays
By Jackie Clark
More than 300 farm workers from Trinidad and Tobago are stranded away from home this holiday season. The federal and provincial government and community members are showing support through logistics, funding, and holiday cheer.
As reported by Farms.com Dec. 14, the government of Trinidad and Tobago is refusing to let most of the workers travel back home.
Immigration status for workers was set to end on Dec. 15, however the federal government advised farmers to apply for work permit extensions, Brett Schuyler, farmer at Schuyler Farms Ltd., told Farms.com. The farm employed about 100 workers from Trinidad and Tobago this past season.
“It was very last minute, we actually got a notification Sunday on what to do,” he explained. “So, we got everybody’s applications in. … That should keep everybody active for employment insurance (EI) and OHIP.”
Producers are still waiting on details and confirmation from the federal government, however “we’re pretty confident everybody will continue to get EI and be supported that way,” he added.
Today, Ernie Hardeman, provincial minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, announced the intention to provide funding support for farmers with stranded workers.
“Our hearts go out to these stranded workers who may not be able to get home for the holidays,” Hardeman said in a Dec. 16 statement. “While the federal government is working with consular officials to resolve the issue as soon as possible, farmers continue to be responsible for supporting workers and providing housing until they leave to return to their home country.”
The federal and provincial governments “are working to add a targeted, special category of funding under the federal-provincial Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program that will help farmers cover incremental costs incurred to ensure the health and safety of stranded temporary foreign workers from Trinidad and Tobago. Eligible expenses would include accommodations, meals, winter clothing, heaters, equipment, PPE, cleaning supplies, communications, and transportation costs,” he explained in the statement.
“If we can make use of (that funding) we will,” Schuyler said. “We’re the largest employer of Trinidadian workers, housing 100 people for the winter. it would be nice to get some help with that.”
Other Ontarians have showed up to support the stranded workers.
“There’s been a ton of food donations, a lot of people in the local community contributing and Trinidadian-Canadians, people that immigrated over the last 40 years, bringing in specialty groceries,” Schuyler explained.
The farmers are also planning a decorating contest and light show, to try to bring cheer to an unfortunate situation.
“Through community support I think our whole farm is going to be lit up,” Schuyler said. “I think it’s going to look pretty awesome here come Christmas time.”
Hardeman commended the support for the workers from farmers and the community.
“I want the workers from Trinidad and Tobago to know that they have our appreciation and our support until they can get home,” he said.
Iryna Mylinska\iStock\Getty Images Plus photo