The group is comprised of 17 males from St. Kitts and two males from Nevis. On Monday (July 13), the group participated in a very productive briefing session with officials from the Department of Labour. Several areas discussed at the forum held at the NEMA Conference Room included travel arrangements to and from Canada; COVID-19 related protocols; housing arrangements while in Canada, and support systems while there.
Minister of Labour, the Honourable Wendy Phipps, welcomed the decision of the persons who willingly registered to participate in this year’s programme. She said that “the Cabinet looks at this as an opportunity to guarantee employment to some of our citizens.”
“We do thank you for agreeing to participate. We realize that for some of you, it is not an easy decision because while it is an opportunity for you to have employment, it also means separation from your family. But then it also comes at a time when you probably would have made the hard decision that you have to eat, and you have to provide for your family,” Minister Phipps stated.
Protocols are in place to protect the persons against COVID-19. Firstly, all individuals were tested for the coronavirus. Once the results are negative, the individuals will be transported to St. Lucia on Thursday, with assistance from the Regional Security System (RSS). They will then link up with other persons from other territories and eventually proceed to Canada by private flight facilitated by the Canadian government. Each local traveller will be provided with a small supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) from the St. Kitts-Nevis government. It includes gloves, facemasks and a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer.
Upon arrival to Canada, the Caribbean workers will be tested for COVID-19, quarantined for 14 days and tested again after, as is the standard in many countries around the world. Minister Phipps encouraged the local participants to cooperate fully with all protocols and guidelines while in Canada. She stressed the importance of wearing facemasks, practising good hand hygiene and social distancing from others as effective ways to protect against COVID-19.
The Minister of Labour stated that the Kittitian and Nevisian workers would not be isolated while away.
“The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis does have [a] diplomatic presence in Canada,” Minister Phipps said, noting that the contact details for the High Commissioner’s office in Ottawa, Ontario will be included in their briefing package.
“In Toronto, there is also a representative for the farmworkers programme, an OECS employee, Mr Olaf Fontenelle, whom you are free to approach if you are in any type of difficulty. And of course, you’re always free to make contact with us here in St. Kitts and Nevis should you require any type of assistance,” the minister added.
Deputy Labour Commissioner Deon Webb noted that the workers would be in Canada for three months with the possibility of extension for one year.