Nationals of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) could soon be recruited to fill temporary positions in Canada’s hospitality and health care sectors, says Toronto-based Eastern Caribbean Liaison Service (ECLS) consul & chief liaison officer, Bernard John.
Close to 550 nationals from St. Lucia, St. Kitts/Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Montserrat, Dominica, Grenada and Antigua & Barbuda are in the Canadian Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program.
Antigua & Barbuda returned to the program this year after a 10-year absence.
Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program, which comprises seasonal agricultural workers, high and low skilled employees and live-in caregivers, helps address temporary labour shortages by allowing employers to hire foreign workers when sufficient numbers of Canadian workers are not readily available.
“We are looking for opportunities for our citizens that are outside the sphere of agriculture,” said John who replaced Egbert Lionel of St. Lucia last year. “There is an abundance of individuals in our territories with the skills that can fill shortages there are in Canada. In St. Vincent & the Grenadines, there is a nursing school that has trained more nurses and other health-care providers than we can use.”
OECS nationals are employed on farms in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and British Columbia. The majority of about 200 are from St. Vincent & the Grenadines.
John said the participants’ role in Canada go beyond just working on the farms.
“Last year, an employer and his family visited Dominica for the first time and was so overwhelmed by the experience that he told me he plans to go back next year,” said John. “That trip was based on his Dominican employee selling the island to him. That’s not an isolated case and I am going to encourage our tourism officials to ensure that employers receive brochures about the various OECS islands.”
The ECSL has had a presence in Toronto for nearly 35 years. The office recently moved from downtown to 200 Consumers Rd. in Willowdale.
“We needed more space because we expect to perform some of the services that were done out of the OECS High Commission in Ottawa which is scheduled to close,” he said.
John served as St. Vincent & the Grenadines’ Consul General for four years before returning home in 2007 to become the director of communications in his country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also ran a public relations and advertising firm before coming back to Toronto in March 2010.
In addition to John, the ECSL staff comprises assistant liaison officer Charmaine Williams from St. Vincent & the Grenadines and administrative assistants Daphne Telesford of Grenada and St. Lucian Edith Augustine.