The OECS Commission facilitated yet another charter flight to assist farmworkers with travel to Canada. This marks the 3rd charter flight for 2021, since commercial flight cancellations between Canada and the Eastern Caribbean due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
The OECS Commission, through its Eastern Caribbean Liaison Service (ECLS), has defied all odds to continue expanding participation of OECS nationals in the Canada-Caribbean Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme – with over 1000 OECS workers in 2020 contributing approximately EC$37 Million dollars in remittances among the OECS and with similar expectations for 2021, amid the travel limitations and health risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 1st charter flight, scheduled to depart St. Vincent and the Grenadines on April 9th was delayed due to the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano and the subsequent implementation of emergency security measures.
Despite these difficulties, the OECS Commission has since mobilized 3 charter flights to move 318 OECS nationals to Canada – including 152 workers from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, many of whom are from communities in the red or orange zones and have been staying in shelters since the volcanic eruption. It is worth noting that these workers, along with their fellow OECS counterparts, will soon be gainfully employed and able to support their families and communities – this is especially important to the ongoing relief and rebuilding efforts in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Once again, OECS farmworkers have displayed resilience and courage as they venture back to Canada for employment in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec, and a new addition – Saskatchewan, where 2 women from the Commonwealth of Dominica will commence employment as the first OECS farm workers in that province.