ELIZABETH GONZALES AND JADA LOUTOO
MIGRANT farm workers will be granted an exemption to go to Canada as part of the seasonal agricultural workers programme at their own risk, Minister of National Security Stuart Young said on Wednesday.
Young said at the Ministry of Health’s covid19 briefing, the workers will be asked to sign a letter which will indemnify the State if they contract covid19 while in Canada.
If they wish to return before this country’s borders are reopened, they would be required make their own travel arrangements and cover the cost of their 14-day quarantine period.
“We, the government, have warned them but we are not going to stand in the way of them wanting to leave,” Young said.
“Health care in Canada isn’t free, and if infected with covid19 they will be unable to get medical attention for free.”
Contacted by Newsday after the minister's announcement, two of the farm workers – Sidique Ali Hosein and farm supervisor Embling O’Garro – were elated.
"It feels good that they are willing to give us a chance," O'Garro said.
Ali Hosein said they hope by the end of the week, or next week, to have the details finalised, including flight plans.
Both men said as part of the programme, they receive a health card which allows them to get medical treatment. This is valid until the day they leave. They are also given a social security number so they can make contributions.
Ali Hosein said the farmers who hire the migrant workers were streamlining the insurance coverage.
O'Garro and Hosein said they were both willing to sign the indemnity letters.
While Ali Hosein said he is prepared to cover his quarantine bill if it comes to that, O'Garro said he needed more information on the cost involved.
O’Garro and 54 others were expected to leave on March 18. Canada closed its borders then, followed by TT, but soon after the Canadian authorities deemed farm workers essential and gave them permission to enter.
“Our flights were already booked, work permits already granted, our visas’ stamped and our feet already on the plane.
“Every other country in the programme has already sent their workers. It is only TT that is out of Canada. A diplomatic note and a full dossier were sent by the Canadian Government...But, while we are waiting for Cabinet, Guatemala, Mexico, and even this week, St Lucia have sent their nationals,” O’Garro told Newsday in a previous interview.