Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Programs…a great investigative series

During my time as Canada’s High Commissioner to Jamaica, I had the opportunity to work with Jamaican Ministers and officials and Canadian agencies and employers on various aspects of Canada’s temporary foreign worker programs.

The Seasonal Agriculture Workers Program (SAWP) as all Jamaicans understand is a longstanding and tremendously important aspect of our bilateral relationship.  In existence for 50 years, it has proven to be a significant contributor to Jamaica’s economic well-being (in the form of the earnings that workers bring back home) as well as Canada’s (in the form of reliable, hard-working labour for Canadian growers and producers).  Estimates from the Jamaican government suggest that the remittance amount received each year from the program is comparable to what Canada’s significant development assistance program delivers in the country.

The SAWP, and the other temporary foreign worker programs in Canada, are complex, and at times controversial.  Some Canadians are not in favour of the idea of giving employment to foreign workers.  Some foreign workers believe that they are taken advantage of under the programs.

Canada’s National Post newspaper, and other sister publications, have put out a special series on the various issues around these programs.  Written by  2015-16 Michelle Lang Fellowship recipient Alia Dharssi, they examine how Canada’s temporary foreign worker program and immigration system is shaping the country’s economy.

I have been working my way through Ms. Dharssi’s  and wanted to share them with colleagues and followers in Jamaica. They make a very interesting read.

The stories can be found at this link.

The videos can be found as this link

There are twitter hashtags noted in the articles for those who want to jump into the debate.





Nothing beats getting personally involved

Canadian donors working with Jamaica Haiti to support education, health and livelihoods.

During my time as High Commissioner in Jamaica, I saw first hand the significant official cooperation that exists between Canada and Jamaica.  Programs focussed on justice reform and citizen security; entrepreneurship; public finance; military and police cooperation; disaster preparation et.  To represent Canada in the context of the delivery of these programs was an honour.  However, as these programs tended to be large-scale and multi-year, it was sometimes difficult to really connect, on a personal level, with the people benefitting from them.

I considered myself very fortunate, then, to have been able to make a connection with Food for the Poor, in particular its Canadian arm, Food for the Poor Canada, through Executive Director, Samantha Mafood, along with Ray and Donette Chang , Thalia Lyn and a number of others.

Through this contact, I was invited to participate in a school build in Accompong, near Ray Chang’s birthplace.  Being in physical contact with the project (I helped to paint the school) and the children who were the beneficiaries, as well as the donors who made the build possible, was inspiring.  Building a school was certainly on a smaller scale than the large development projects that Canada funds in Jamaica.  However, the intangible satisfaction from being able to personally help with the physical and financial effort to touch children and their community has always stayed with me.

Joanne and I have returned to Canada now and I have retired from government service.  However, I still seek to maintain connection with Jamaica (a land we love :)) by serving on the Board of Directors of Food the Poor Canada.

The organization is on a multi-year mission to increase the contribution to helping build Jamaica and Haiti and other countries in the Caribbean.  We are focussing on education (building and equipping schools), health (providing water, feeding programs and housing as well as pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and supplies) and livelihoods (i.e. bee farming).

Food for the Poor Canada has just recently updated its website presence.  I would invite you to take a look at it, it is good reading.  And while you are at it, sign up for the newsletter, and watch for what we are planning.  After doing so, if you feel you are in a position to help the organization continue to deliver its contribution to Jamaica, we would love to hear from you.