Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
There has been a deafening silence from the Government more than one month after a Canadian mayor and several of his councillors disrespected Jamaican farm workers by labelling them serial sexual harassers.
Instead of the Portia Simpson Miller administration defending the reputation of the Jamaicans, their fight has been taken up by the Canadian group, Justicia for Migrant Workers.
Attempts by The Sunday Gleaner to get a comment from the Ministry of Labour about the vexing statements concerning the Jamaican workers have so far been unsuccessful.
Minister of Labour Derrick Kellier has failed to respond to questions sent to him more than one week ago, while other officials in the ministry have also not commented.
In August, CBC News in Canada reported that John Patterson, mayor of Leamington in Ontario, raised the issue of Jamaicans sexually harassing women at a police services board meeting.
According to CBC, Paterson claimed Jamaican migrant workers have been making inappropriate comments to women and making them feel uncomfortable.
"Not to be bigoted, not to be racist, not to be anything, it is directly related to some of the Jamaican migrant workers that are here," Paterson reportedly said.
GOING ON FOR YEARS
The Leamington mayor also claimed that the aggressive and unwanted sexual advances displayed by the Jamaican migrant workers towards the town's women have been ongoing for years.
While pointing out that he doesn't want the workers to leave the town, the mayor suggested that perhaps that kind of deviant behaviour was acceptable in Jamaica.
"Maybe it's appropriate back in your hometown, but here, it's not. So stop," Patterson said, as he was supported by Councillor Larry Verbeke.
"They're different. They walk four or five abreast, they won't get out of the way like the Mexicans do," Verbeke said of Jamaican migrant workers.
"It's to the point where we need migrant workers, however, it's hurting our downtown. Nobody wants to come downtown," added Verbeke.
NO HARASSMENT COMPLAINTS
However, the Ontario Provincial Police have said they had not received any harassment complaints about Jamaican migrant workers.
This caused the all-volunteer advocacy group Justicia for Migrant Workers to rip into the mayor.
In response to Sunday Gleaner questions last week, Chris Ramsaroop, organiser of Justicia for Migrant Workers, said the mayor has not recanted and the advocacy group has not altered its position on the mayor's statements.
"We believe that the mayor's comments are extremely insensitive at best, at worst has the potential to further accentuate tensions between the local community and the migrant worker community. The question we have for the mayor is what steps is the local community taking to address their own racism towards migrant workers," declared Ramsaroop.
He added: "We believe that the mayor's comments reflect a larger issue of the lack of inclusive practices by the local community towards the migrant workers. The comments are dangerous as they attack migrant workers and show how racial stereotypes are used to criminalise an entire community."
Ramsaroop also categorised the mayor's comments as racial stereotypes "that are being played on by the mayor and the few councillors that support his claims".
"It is very dangerous how they are portraying migrant workers. They don't feel welcomed in the community. Where was the mayor when migrant workers complained of sexual harassment? It sends a statement that migrant workers are not welcomed in the Leamington community," said Ramsaroop, who added that the town of Leamington needed "to face its own racist problems".
While the Government of Jamaica remains mum, Ramsaroop said Justicia for Migrant Workers will continue to monitor the situation and speak out for the Jamaicans.