Jamaica addresses claims of sexual harassment by migrants
Leamington Mayor John Paterson accuses migrant workers of making 'lewd comments' to women
The Jamaican government is watching Leamington, Ont., closely after the town's mayor took public exception to Jamaican migrant workers making what he called "lewd comments" to local women.
John Paterson raised the issue at a police board meeting in August.
At that meeting, Paterson specifically said Jamaican migrant workers have been making inappropriate comments to women that make 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 told CBC News in August.
Some Jamaican government officials, including the Minister of Labour and Social Security, Derrick Kellier, recently met with the mayor.
Paterson said the meeting with Jamaican officials ended on a positive note.
"The high commissioner said it the best. She says, 'we want to build bridges.' That's how we left that meeting, feeling very, very positive," Paterson said. "[They] would help us find a way to make our community more receptive to the Jamaican workers that are here."
Paterson said Jamaican liaison officers are meeting with the town's migrant workers.
"Improving relationships between Jamaicans and Canadians is a high priority for the Jamaican prime minister and the government and, as such, we are discussing practical steps to improve the current situation," Kellier said.
Kellier said one important measure to be taken will be the strengthening of the ministry’s pre-departure orientation program to sensitize migrant workers about rules, regulations and cultural practices in Canada and the United States.
Mitchell Baker, a former migrant worker from Jamaica, doesn't believe the mayor's claim. Baker said migrant workers are simply saying hi to passers-by. Baker said saying hello isn't a sign of disrespect.
"If the person don't say hi back, it's no problem. That's no harassment. Saying hi is no harassment," Baker said. "They feel like the black men ... don't have no respect, aren't showing none, but we have a lot of respect because we're brought up good."
Baker would also like to see the people of Leamington and migrant workers come together.
Upwards of 6,000 migrant workers come to work seasonally in Leamington, the greenhouse and tomato capital of Canada.