Maybe it was because the planets nearly aligned to provide a powerful “Christmas Star” to wish upon – maybe not.
All Marlon Gay knows is the only thing he asked for – a flight home – came true.
Gay along with the four remaining Trinidad and Tobago workers stranded at E Z Grow Farms managed to secure seats on Dec. 28 for the final flight of 2020 to their home country.
Why it matters: A temporary foreign worker program that functions both for workers and farmers is critical to Canada’s food system.
After months of watching his one-year-old daughter try to kiss and hug him through the phone Gay will finally be able to wrap her in his arms.
“Everyone’s overjoyed,” he said in an email, days before his flight. “Everything is moving so fast all of a sudden.”
Gay’s family will be spending time in Tobago over the holidays, celebrating with grandparents while he is in quarantine.
Gay said all the workers are thankful for the attention the media have brought to their plight and the pressure it’s put on the governments to act.
“Thank you for all you and your team has done for all us farmworkers,” he said. “(We) really appreciate it.”
The fact remains there are still hundreds of Trinidad and Tobago workers stranded in Ontario who won’t be home before the end of the year.
Brett Schuyler, of Schuyler Farms, is frustrated that none of his 92 remaining workers had a seat booked on the Dec. 28 flight.
“It’s really challenging to figure out how they make the decisions there,” he said.
One employee at Schuyler Farm is approximately halfway through her pregnancy and won’t be able to fly at all by February.
Schuyler hasn’t stopped advocating for her exemption to fly home but continues to come up against a brick wall.
“There’s no one to talk to when you’re trying to push – you have emails you can send into to do whatever you can,” he said. “But it’s not like I’ve been able to talk to the person on the other end that makes these decisions. I just keep trying.”
Support from the local and Trinidad-Canadian community has certainly helped lend the holiday season some island flair at the Schulyer farm.
An abundance of West Indies traditional holiday foods and drinks were dropped off, said Schuyler, including Sorrel, a traditional Christmas beverage incorporating dried sorrel, cinnamon sticks, star anise, orange peel and sugar to taste. Much like Canadians with eggnog – a splash or two of Rum adds an extra kick for the adults.
“There’s been a whole bunch of Trinny (Christmas) traditions that I’m starting to learn about,” he said, adding he’s even had his first taste of Sorrel.
Thanks to generous donations, each worker has a gift bag under the tree to open and the Schuylers have incorporated fun events like tree decorating contests and bunkhouses being decked out in holiday bling to keep spirits up and ensure everyone has a Merry Christmas.
“There were a few comments from different Trinidadians that it felt like Trinidad in the housing,” he said. “Their decorations are more over-the-top; balloons plastered on the ceiling, streamers everywhere. It’s just beautiful stuff.”
Schuyler said there is a small contingent of his workers who are desperate to get home, but most are getting comfortable with the idea of staying until the new season begins.
“Some people are quite happy to be in Canada,” he said. “It’s a range, you have your bachelor up here versus the person with four kids at home.”