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A cry from the heart in the Islands for Mexican workers without visas

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Mar21,2024

Cry of the heart in the Islands for Mexican workers without visas

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At Pêcheries Léomar, the 90 Mexican workers expected to arrive next week are still without a visa. (Archive photo)

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The mayor and the MP for Îles-de-la-Madeleine are sounding the alarm in Ottawa. Without a quick visa waiver for Mexican workers, they fear that some marine processing plants will not be able to open their doors this year, which would have serious consequences for the archipelago's economy.

According to the Municipality of Îles-de-la-Madeleine, more than 75% of the 226 workers hired by Madelinot marine product processors are currently stuck in Mexico, without a visa.< /p>

The vast majority of them are, however, expected for the start of the snow crab season which should open in around ten days in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

On February 29, Ottawa announced that some Mexican travelers will need a visa to enter Canada. Less than a month before the start of the snow crab fishery, the measure took the industry by surprise.

The mayor, Antonin Valiquette, and the MP for Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Joël Arseneau, fear other closures like the one announced Monday by Fruits de mer de l'Est du Québec and disastrous consequences for the Madelinian economy if Mexican labor does not arrive on time.

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It is not possible to operate a factory with only local workers. If we need Mexican workers, it is to maintain activities. It's all or nothing.

A quote from Antonin Valiquette, mayor of the Magdalen Islands

Without these workers, these factories will not be able to operate, with the result that landings will have to take place elsewhere, in the Maritimes, or even in the United States, adds Joël Arseneau.

We saw the decision taken in Matane and it is not inconceivable that the closures affect other factories of Quebec, because we have an imperative need to have foreign labor.

A quote from Joël Arseneau, MP for Îles-de-la-Madeleine

The fishermen of Newfoundland and Labrador decided to stay at the dock in April when they learned of the price offered for the crab.

The mayor of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine underlines that 300 Madelinots also work in the processing factories of the archipelago.

The impact [of factory closures] could potentially be fatal, it will be a big blow, causing extremely serious and probably irreparable damage to our primary economy, shellfish fishing. In the Magdalen Islands, it is the heart of our economy, he explains.

Four Madelinian companies are awaiting the arrival of Mexican workers.

Pêcheries Léomar, which bought the assets of LA Renaissance des Îles, has recruited 130 employees from from Mexico, 90 of whom, still without visas, are expected next week for the start of crab fishing.

The co-owner of Pêcheries Léomar, Gabriel Vigneau, specifies that the procedures have accelerated in the last 48 hours and remains hopeful that the workers will arrive on time, as planned. Mr. Vigneau believes that the closure of the Matane plant and political pressure contributed to making things happen.

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Pêcheries Léomar is expecting 90 workers next week to work in its Grande-Entrée factory, specializing in the processing of snow crab. These are always visa-free. (File photo)

As for Fruits de mer Madeleine, we confirm that 49 of the 62 expected Mexican workers already have their visas in hand and will be able to arrive on Tuesday. The Étang-du-Nord plant will therefore be able to open in time for the first landings of snow crab.

In addition, Pêcheries S.B.L. and the Cap Dauphin Cooperative are expecting 8 and 25 Mexican workers respectively at the end of April for lobster fishing.

Joël Arseneau and Antonin Valiquette are asking Ottawa for a visa exemption for Mexican workers, in order to speed up their arrival in the country.

They deplore that the federal government imposed the return of a work visa to Mexicans, without notice, without worrying about the consequences on the fishing industry.

It’s as if we were saying that we no longer accept foreign workers in agriculture and that we are letting the fruit rot in the fields. This is exactly what will happen in fisheries if we do not act before the end of the week.

A quote from Joël Arseneau, MP for Îles-de-la-Madeleine

Ottawa's decision is described as irresponsible by the mayor of Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

It is important that the federal government understands the full extent of the impact of this decision and that it acts accordingly and urgently, says Antonin Valiquette

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The mayor of Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Antonin Valiquette, demands that the federal government act quickly to ensure the arrival of Mexican workers. (Archive photo)

We want to save the day because there is already a major crisis in the fisheries sector. We cannot add more with a measure like that, specifies Joël Arseneau.

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“The federal government must act, it can act, maintains Joël Arseneau. It is a question of political will. » (Archive photo)

The MP for Îles-de-la-Madeleine wrote to the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and MP for Gaspésie–Les Îles, Diane Lebouthillier, to request rapid action from Ottawa.

Radio-Canada questioned Diane Lebouthillier on the subject. She simply redirected the written response she had already sent on March 11, to the effect that she was in communication with the federal Minister of Immigration, Marc Miller, in order to find a passage for these workers as soon as possible.

Quebec Minister of Immigration, Francisation and Integration, Christine Fréchette, deplores Ottawa's lack of preparation in the matter.

We would have expected the federal government to prepare more for this measure […] C& #x27;it's up to him to rectify the situation, believes Christine Fréchette.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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