Tyrone Reid, Reporter
As reports about rape and sexual abuse of undocumented female farm workers in the United States mushroom, a Jamaican woman who worked on a farm in Canada has claimed that she also faced sexual harassment at the hand of her foreign employer.
According to the woman, whose name is being withheld, the incident happened on her first tour of duty.
She said they were at a staff party when her boss, a Caucasian male, assaulted her.
“He walked over to me and touched me on my butt. He tapped me, like a clap (on my bottom). I looked at him to see if it was a mistake and he looked back at me so I said nothing more, I just stepped away from close where he was and went somewhere else to stand up,” recounted the woman as she recalled the dehumanising encounter.
She said it didn’t stop there, as her boss pursued her in an attempt to get her to consent to a sexual relationship.
“From then, I noticed that he just started looking at me but I was not up to what he is into, so I didn’t even bother pay him any mind,” she explained.
The female farm worker is convinced that her brush with sexual harassment was not due to an inadvertent touch.
“I wanted to say something to him, that I am not into that, but I looked at him and the look that I got, you know that woman-to-man look, that’s the look I got from him so I just moved myself away from there,” she said.
The woman claimed her boss repeatedly made suggestive sexual comments to her.
“At times, I am uncomfortable around him,” she said. In addition to being pursued by her boss, she was also being stalked by the fear that if she did not give in she might well lose her job.
However, that’s a price she was willing to pay. “It is better I lose it (the job) than lose my morals and standards,” she stressed.
So far, this is the only case of sexual harassment in the Canadian farm-work programme confirmed by The Sunday Gleaner, but she is adamant that she is not the only woman to have been sexually harassed.
“The other girls don’t want to speak up. People have faced it but they don’t want to come forward …,” she said.
Efforts to get a comment from Derrick Kellier, minister of labour and social security, and Alvin McIntosh, permanent secretary in that ministry, were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, former labour and social security minister, Pearnel Charles, told The Sunday Gleaner that he had never received a report of that nature during his tenure in office.
“I have never had any complaint from any worker of having been sexually harassed or raped while living in Canada. If it happened they have never complained to any agents or to me, or representatives that report back to me, so I couldn’t comment on that,” he said.
Charles added that if a case of sexual harassment or rape involving a female farm worker from Jamaica ever came before the ministry, the Government would respond swiftly and forthrightly.
The former labour minister also questioned why the farm worker did not make an official report of the harassment she reportedly had to endure.
“You can’t take one worker among 10,000 workers and make a story that detracts from the country’s best overseas programme, bringing in millions of dollars to families, sending children to school (and) building houses.”