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2 Phyllis Barnes NEW YORK Garfield Grandison - Manager Normadelle Rose - Office Supervisor 92-05 172nd Street, Jamaica, NY 11433, 718-657-0788 Aubrey Campbell LONDON (AP): FOUR ANTI-RACISM demonstrators were clearedWednesday of criminal damage in the toppling of a statue of a 17th-century slave trader dur- ing a Black Lives Matter protest in southwestern England. Protesters used ropes to pull down the bronze statue of Edward Colston and dump it in Bristol’s harbor on June 7, 2020. The demonstration and toppling were part of a world- wide reckoning with racism and slav- ery sparked by the death of a Black American man, George Floyd, at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Loud cheers rang out froma packed public gallery at Bristol Crown Court as a jury acquitted Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, and Sage Willoughby, 22, and Jake Skuse, 33. “This is a victory for Bristol, this is a victory for racial equality and it’s a victory for anybody who wants to be on the right side of history,” Willoughby said. Graham, Ponsford andWilloughby were caught on closed-circuit tele- vision passing the ropes around the statue that were used to pull it down, while Skuse was accused of orches- trating a plan to roll it into the harbor. All four had admitted their involvement but denied their actions were criminal, claiming the statue itself had been a hate crime against the people of Bristol. They laughed with relief as the verdicts were read out and hugged the many supporters that were wait- ing outside of court when they were released. “The truth is that the defendants should never have been prosecuted,” Raj Chada, who represented Skuse, said in a statement following the verdict. “It is shameful that Bristol City Council did not take down the statue of slaver Edward Colston that had caused such offence to people in Bristol, and equally shameful that they then supported the prosecution of these defendants,” Chada added. Colston was a 17th-century trader whomade a fortune transporting en- slaved Africans across the Atlantic to the Americas on Bristol-based ships. His money funded schools and char- ities in Bristol, 120 miles (195 kilome- ters) southwest of London. Bristol authorities fished the Colston statue out of the harbor and it was later put on display in a museum in the city, along with placards from the Black Lives Matter demonstration. 4 acquitted in toppling of British slave trader statue E ARLY IN December, Canada’s Office of the Auditor General (OAG) released its report into the conditions that migrant agri- cultural workers face during this pandemic. The report was nothing short of jaw-dropping, validating what migrant farmworkers from the Caribbean have been saying right from the start of the pandemic. THE OAG details the colossal failure of Canada to protect migrant workers and raised red flags that 77 per cent of inspections they conducted in 2020, rose significantly to 88 per cent in 2021. The auditor general commented that Canada’s “inspections provided little assurance that employers complied with the requirements to protect temporary foreign workers during quarantine”. Additionally, the report expressed concerns “when conducting inspec- tions of compliance with regularlyman- dated requirements –such as verifying basic living conditions like running water, occupancy level, and whether workers’housing was free from serious health and safety risks – (that) Canada collected no information in almost all cases, but found employers compliant. These basic living conditions took on even greater importance in the pan- demic context of social distancing and disinfection protocols.” Why did it take a report, released at the end of the year, to conclude what we all knew from the beginning of the pandemic? If we had listened to the workers and undertook immedi- ate steps, lives would not have been lost and workers may have been pre- vented from the risks of COVID-19. At the height of the first wave of the pan- demic, I received aWhatsapp message from Jamaican farm worker Robert Boucher, who shared his concern that: “They neglect and wait until the entire bunkhouse caught the virus then they take you to be tested.” A finding that was echoed by the OAG report. REALITY OF BUNKHOUSE LIVING Why were no steps taken after the valiant efforts of an anonymous whistleblower who recorded the con- gregant housing that he faced? In a video seen by millions, we saw the reality of bunkhouse living: crowded, cramped and no possibility whatsoever for social distancing. The only privacy accorded to these workers is a flimsy cardboard. At the first outbreak at Greenhill Produce near Chatham Ontario, sev- eral workers anonymously crafted open letters expressing the dire situ- ation they faced at the beginning of the pandemic. In one letter, a worker wrote: “The work migrant workers do annually helps the host country, along with our home countries…With all this said, migrant workers would like the Canadian government to respect us as essential workers as our work and sac- rifices not only help families from our home countries, but the host countries as well. Also, to ensure farmowners are providing acceptable and suitable facil- ities to accommodate migrant workers in and around Canada.” Canada’s agricultural industrial complex continues to generate vast amounts of profits off of the sacrifices of workers from the global South. We will be forever indebted to the sacrifices of workers from Jamaica, the Caribbean and the far reaches of the global South. Canadians cannot continue to turn the other way as our government contin- ues to demonstrate sheer negligence towards the hands that feed us. Chris Ramsaroop is an organiser with the activist group Justice for Migrant Workers, an instructor in the Caribbean Studies Program at the University of Toronto and an instructor at the University of Windsor, Faculty of Law. MIAMI, CMC: THE CARIBBEAN Hotel andTourism Association (CHTA) has asked re- gional governments to reduce the isolation periods for travellers to align with the United Kingdom and the United States so as to avoid re- versing the progress made by the tourism sector since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. CTA president Nicola Madden- Greig, has written to Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, who recently served as the chairman of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping indicating that both the UK and the US had reduced the isolation period for COVID-positive persons. The revised US protocol allows for five days and the UK for seven days’ confinement. Presently, some Caribbean jurisdictions require as many as 14 days in isolation. But the CHTA argues that the data no longer substantiates that length of time, which presents unnecessary financial and personal hardship to residents, visitors, destinations and companies and increasingly will deter travel. The CHTA is recommending a sev- en-day period. Madden-Greig said that while the Omicron variant of the virus is highly contagious, it has caused only a “low level of severe illness requiring hos- pitalization, and a low death rate and has proven to be particularly less vir- ulent for those who are vaccinated”. Madden-Greig commended Caribbean governments for restrain- ing from closing borders and restrict- ing travel. Regional gov’ts urged to reduce isolation periods - Align with new UK, US criteria ‘If we had listened...’ Report details gov’t’s failure to protect C’bean farmworkers during pandemic Aman observes the final sunset of 2021 froma jetski at Dead End Beach inMontego Bay, St James. PHOTO BY ASHLEY ANGUIN THE WEEKLY GLEANER | JANUARY 6 - 31, 2022 | | NEWS Chris Ramsaroop CONTRIBUTOR