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OECS Secretariat holds talks with Canadians on ways of improving the lives of Eastern Caribbean Citizens.

March 12, 2009

OECS Secretariat, Castries, Saint. Lucia March 11, 2009: On Monday the OECS Secretariat hosted officials from the Nova Scotia branch of a Canadian education organisation called EDUNOVA, on various issues including ways of improving the lives of Eastern Caribbean citizens.

Discussions reflected on the cultural, social and professional ties between both territories with a view towards possible engagements from which the people of the OECS and some Canadian states can mutually benefit. Discussions also looked at the exchange of professional skills. Director General of the OECS Secretariat Dr. Len Ishmael addressed the large Canadian delegation: "As we seek to negotiate the new trade agreement, between Caricom of which we are a part, and Canada, what most firms said they wanted to see was the ease of movement of professionals between our region and your country, so that our ability to work is unimpeded and is seamless as possible. We know that there are tremendous opportunities in our part of the world where that sort of ability to link
professionally with groupings that you represent and others as well, for us are remarkable opportunities that we would be looking certainly to being in a position to negotiate."

Dr. Ishmael spoke of ongoing discussions on employment opportunities in Canada, for OECS citizens, in the construction and tourism sectors among other forms of temporary employment. Dr. Ishmael said this will help to sustain employment for OECS citizens during the slow period in the Eastern
Caribbean′s construction and tourism sectors: "I had conversations with the Canadian Ambassador to Barbados and the OECS a few weeks and ago and it is clear that while other regions of the world are capitalizing on the temporary and guest worker relationship, we have only looked at the farm
workers programmes. We have not looked at any other sectors that could benefit us greatly, particularly when we look at hoteliers though the summer season is our slow season when a lot of workers are retrenched. If we had the possibility of moving them on a temporary basis to places
within Canada, for example in Calgary there are so many opportunities for temporary workers especially when you realize that so many business have actually had to close their doors because they can′t find even high school graduates to offer services, we can fill that niche. We had meetings with the Mayor of Calgary who said: "If you can get me construction workers. If you can get me these kinds of workers I want them. I will take them tomorrow". So clearly there is the need for us to do something that we have never done before with our Toronto office and our Ottawa office as

Officials from EDUNOVAThe Director General described the talks as a timely opportunity in light of moves by the nine-member grouping to deepen the integration arrangement through an OECS Economic Union which they hope to have in place by December 2009, as well as advanced negotiations on a trade treaty. Dr. Ishmael explained that the meeting with comes at a time when the OECS Secretariat is building additional partnerships beyond traditional friendships, with new territories including the Asian Continent: "We are moving very rapidly in so many different directions including geopolitically. We are going to be visiting seven countries in South East Asia in two weeks time, looking to have conversations about partnerships; functional co-operation at the regional level, despite the fact that individual Member States of ours have strong bilateral ties with some of those countries, but there are also things are best done and administered and ran through at the regional level and those are the partnerships that we are seeking to develop."-Dr. Ishmael

The OECS Director General also noted that Canada has shown tremendous maritime business interest in the Eastern Caribbean. The visit of EDUNOVA was organised jointly with Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Centre for Women in Business.

For more information contact:
OECS Secretariat
Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States
Phone: 758-452-2537

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