JG - Jamaican aggression
published: Tuesday September 27, 2005
THE RANGE of mores and behaviour considered acceptable to different cultures is so vast that sometimes a few are likely to escape notice during familiarisation and orientation sessions for persons recruited for overseas programmes.
This seems to be the case for some Jamaicans who have been recruited to be part of a the Guest Workers programme in Canada. There are a number of so-called 'Guest Workers' programmes that provide employment in the United States of America and Canada for Jamaicans, the two most popular being the Farm Workers programme and the Hotel Workers programme. Despite the best efforts of the Ministry of Labour to screen applicants to ensure that they are fit and proper persons to represent Jamaica abroad there have been problems with drug smuggling in the past which caused the Canadian authorities to clamp down on the programme. It took ministerial intervention to get it back on track and only after some repeat offenders had been weeded out.
Now comes word as reported in yesterday's edition of this newspaper that some Jamaican farm workers in Canada are facing sexual harassment charges in that country. According to Mr. John Wright, chief Jamaica liaison officer in Toronto, this is a cultural problem which manifests itself in the too aggressive approach of Jamaican men to Canadian women in bars and night clubs. According to Mr. Wright, Jamaican males will approach females and touch them in the process of asking for a dance. This is considered inappropriate behaviour in Canada and often the offended party will call the police. Their response has been restrained and no arrests have yet been made. Racism does not appear to be a factor but the Canadian authorities are putting pressure behind the scenes to have repeat offenders removed from the programme.
Other cultural problems reported by Mr. Wright are the practice of Jamaican farm workers moving around armed with knives and riding bicycles at night on main roads without reflectors. Two deaths have been reported. The Jamaican liaison office in Toronto is running sensitivity sessions for Jamaican farm workers, trying to get them to be less aggressive and to control their emotions. Unless these sessions are successful the overall farm worker programme may again be in trouble if complaints continue to increase.
While it may be argued that what is seen as aggressiveness overseas is nothing but typical Jamaican assertiveness and bravado, we urge all concerned to understand that they are guests in a foreign country and must conform to local customs and behaviour patterns. The programme is too valuable to individual families and the Jamaican economy as a whole for it to be compromised by the behaviour of a few persons.
Perhaps it is time for the Ministry of Labour to widen its orientation programmes for recruits to address even seemingly innocuous attitudes when socialising.