English program fails to connect with foreign agricultural workers

An attempt by the Lower Similkameen Community Services Society to provide English lessons to temporary foreign workers failed recently

  • Aug. 22, 2014 5:00 p.m.

An attempt by the Lower Similkameen Community Services Society to provide English lessons to temporary foreign workers failed to work earlier this summer.

“It’s disappointing,” said intstructor Andrea Massing. She said the group tried different times and venues, but could not attract sufficient numbers of temporary workers to run the classes.

“We tried Cawston Hall in June, then the Fairview Irrigiation District office, then here at the LSCSS office,” she said, “we also tried different times and different days – Sunday morning, Monday evening – the workers said they wanted to learn English, but work came first.”

Massing said David, a local resident who speaks Spanish, helped to liason between the workers and the program. She said he would be meeting informally to see if there might be dates in August that would work, since peaches were the only crop being harvested for much of the month. She also observed the workers did not have much discretion when it came to getting time off to attend English classes.

Massing said she had heard of irregularities and improprieties taking place with foreign workers on Canadian soil, and it was hoped the program would help educate workers with respect to workers’ rights and expectations in Canada.

“It would have been nice to have some good news,” Massing said, noting the program had funding through the province, and was free to the foreign workers.

She also noted part of the program’s goal was to provide the workers with “elements of empowerment.”

“It was not an advocacy program,” she said, describing foreign workers without any understanding of the English language as “absolutely disempowered.”