CARLETON – There is some uncertainty about whether foreign labourers will be allowed to work in Gaspé Peninsula fish processing plants in April. The concerns are due to new regulations restricting the presence of citizens from other countries because of the coronavirus. The matter is also relevant in agriculture and tourism. Most of the foreign workers coming to the Gaspé Peninsula are Mexicans. In his speech on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated that the country’s borders will now be closed to foreigners with the exception of Americans.
A few minutes later, during a conference call with the regional press, the Member of Parliament for the Gaspésie-Magdalen Islands riding and Minister of National Revenue, Diane Lebouthillier pointed out that the “matter (of foreign workers) is relevant,” that “the situation evolves quite rapidly,” and that between Canada, the United States and Mexico, “no border will be closed.”
Bill Sheehan, vice-president of E. Gagnon et Fils, says that 55 Mexicans are expected to arrive in the Sainte-Thérèse-de-Gaspé area on April 2 to join the local labour force. The plant hired a total of 550 people in 2019. “They will be put in quarantine as soon as they arrive on April 2, and they will be available for work on the 16th. I checked on Sunday (March 15) and it still worked. Considering what Prime Minister Trudeau just said (on March 16), I don’t know. We will check with the firm that is advising us in that field and we will know tomorrow (March 17),” says Sheehan.
The Town of Gaspé waited until Sunday before closing its public buildings to the population because the town aligns its decisions with instructions from the Quebec and Federal governments.
This is how Mayor Daniel Côté explains the two days that passed between a decision implemented Friday in Carleton-sur-Mer and that of his Town. Côté said that “clear directives” on the closure of municipal buildings, arenas and recreational facilities came Sunday from Quebec Premier François Legault.
The mayor noted that no such instructions had been issued on Friday. “Friday morning, a lot of people implored me not to close the sports and leisure facilities so that young people would still have something to do,” says Daniel Côté.
The Town of Gaspé also decided to keep its airport open for medical emergencies and “to allow our Gaspé residents to return.” The mayor however asked the population not to go there, and not to go to the Town Hall, except in the case of absolute necessity. He also said that the municipal garages and fire stations are closed to the public. For the airport, the Town will adjust according to instructions that may come from the Federal government.
The Town of Gaspé has also decreed “the cancellation of all non-essential meetings,” and asks its residents to use the telephone, email and mail to contact municipal employees. The tax account deadline of March 31 has been extended to April 30.
Mayor Côté is asking citizens not to call the town hall to settle questions relating to other levels of government, such as accusations of people not respecting quarantine, an element of Quebec jurisdiction, or private business issues. “We are concentrating on municipal powers,” he insists.
The deputy of Bonaventure at the National Assembly, Sylvain Roy has voluntarily placed himself in quarantine after having flu-like symptoms. “My symptoms are mild, but the treatment I received for cancer (in 2018) makes me cautious. I was refused a (covid-19) test because I am not sick enough,” he says.
Diane Lebouthillier also placed herself in quarantine because she was in Ottawa for a period of time. She is working from home.
Meanwhile, the Integrated Health and Social Services Centre of the Gaspé Peninsula cancelled a March 16 conference call with the regional press because of an order from the Department of Health. The cancellation occurred two minutes before the scheduled call. No further explanation was given.