By Gerald V. Paul
Mystery surrounds an injured Trinidad farm worker who gave The Caribbean Camera an exclusive interview on Tuesday, and then seemed to have vanished into thin air.
Soon after Kevon Smith spoke with this reporter at the Eaton Centre in Toronto, he could not be reached. He gave this reporter no telephone number or any other contact information.
And checks showed that Smith who recently worked at Marshall Schuyler Farms Ltd. in Simcoe, Ontario has not left the country, even though a flight to Trinidad was booked for him on two occasions after he was reported to have “breached “his contract under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program.
He was a “no show” at the airport on both occasion when he was due to return home and he is no longer on the farm.
According to information received at press time, Smith, 33, appears to be without any “legal papers” to remain in Canada.
In the interview with The Caribbean Camera he said he had fallen off a ladder while picking apples on the farm and received multiple injuries and that he was “”seeking justice” in Canada.
Gaston Thongs, Trinidad and Tobago ‘s farm liaison Officer, contacted on his cell phone, was evasive, when asked about Smith.
He said he was not authorized to speak to the press and referred The Caribbean Camera to his superior officer in Trinidad
However, the officer to whom he referred this newspaper, could not be reached.
Someone who answered the phone at her office said she was ” not at her desk.”
However, Marshall Schuyler of Schuyler Farms Ltd., who said his farm has been hiring workers from Trinidad and Tobago for about 40 years, told The Caribbean Camera: ” we never had a problem like this before.”
(Currently his farm employs about 100 workers from Trinidad. Nine of them are women.)
Smith had claimed in the interview that after he was injured, he was not assigned “modified tasks ” as recommended by his doctor because of his injury.
But Schuyler disagreed, saying: “My policy, is to say, if this does not work for you, tell me what works for you?”
Schuyler said Smith was “hollering” at Thongs on the phone and said he was not doing any work.
Schuyler said Thongs told him that he ( Smith ) breached his contract.
“So I had a legal obligation to repatriate him but Smith disappeared.”
Smith who was coughing during the interview, said “ This is not just about me, it’s about all the other farm workers who are experiencing living in humane conditions in the bunkhousest.”
He was concerned about safety issues as heavy rain fell and the conditions was problematic as the ladder was shaking.
“I was forced to work in the rain. Then I fell and landed on my back on a pan of apples. One of the guys came to my assistance as my hands were paining me. So was my knees and back,” Smith said.
Smith said he was taken to hospital where X-rays showed no broken bones
But he said he was given a form by a doctor, indicating he must do only” modified work,” with limitations:” no lifting, pulling, pushing and kneeling.”
But the farmer insisted that he return to work, although he was not feeling well, he added.
He said the police was called to the farm last Saturday, at the request of the farmer, and he was told that he will have to leave or he will be charged with trespassing.
“Where do I go? I have no family in Canada,? But the police said it’s not their issue,” he told The Caribbean Camera.
Smith left his wife and five children in Trinidad last August to work on the farm. His contract was due to end in December.