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Cape Breton University students brought in to work at N.B. lobster-processing plants
SHEDIAC, N.B. -- As Premier Blaine Higgs reconsiders his stance on temporary foreign workers, some are wondering why nearly 40 Cape Breton University students have been allowed to enter New Brunswick to work in lobster processing plants.
The students are quarantining in Shediac, but some in the industry say it's already too late to save this lobster season.
The Hotel Shediac may be temporarily closed, but there are guests staying here -- 38 students from Cape Breton University.
"I was looking for work opportunities, but I couldn’t find one in Nova Scotia," said Sahib Job Singh.
He and his fellow students from Cape Breton University came on a bus that crossed the border on May 15.
Singh says they were not tested before they left Cape Breton.
"If anything appears wrong with our health, we are feeling unwell, we have to tell them, tell the authorities that we are not feeling well, and then they'll do some testing," Singh said.
Word of the students' arrival spread quickly throughout the town and concerns grew.
On Saturday, the Hotel Shediac acknowledged on Facebook that they are housing the students.
Their post reads as follows:
"As per public health guidelines, these individuals will be quarantined at the hotel, after which they will become essential workers for businesses within our community."
Shediac Mayor Roger Caissie didn’t want to comment on camera, but says the decision to allow these students into New Brunswick was made by the province.
In an email Thursday afternoon, the province said people can come to New Brunswick for work as long as they have proof of employment, but they must also follow the advice of the chief medical officer of health, including self-isolation within the province for 14 days prior to starting work.
Despite efforts to fill the jobs at lobster processing plants with locals, the majority of positions remain vacant. The premier says hiring temporary foreign workers from outside the province is now an option, but some say it's too late to salvage the season which closes June 30.
"I figure by the time they come in the province and we quarantine them and make sure they are fit to work, the season will already be over," said Serge Maillet of the Shediac Lobster Shop.
However, Maillet says if the decision is made to allow temporary foreign workers, processing plants could be ready for the next lobster season which begins in August.
The inability to process lobster is proving to be costly. Maillet says by all accounts the current lobster season looks like it could be a good one, but since plants are running at half capacity, fishermen are only catching half of what they could be.