Top lawyer, Legal Aid get behind Filipinos
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Winnipeg Free Press
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Three Filipino working dads facing removal from Canada got an early Christmas present after Legal Aid Manitoba and a prominent Winnipeg human rights lawyer came to their rescue at the last minute.
Time is running out for the temporary foreign workers dubbed "the three amigos."
The men, who are hoping to stay in Canada to work and support their families, face an immigration hearing on Thursday where they could be removed from the country.
"It's nerve-wracking for all of them," said Diwa Marcelino of Damayan Manitoba, a non-profit organization advocating for the rights of Filipino temporary workers.
On Monday, however, Antonio Laroya, Arnisito Gaviola and Ermie Zotomayor got some good news when Legal Aid Manitoba approved their application for help.
"They've got a compelling case to put forward," said Winnipeg immigration lawyer David Matas, who met with them Tuesday.
There's no doubt the men violated the terms of their work permit by taking jobs in Thompson, he said. Since arriving in Canada in 2007 and paying a recruiter $3,000 each, they've worked in remote places that have shortages of low-cost labour, Matas said.
They didn't intend to violate the terms of their work permit when they were laid off in Alberta and accepted jobs in Thompson, he said. "They believed everything was being taken care of by their employer."
In court Thursday, Matas will ask the Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator to hold off on having the three men removed from Canada.
Matas is helping them apply for "restoration of status" and "temporary residence" permits that, if approved, would allow them to stay and work in Canada.
Since their story appeared in the Free Press last month, the "three amigos" have been offered jobs by several employers, including a hog plant that's paying to recruit workers from the Philippines. The workers, who were arrested in Thompson in June and given a Dec. 23 court date, haven't been allowed to work since then. The men had been supporting their wives and children back in the impoverished Philippines.
Church and newcomer groups that have heard their story have rallied to their side. Petitions with more than 1,000 signatures urging Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to let them stay on compassionate grounds were faxed to Ottawa on Tuesday.
Whether Kenney will show them any compassion is questionable. Citizenship and Immigration in Ottawa did not respond to requests for comment this week.
One Winnipeg MLA who knows what it's like to come to Canada to work hard for little pay, then face rejection, hopes someone gives the men a break.
Mohinder Saran (NDP -- Maples) said he worked on farms near Vancouver for lower wages than promised, and was rejected the first time he applied for permanent resident status.
"I know how it feels to be at the mercy of strangers, with no control over your situation and constantly uncertain of the future," he said in an email.
"I strongly hope that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will consider their case and let them stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds."
Hope for 'three amigos' (http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/hope-for-three-amigos-112301644.html)
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Policy analysis and Documented cases of abuse
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Manitoba and Philippines