The case of these three men is yet another illustration of the cruel and oppressive nature of the TFWP, which has been so favoured by the federal government in recent years. Exposing the reality of the TFWP to citizens, especially to people born in Canada, is an important part of building support for the demand that everyone on the left should raise: Status for All!
Overseas Filipino workers campaign for justice
By Diwa Marcelino
Winnipeg — When Antonio, Arnisito and Ermie left their families in the Philippines to escape poverty and come to Canada in 2007, they never expected they would be jailed and face deportation three years later.
The three fathers came to Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to work in a gas station in High Prairie, Alberta. Although it is illegal in Alberta for recruiters to charge workers a fee for finding employment, the three were charged $3,000 each to land the low-wage job.
Like many other foreign workers, Antonio, Arnisito and Ermie came to this country to provide a better life and opportunity for their families. “I am the bread winner, not only of my own family, but also my mother, 62, and my brother and sisters,” said Arnisito Gaviola, 42.
As of 2009, over 280,000 foreign workers were in Canada (Citizen and Immigration Canada, 2010). From 2007 to 2009 alone, almost 50,000 foreign workers from the Philippines entered Canada via the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The chronic unemployment and lack of opportunities in the Philippines has resulted in the daily exodus of approximately 3,900 Filipinos workers who find jobs outside the country (IBON, 2009). Many of these university-educated workers find employment in remote communities doing jobs which locals are unwilling to do. Just last year, 3,649 foreign workers entered Manitoba to work in service sector and agricultural jobs to fill the labour shortages in these industries.
After almost two years of working, Antonio, Arnisito and Ermie were laid off from the gas station. They obtained another work permit and employment at a restaurant in Peace River, Alberta where they lived together in a mobile home. As their third year in Canada (2009) approached, the three fathers knew their time under the TFWP was drawing near because the program allows workers to stay for only four years, after which they must leave the country and not return to the program until after another four years. They asked their restaurant employer if they could be sponsored under Alberta’s Provincial Nominee Program but unfortunately the employer could not and the three fathers, once again, found themselves looking for another job.
Because of the success of the Provincial Nominee Program of Manitoba the three were attracted to the province since the program gives skilled TFWs the opportunity to apply for permanent residence after six months of work. After a friend found positions at a gas station in Thompson, Manitoba, the three packed their belongings and headed to the distant town with the promise of new work permit and another low-wage job. Their new employer insisted they start working at once and promised that the work permits would soon follow. Unfortunately after waiting for three months, the employer still failed to obtain the new work permits as promised. Even after asking their employer repeatedly about the status of their papers, the work permits never came. This caused the workers to be “out of status.” It was at this time, June 24, 2010 the trio were arrested by the Canadian Border Services Agency and jailed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for not having proper work permits. When they were released, all their identification cards were confiscated including their Philippine passports.
Since their arrest the three have not been allowed to work, which has caused great distress for their family. “I’m also depressed because my daughter stopped studying she’s a smart girl, she did not want to stop but what can I do?” said Antonio Laroya, 45, a career overseas worker who worked in Israel for almost three years prior to coming to Canada. The three tried to seek legal advice in Thompson after their release but the Legal Aid Manitoba office said the were not eligible. After seeking the advice of a Philippine consular official, they applied for another job with the help of an immigration consultant who charged $4500 to process permits for all three men. However, because of their arrest and pending court hearing, the work permit, which they paid the consultant to process, could not be granted.
Among foreign workers, cases like these are common and little is done to recruiters and employers who defraud or deceive workers. If found guilty, businesses can be barred from using the Temporary Foreign Worker Program for two years but the TFWs who find themselves victimized by recruitment agencies and employers are almost always deported.
Migrante Canada is assisting Antonio, Arnisito and Ermie in Winnipeg with their campaign to stay in Canada and is asking for support from the Filipino and wider community. 100% of the proceeds from their campaign will go to help the three. Migrante Canada and the three fathers are also asking Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, to consider their appeal to stay in Canada after their trial on December 23rd in Winnipeg. “We never had any intent to violate any laws. Our only wish has always been to work to provide for our families and one day be reunited,” said Ermie Zotomayor, 45.
Reproduced from migrante.ca