Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winnipeg community aids migrant workers facing deportation

By Caros Sanders, Winnipeg Free Press, November 30, 2010

Winnipeg, Manitoba -- After being told they can no longer work in Canada, three Filipino men given shelter by a friend were given the boot by the building's superintendent who saw their photo in the Winnipeg Free Press last week.


"They were kicked out the day of the article," said Diwa Marcelino with the lobby group Damayan Manitoba.


Ermie Zotomayor, 45, Antonio Laroya, 45, and Arnel (Arnisito) Gaviola, 42, are in limbo after their passports were taken away by the authorities.


They were recruited in February by a desperate employer trying to staff his gas bar in Thompson, Man., located about 765 kilometres north of Winnipeg, who promised to get their paperwork in order. They were arrested this summer by the Canada Border Services Agency in Thompson and told they can no longer work.


They are awaiting an immigration hearing in Winnipeg on Dec. 23.


The trio has been relying on the kindness of the community in Thompson and Winnipeg. After being left homeless Friday, they spent a couple of nights at the home of provincial Culture, Heritage and Tourism Minister Flor Marcelino, who is Diwa Marcelino's mother. They've since taken shelter at another Winnipeg resident's place, laying low so as to not ruffle any feathers that may cause their host grief.


"Ermie, Arnel and Tony cannot even open an account in their name because they have no identification," said Marcelino. "They have no right to work, cannot sign a lease to an apartment" and they're not about to apply for any social services, he said.


It's a situation being played out across Canada in sectors from hotel and service industries, to chicken dressing plants and greenhouses, said Marcelino of Damayan Manitoba, a group affiliated with Migrante Canada pushing for the fair treatment of temporary workers from the Philippines.


"No Canadians are willing to do the job for price (they're paid). This is a huge business and employers are saving a lot of money and lowering wages."


The men from the Philippines each paid $3,000 to a recruiter in 2007 to find them service jobs in Canada. They got their work permits and shared a trailer in High Prairie, Alta., while working at a gas station and a restaurant, sending money home to their wives and children in the Philippines.


Following a local downturn in the economy, they were laid off and offered similar jobs in Manitoba. They went to work in February at a gas station in Thompson for $10 an hour but did not have the necessary work permits for the job.


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