Fairness must be seen to be done

Fairness must be seen to be done Open letter to Patrick Rouble, minister of education: Upon hearing the news two Filipino men might be facing deportation, I became deeply concerned about the situation. I somehow had a feeling the handling of the case by

Open letter to Patrick Rouble, minister of education:

Upon hearing the news two Filipino men might be facing deportation, I became deeply concerned about the situation.

I somehow had a feeling the handling of the case by the Canadian Border Services Agency was rather heavy-handed and a better solution could be found.

The media report did not appear to tell me the whole story, so I asked the president of the Canadian Filipino Association of Yukon, Yvonne Clarke, to explain their side of the story.

On July 5th, I met her as well as Ailene Gayangos, and heard a detailed background story directly from Ailene, whose nephew is one of the two men facing the deportation hearing.

I was shocked to find some parallels between this story and the case of a Japanese Yukon nominee I have been personally involved in over these few months.

I have been a member of the immigration strategy working group for some time.

Minister Rouble, you may recall attending a meeting where I spoke on the case of a Japanese nominee who had not been paid for more than five months.

Two cases (the case of two Filipinos and that of the Japanese nominee, both of which I’m going to discuss in detail), combined with the knowledge of the Yukon Nominee Program I have gained through many of the working group meetings, prompted me to write this request.

The Yukon Nominee Program is, without doubt, a good program that is very helpful and, indeed, essential for the Yukon economy as well as Yukon society as a whole. (It goes without saying that immigration has made, and will continue to make, a significant contribution to the Canadian social and economic fabric.)

I now see clearly the nominee program is not quite as perfect as some people would like to make you believe, and there are many things that need to be fixed.

I feel I have to speak up.

The case of two Filipino men revealed the serious flaw in the nominee program. Their case, however, obviously requires urgent attention and resolution. But in order to lay down my logic on this case, I have to cite the story of my personal involvement with a Japanese worker, who has endured hardship while working under the program.

Please bear with me.

I only recently became well acquainted with a Japanese person, who has worked in Whitehorse under the Yukon Nominee Program since the end of November, 2009.

Unfortunately, as a result of differences with the employer, he was released from his position on April 20, 2010. The employer, however, paid him only up to the end of December and refused to pay what he owed to the worker for the months of January through to April.

The Japanese worker came to see me for assistance at the end of April, and we started our action together immediately.

In the course of assisting him to get the money he was owed, I have learned a few interesting facts related to the Yukon Nominee Program.

To make a long story short and yet comprehensible, let me just tell you this much:

On April 30, the Japanese worker and I went to the nominee program office at the Department of Education to explain his situation. The officer assured us that the office would start an investigation.

On May 4, we visited a labour services officer to lodge a complaint on the unpaid salary. The officer told us that they would write a letter to the employer, ordering them to pay up what they owed to the worker, if indeed that was the case.

On June 11, I explained this story at the meeting of the immigration strategy working group, and the attendees at the table, including yourself, Rouble, were quite shocked to hear it. (Throughout the whole process, I might add, the Japanese worker had been extremely worried about the possibility his permanent residence application process might be somehow jeopardized. This fear kept him in a vulnerable position, as happens in many other cases of new immigrant workers.)

Near the end of June, Dave Sloan, of the nominee program office, brought me news he and labour services worked together to force the employer to pay up what they owed, and that the employer gave in.

At that time I asked Sloan what kind of penalty the employer must face. He mentioned they would lose their eligibility to apply for more nominee program workers for a few years. (In my opinion, it is not even a slap on their wrist; that kind of penalty does not hurt them a single bit.)

I posed the same question to Bill Wilcox, labour services manager, and his reply was it was a matter between his office and the employer, and he is not about to release confidential information.

It is a fact the employer withheld close to $20,000 worth of salary for more than five months (and this is, of course, clearly illegal) and they seem to be getting away with hardly a penalty. Yet the Japanese worker, as a victim of such an abusive employer, is not allowed to find out what kind of consequence, if any, the employer has to face.

As an unpaid representative who assisted the worker, I feel strongly we have the right to know how the justice is done. If kept in secrecy, it naturally leads to suspicion and distrust in the system among all concerned citizens, like myself.

Now I would like to turn my attention to an even more serious and urgent question, namely the deportation hearing of the two Filipino workers.

Their cases involve two different employers. In both cases, the employers asked the men to work. The fact that they worked at the time they did not hold a valid nominee program work permit is not in dispute, as I understand it.

My question is this: Who is really at fault? Who knowingly broke the law?

The employers looked to the two Filipino men to fill an immediate and desperate need for workers, failing to ensure the proper paperwork was done.

In one case, a relative of one of the workers even phoned the employer to double-check the worker was working legitimately, and they were assured that everything was fine.

As it turned out, the employers asked the two Filipino men to work for them before the Yukon nominee application process was completed.

The men were, of course, eager to work in order to make ends meet. Upon assurance by the employers, they started to work, without fully understanding the ramification of such action.

I believe there was no malicious intent on the part of the Filipino workers to cheat the system. They can hardly be called lawbreakers. Surely they were naive and ignorant of the law. Yes, it’s true that ignorance of the law is not a legitimate excuse when one breaks it. Even in criminal cases, however, the absence of intent to commit a crime is an important factor to be considered. Most people would readily accept the assertion that, in the minds of these two men, no malicious intent ever existed.

After all, what good does it do to punish these men in such a severe manner?

Deportation would deprive them of all the dreams they have pursued for so long, and it means that all the sacrifices they have made to come here to become a Canadian will go down the drain.

For Francis Dura, I gather, who had literally fled from his stepfather and lived in Dubai for some time before coming to Canada, there is no place or community to return to if he is forced to return to the Philippines, whereas here in Whitehorse there is a supportive Filipino community and his loving aunt who is ready to help him in any way she can.

Do these two men deserve to be forcibly sent back to the Philippines? Does the punishment fit the crime? Or was it really a crime at all? It was a huge mistake on their part, it’s true, but is it not a Canadian way to show some compassion to give them a benefit of doubt and allow them one more chance?

On the other hand, what about those employers? What responsibility do they have for the situation? The public has the right to know that everyone is held accountable in a fair and equitable manner, no matter who you are.

On one hand, not holding employers accountable, and on the other hand, treating the mistakes of the new immigrants who are totally unfamiliar with the system so harshly, is not the kind of justice and fairness most Canadians hold so dear.

Back to the urgent question:

Please use everything in your power, Rouble, to intervene with the deportation case before the next hearing takes place, so the two Filipino men have another chance. These cases illustrate the need for an expedient process for Yukon nominees, better monitoring of the Yukon Nominee Program, better liaison between workers and employers and more education for both employers and potential employees about the proper process.

Displaying a deep compassion and forgiveness on the part of an elected official in this kind of case will go a long way to promote an ideal multicultural society in which many people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds can live together in harmony with mutual respect.

Fumi Torigai, president, Japanese Canadian Association of Yukon