Filipino worker granted three week reprieve

Francis Dura could have been deported to the Philippines on Wednesday afternoon. Instead, he got a three-week reprieve because of an unorganized Canada Border Services Agency.

Francis Dura could have been deported to the Philippines on Wednesday afternoon.

Instead, he got a three-week reprieve because of an unorganized Canada Border Services Agency.

The 28-year-old Filipino man was in Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

A month ago, he was arrested for time spent working at Tim Hortons in Whitehorse. Dura’s work permit only allowed him to work for a Canadian Tire in Calgary.

Dura and 40 supporters, including his former boss at Tim Hortons, showed up at the Elijah Smith building at 12:45 p.m. for his admissibility hearing.

However, local border services officers didn’t seem to know there was going to be a hearing.

Finally, it was decided to hold the proceedings in a small, three-metre by four-metre office with four chairs.

The judge and lawyer arguing against Dura participated through teleconferencing from Vancouver.

But not everyone could fit in the tiny office and, at first, it appeared both Dura’s supporters and media would be prevented from attending the public hearing.

After some confusion, it was decided to admit two of Dura’s supporters and one reporter to witness the event.

“I messed up big time,” said Terry Joss from border services.

“I should have booked a bigger room.”

As well, Dura’s lawyer, Karen Wenckebach, had not received all necessary documents. They had to be faxed to her.

Because of this, problems with the communication system and time constraints the hearing was postponed.

The hearing was rescheduled to July 26 to accommodate Wenckebach’s three-week vacation.

And border services will book a larger conference room.

The Yukon Federation of Labour is using Dura’s case and that of Reynaldo Verdeflor to highlight problems it sees in Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the Yukon Nominee Program.

“Foreign workers in this territory are the most vulnerable, as they are generally across Canada,” said federation president Alex Furlong, adding such workers have few advocates.

Employers are not living up to their contract obligations and some workers are not being paid properly, he said. Also, some workers are not getting promised full-time hours.

And there are problems with a lack of safety training and knowledge.

As a representative of the Yukon Filipino community, which makes up 60 per cent of the foreign workers in the territory, Yvonne Clarke has heard complaints about the program.

As many as 15 individuals have approached Clarke with problems, she said.

However, most do not want their employer to find out that they are unhappy.

“They are afraid,” said Clarke. “They don’t want to go home. They want to work; they’re here to work.

“We’re not lawyers. There’s no advocate for them, there’s nobody to help them.”

Workers have rights and a means of getting help if they have problems with their employer, said Brent Slobodin, the assistant deputy minister of advanced education, which runs the Yukon Nominee Program.

“To be honest, we’ve had some come forward with concerns but in each case we’ve been able to speak to the employer, speak to the employee, mediate and resolve everything,” he said.

“In some cases allegations of insufficient hours were proven to be false.”

Many complaints are simply rumours, gossip and fear-mongering, said Slobodin.

“The best thing for these nominees to do is not go to people who have no real standing within the program to assist them,” he said.

“They can come to us or they can go to Labour Standards.”

The government has a memorandum of understanding with both the employer and the foreign worker in the nominee program, said Slobodin.

If the employer does not comply with this, the nomination is revoked and the government will not work with them for three years.

The government would then try to find another employer to take the worker on, which has happened in the past.

If the worker breaches the memorandum, the government revokes the nomination and the worker is sent home.

The workers do have an advocate, said Slobodin.

“Every member of my staff.

“I’m surprised that Mr. Furlong would be making comments about health and safety because we gave YFL a contract last year to provide safety and health training to nominees. So I don’t know why he would be criticizing himself.”

Dura arrived in Calgary on January 16 and was told that his job with Canadian Tire would not begin until March 1.

With no job or money, Dura came north to live with relatives in Whitehorse, he said.

He found another job with Tim Hortons and began applying for the Yukon Nominee Program, stopping work when he learned that it was illegal.

Regardless, officers found Dura hiding in a closet while arresting Reynaldo Verdeflor. Dura was also arrested and transferred to Vancouver.

After appearing before a court, he was released and forced to find his way back to Whitehorse on his own.

Dura has since been accepted to the Yukon Nominee program, pending the result of his admissibility hearing.

Verdeflor worked for Alberta Oats Milling Ltd. for nine months before being laid off for lack of work.

He came north and found work at the Chocolate Claim.

Chocolate Claim owner Glenys Baltimore claims Verdeflor misled her. She contacted border services when she discovered that he’d been working illegally.

Verdeflor maintains he showed Baltimore all of his documents.

Furlong stands by the stories of the two Filipino men, saying that the Calgary Canadian Tire and Chocolate Claim owners may need to “revisit their facts.”

“Employers have the responsibility of ensuring foreign workers have the proper authorization to work for them in Canada,” according to Shakila Manzoor, a communications adviser with border services.

“The penalties for employers who fail to abide by this requirement range from summary to indictable convictions with a maximum penalty of a $50,000 fine and two years imprisonment.”

Verdeflor’s admissibility hearing is scheduled for July 28. He does not yet have legal representation.

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com

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