Calgary

Ex-Tim Hortons temporary foreign workers get reprieve after whistleblowing

A couple from the Philippines who complained about how they were treated while working at the Tim Hortons in Fernie, B.C., can stay in Canada for at least two more years.

Jona and Chris Pineda ecstatic that they get to stay in Canada for at least 2 more years

Jona Pineda alleges her boss agreed to help her apply for permanent residency only if she could get a former employee, Richard Pepito, to drop his complaint with the B.C. Employment Standards Branch. (CBC)

A couple from the Philippines who complained about how they were treated while working at the Tim Hortons in Fernie, B.C., can stay in Canada for at least two more years. 

Jona and Chris Pineda are part of a group of temporary foreign workers who helped initiate a human rights hearing against their boss at the time, Pierre Pelletier. They accused him of cheating them out of overtime pay and threatening to send them back to the Philippines.

The allegations prompted an RCMP investigation and attracted intense media attention. Pelletier was stripped of his two franchises in Fernie and Blairmore, Alta. 

Six temporary foreign workers at a Tim Hortons in Fernie, B.C., accused their boss of taking advantage of their status to cheat them out of overtime pay. (CBC)

Meanwhile, the Pinedas' permits expired last August, and with the entire temporary foreign worker program in flux they feared being sent home.

Then they learned Citizenship and Immigration Canada had given them a reprieve.

"We are so happy. I really don't believe we get an extension for two years," Jona Pineda said. "I'm only expecting six months or a year."

The Pinedas now live in Fort Macleod in southern Alberta. As with many other Filipino foreign workers, they raise three children on money they make at fast food restaurants and help support extended family back home.

They are desperate to stay in Canada.

"I'm pretty sure if we stay here I can give my kids a better and bright future," Pineda said.

The extension means the Pinedas will be in the country to testify at the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing. They can also apply to become permanent residents.

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