Chilean-born busker faces deportation

Victor Morales is a recovering addict with a criminal record who wants to continue his 'clean life' in Canada, where he cares for his AIDS-afflicted mother.

Montreal street musician has lived in Canada for 34 years

Victor Morales, a street musician in Montreal, is scheduled to be removed from Canada on Feb. 8. ((CBC))
Victor Morales' origins may lie in Chile but, after more than three decades here, his heart has long been in Canada.

He left Chile as a six-year-old, in 1976, and is about to find out whether he will be deported back there. A decision from Federal Court Judge Yves De Montigny is expected within the next few days.

'He's not really a criminal. He's someone with a criminal record.'—Stewart Istvanffy, Morales's lawyer

Morales, a street musician who has long played in Montreal's transit system and around town, is scheduled to be removed from Canada on Feb. 8.

Morales admits his track record is bumpy: it includes drug and alcohol problems, during which he accumulated a lengthy rap sheet including a list of non-violent, mostly petty crimes.

According to a federal lawyer, Morales had 18 guilty pleas between 1994 and 2004, with convictions for drunk driving, break-and-enter, theft, and possessing and selling small amounts of cocaine.

But his supporters say he doesn't deserve to be deported. They call the case an example of Canada's draconian immigration policy.

"I'm asking for a judicial review of that decision because it just doesn't make sense," said his lawyer Stewart Istvanffy, who believes the case highlights a push by Canada to deport anyone with a criminal record.

He characterized his client's crimes as "minor," noting that Morales never spent more than a few weeks in jail for any of the offences. "He's not really a criminal. He's someone with a criminal record."

Busker says he turned his life around

Morales swears he's been clean for years.

"I'm a Canadian citizen, I'm a Québécois, I'm a [permanent] resident who lost his status because of his criminal past," Morales told reporters at the federal courthouse.

"But that's in the past. Since 2004, I've followed the word of God."

Morales says he's now an evangelical Christian, living a clean life as a father of three and is the primary caregiver for his mother who is suffering from AIDS. Morales says he sees two of his three boys – aged 13 and 14 – every day even though they live with his ex-wife.

He has received letters of support for his case from his ex-wife, his former sister-in-law, and from others including the addiction counsellor who supervised his alcohol-treatment program.

Morales' destination if deported – Chile – is a country he has not seen since he left at age six. He then spent two years in Argentina, before arriving in Canada.

"He doesn't know Chile. He can't go there. He left when he was very little — he doesn't know anything there," said his mother, Monica Morales.

Seeking deportation stay

A few dozen supporters turned up at Federal Court in Montreal on Monday where Morales' lawyer requested a stay on his Feb. 8 deportation. Ottawa began deportation proceedings in 1998 but never executed them.

Over subsequent years, Morales spent time behind bars and later slipped off the federal radar screen as he made no effort to obtain travel documents. He also failed to file federal income-tax papers.

According to his lawyer Stewart Istvanffy, he was making about $25,000 a year at the time, primarily from busking.

The case against him picked up again in 2008. A 2009 request to have the deportation order overturned for humanitarian reasons was rejected in late 2010.

If he's deported Morales could, in theory, apply for a pardon in 2013 and then attempt to re-enter Canada.