Nfld. & Labrador

'Newfoundlanders are God's gift,' says Jamaican-born trainer after outpouring of support

Machel Rayner may still have to return to Jamaica, but now he has a fighting chance of staying in Newfoundland.

Machel Rayner's immigration appeals hearing put on hold as provincial, federal governments discuss his case

Machel Rayner is all smiles Friday after hearing both provincial and federal governments are working on his case. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

Machel Rayner is a fitness guy. He thrives on helping people get healthy and well.

But after he told CBC News on Thursday about his immigration troubles, he has garnered national attention and job offers have poured in from different sectors. 

"The RNC [Royal Newfoundland Constabulary] called me and offered me their recruitment process, because they want someone like me," Rayner said Friday.

Similar offers have been made by small businesses in St. John's. Even the sheriff's office in Gander reached out, Rayner said. 

Memorial University's school of human kinetics and recreation has created a fundraising campaign to help the former student with financial challenges.

"It has been wonderful, wonderful feedback and support from all walks of life.… I know a lot of people where I worked, they support me. But at this magnitude, it was the best feeling ever."

A costly mistake

Originally from Trenchtown, Jamaica, the 31-year-old Rayner has lived in St. John's for eight years and two months. 

He was in the final stages of completing his permanent residency this fall when, he said, he accidentally hurt his chances of staying in Canada.

Rayner was part of a nominee program that the Newfoundland and Labrador government runs to increase immigration and fill labour shortages. 

If you're a Newfoundlander, they stand behind you all the way.- Machel Rayner

After losing part of his salary at his personal training job in St. John's, Rayner said he decided to seek employment temporarily in Halifax.

By leaving the province for work — albeit temporarily — Rayner said he was automatically removed from the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Nominee Program.

It left him with a couple of options, including an appeals hearing that could result in him being banned from the country for up to five years.

Rayner, seen here on the job as a personal trainer, says his interests lie in preventive health care. (CBC)

Without a job, Rayner felt he had no choice but to return to Jamaica and reapply through a federal program. It would be a move, he said, that would financially cripple him and his family. 

A break

After Rayner told his story, he said a provincial government employee called him to say restrictions have been lifted on his work permit. He can now get a job anywhere he pleases in the province.

His lawyer, Meghan Felt, said it's a move that doesn't happen very often, and is a huge gift to Rayner. 

On Friday afternoon, both the provincial and federal governments told Rayner they were discussing his case behind the scenes and put a January appeals hearing on hold. 

Rayner and his lawyer, Meghan Felt, prior to a CBC interview Friday. (Paula Gale/CBC)

"The work permit is good now because I can continue to support my family and get back on track," he said.

"Newfoundlanders are God's gift to this world. They have your back in any way. If you're a Newfoundlander, they stand behind you all the way. I'm pleased and happy to be working and living here."

The rules exist for a reason

Felt, who is a partner at McInnes Cooper and specializes in immigration law, said the rule that Rayner broke by working in Halifax exists for a reason.

She said the idea of the provincial nominee program is to have the person stay within the province, but that doesn't always happen.

Machel is exactly the type of person that Canada wants.- Meghan Felt

"A lot of time, once they get their permanent residency, they leave for other cities and they wouldn't have contributed to our province here," Felt said.

Felt will represent Rayner if the appeals hearing goes ahead in January.

"Machel is exactly the type of person that Canada wants. He's young, he's well-educated and he speaks really good English." 

The other option for Rayner is to go through a federal express entry program that could see him back in the country in about six months.

An Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program is another option, but it has a processing time of between nine and 10 months, Felt said. 

Now to carry on

It was 1:30 a.m. Friday before Machel Rayner went to bed after a full day of fielding calls and messages of support.

There was one last person he needed to tell: his mother, Linda, who is back home in Jamaica, and has been praying for him not to have to return.

"With tears in her voice, she said, 'Thank you, Jesus, thank you, Jesus, thank you, Jesus. You answered my prayers," Rayner said.

"She was breaking down and said God answered her prayer and she will continue to pray to see this all through."

Rayner had promised to bring his mother to Newfoundland and Labrador. It's a pledge he still wants to keep. (Submitted)

Despite the support and well wishes, Rayner said, the stress of possibly having to leave Canada is still on his mind. 

"Now with this support, I'm more confident," he said. "But it can still go the other way."

His goal, however, remains the same. After years of calling himself a Newfoundlander and a Canadian, he wants to make it official with citizenship. 

"It would be a big moment for my mom ... if she still stays around. I have to work fast to get her here."

Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Ariana Kelland

Investigative reporter

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's. She is working as a member of CBC's Atlantic Investigative Unit.

With files from the St. John's Morning Show