Nfld. & Labrador

Labrador whistleblower's 'heart is broken,' faces deportation

A temporary foreign worker whose complaint started a federal investigation is now facing deportation, according to an activist group.

Arthur Lorenzo and co-workers filed a complaint against Labrador City employer in 2013

Arthur Lorenzo spoke out against alleged mistreatment by his former employer in 2013 and is now facing deportation according to a group that promotes the rights of migrant workers. (CBC)

A temporary foreign worker whose complaint started a Canadian Border Services Agency investigation into alleged violations of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program in Labrador City is now facing deportation, according to a migrant worker activist group. 

Arthur Lorenzo told CBC News in early 2014 that his employer, which owned Jungle Jim's restaurant franchise in Labrador City, forced 26 migrant workers to share a split-level house for months, which would be a violation of the employer's agreement with the federal government. 

The CBSA had executed a search warrant at the home and restaurant in 2013. The restaurant owners said they were co-operating with the investigation, deny any wrong doing and no charges have been laid. 

A post on Justicia for Migrant Workers' Harvesting Freedom website said that Lorenzo is "facing deportation on January 26th, 2017 at 10:30 p.m."

"It breaks a lot of our hearts and it's extremely frustrating to see this consistent theme where people who have this courage to stand up for their rights are discarded and disposed of," said Chris Ramsaroop, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers.

"For somebody who has struggled and who has faced so many insurmountable barriers in Canada — his heart is broken, he's extremely sad," Ramsaroop told CBC News on Thursday, saying Lorenzo is going through an emotional roller coaster. 

"This is where he belongs."

According to court documents, Lorenzo moved to British Columbia in the spring of 2014 and searched for employment, but was unable to find an employer willing to hire him under the Temporary Foreign Worker's Program. 

"This speaks to one of the fundamental problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker's Program," said Ramsaroop, when asked about Lorenzo's troubles finding employment. 

"There's a consistent problem with workers having the ability to find work because of the so called job offers, Labour Market Impact (LMI) being tied to an employer."

In April of 2015, Lorenzo applied for a temporary resident permit for Victims of Trafficking in Persons (VTIP), as well as a temporary resident permit and an open work permit. 

'A pillar in numerous communities'

During this time, according to a post by Justicia for Migrant Workers, Lorenzo volunteered at a number of organizations, becoming "an active member of the West Coast Domestic Workers Association; a volunteer participant and social group co-facilitator with the Rainbow Refugee Society; a volunteer participant with Mosaic Settlement services, and an active member of Vancouver Association of Survivors of Torture (VAST)."

The post, which asks people to contact Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Ralph Goodale, said Lorenzo "has been a pillar in numerous communities."

Ramsaroop said that there have been hundreds of e-mails sent to Minister Goodale asking the department to revoke the deportation order sent to Lorenzo. 

According to court documents, Lorenzo argued in part that he should be allowed to stay in Canada on a VTIP application because he is involved in an ongoing investigation into his former employers, is financially supporting his family in the Philippines, and is dealing with mental health issues caused by the alleged mistreatment from his former employers.

It breaks a lot of our hearts and it's extremely frustrating to see this consistent theme where people who have this courage to stand up for their rights are discarded and disposed of.- Chris Ramsaroop, Justicia for Migrant Workers

His application was denied by an immigration officer, "finding that the applicant was not a victim of human trafficking," according to court documents. 

The officer denied Lorenzo's application for a temporary resident permit, adding that charges have not been laid against his former employers, that he was able to support himself financially in British Columbia for over a year without employment and that he has family living in the Philippines that could support.

As for Lorenzo's argument about his mental health, the officer argued "that two years had elapsed since the alleged mistreatment occurred. Thus, the applicant could have attended to treatment, should he have elected to require such, and, thus, recover from his alleged mental health problems."

A judge dismissed Lorenzo's request for judicial review, meaning the immigration officer's ruling stands.