5896941 Manitoba Limited – operating as Thompson Shell, owned by Adnan Chaudhary – was fined $12,000 in Winnipeg June 25 by provincial court Judge Tim Preston after pleading guilty to charges of misrepresentation and employing illegal foreign workers under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in the high-profile "Three Amigos" case, which saw Filipino temporary foreign workers Ermie Zotomayor, Antonio Laroya and Arnel (Arnisito) Gaviola removed from Canada on May 19, 2011 by a minister's exclusion order for a minimum of one year.
An exclusion order is a type of removal order. The persons concerned must leave Canada and cannot return for a period of one year unless they have special written permission. After that one-year period they have the right to apply to re-enter Canada again and can be re-admitted if they are found to have met the entry requirements. It is believed that since their one-year exclusion order expired almost two months ago in May, Zotomayor, Laroya and Gaviola have applied for re-admission to Canada.
The three men, devout Catholics, were parishioners at St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church on Cree Road while they lived in Thompson during 2010. Parishioners were part of an unsuccessful petition drive in December 2010 trying to persuade federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney to let them remain in Canada. Manitoba's Filipino community and organizations, especially Damayan Manitoba and Migrante-Canada in Winnipeg, along with Broadway Disciples United Church and New Hope Community Church of the Nazarene in Winnipeg, were also active in helping the "Three Amigos."
Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada adjudicator Daphne Shaw-Dyck at admissibility hearings on March 15, 2011 upheld Kenney's order to kick Zotomayor, Laroya and Gaviola out of Canada and exclude them from re-entering the country for a year unless they received "special written permission." They had no right of appeal.
Thompson Shell was arraigned in court May 20, 2011, the day after their departure. Chaudhary was in court in Winnipeg in June 25 for the guilty pleas.
The chronic unemployment and lack of opportunities in the Philippines has resulted in the daily exodus of approximately 3,900 Filipinos workers who find jobs outside the country, according to the Quezon City, Philippines-based IBON Foundation, a non-profit research-education-information and advocacy organization set up in 1978 to serve marginalized sectors. Between 2002 and 2008, the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada rose by 148 per cent, to 251,235 from 101,259, a study by the Institute for Research on Public Policy, Canada's oldest non-partisan public policy think tank, found. Based in Montreal, the Institute for Research on Public Policy, was founded in 1972.
Zotomayor, 46, Laroya, 46, and Gaviola, 43, were arrested here on June 24, 2010 by officers from the Canadian Border Services Agency and held in custody at the Thompson RCMP detachment for eight hours for not having valid work permits after the 90-days grace period to have their work permit status restored by their new employer here, Thompson Shell, expired.
The three men say they were recruited in February 2010 to work at Thompson Shell and the employer promised to get their paperwork in order, but never did.
They left their families in the Philippines to escape poverty and come to Canada in 2007 under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to work in a gas station in High Prairie, Alberta. Although it is illegal in Alberta for recruiters to charge workers a fee for finding employment, the three say they were charged $3,000 each by a recruiter to land the jobs.
After almost two years of working at the High Prairie gas station, they were laid off. They received work permits for employment at a restaurant in Peace River, Alberta where they lived together in a mobile home. But as their third year in Canada approached, they knew their time under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program was drawing to a close because the program only allows workers to stay for a maximum of four years, after which they must leave the country and not return to the program until after another four years.
They asked their restaurant employer if they could be sponsored under Alberta's Provincial Nominee Program but the employer couldn't help them with that, so they looked for other jobs.
When they were laid off, they had 90 days to restore their work permits but were ineligible for benefits from Employment Insurance (EI) to which they'd contributed.
After a friend found a position at Thompson Shell, and because of the reputation for success of the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP) in helping skilled workers become future permanent residents after six months of work, they headed east to Thompson.
Zotomayor, Laroya and Gaviola said their new employer here insisted they start working at once and promised that the work permits would soon follow. Zotomayor, Laroya and Gaviola went to work in February for $10 an hour, sharing an apartment in Thompson, and sending most of their pay home to their families in the Philippines. Zotomayor has a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering.
After waiting for three months, the employer still failed to obtain the new work permits as promised, they said. Even after asking their employer repeatedly about the status of their papers, the work permits never came. This caused the workers to be "out of status."
They said they were told by their new employer he'd take care of the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) and other documents needed to restore their work permits. A Labour Market Opinion assesses whether or not the jobs offered can be filled first by Canadians or permanent residents.
Meanwhile, Canada Border Services Agency investigators testified at the admissibility hearings they'd been watching Zotomayor, Laroya and Gaviola work in March and April 2010, but didn't advise the men on what was legally required of them. Their 90 days' grace period expired in May 2010, and the Filipino workers were arrested the following month.
After their arrests, they were released, but not allowed to work and all their identification cards were confiscated, including their Philippine passports.
In passing sentence and imposing a $12,000 fine, Preston noted, "The potential for abuse is so huge, I think a message has to be sent."
While Preston was given what was described as a "voluminous" statement of facts regarding the Canada Border Services Agency's investigation of the case, they were not read into the court record.
Violations of Canada's immigration laws "undermine the integrity of the border and our immigration program," said Sean Best, a Winnipeg-based media relations spokesperson for the Prairie Region of the Canada Border Services Agency.