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Three Amigos forced to depart




Carol Sandres


The Three Amigos were to board a flight for the Philippines this morning after they lost their struggle to stay and work in Canada.

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Winnipeg Free Press

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The Three Amigos were to board a flight for the Philippines this morning after they lost their struggle to stay and work in Canada.
Friends and supporters threw a going-away party Tuesday for Antonio Laroya, Arnisito Gaviola and Ermie Zotomayor, who haven't seen their families in four years.
Going "home" to a country with no jobs, social safety net or work lined up isn't comforting, said Gaviola.
The anxiety of finding work somewhere else to support their families overrides everything, Gaviola said.
"It's so difficult for us." He and his friends haven't been allowed to work in Canada since their arrest last June in Thompson for working at a gas bar without the proper paperwork.
"We lose our jobs," Gaviola said. "We lose our dreams."
In March, an immigration and refugee board adjudicator ruled against them at an admissibility hearing. They were ordered to leave Canada by May 19.
Their former employer is to appear in court in Thompson Friday facing criminal charges. He hired the workers, who were laid off from jobs in Alberta, where they had paid a recruiter thousands of dollars to find them low-paying service jobs in 2007. The Three Amigos -- as they were dubbed early on -- said their employer in Thompson told them he was processing the necessary paperwork. He wasn't, and he was the subject of a criminal investigation by the Canada Border Services Agency.
Their former boss was charged last fall with misrepresentation and illegally hiring foreign workers. He has not yet entered a formal plea.
"I'm not angry at him," said Gaviola, in a mix of English and Tagalog interpreted by their advocate, Diwa Marcelino. "But he needs to face the consequences," as he, Laroya and Zotomayor have. They spent the last year in financial free-fall trying to stay and get permission to work or at least clear the decks, legally, so they can one day return to Canada.
"It's been hurtful," said Laroya. Their families struggled to make ends meet when they lost their jobs, he said.
"My children lost their chance to go to school." Laroya said his college-age kids had to drop out of their programs with no financial support from their dad.
"It was very sad at times," Laroya said, reflecting on the past year.
While the federal government didn't come through for the men, members of the community sure did, said Marcelino. More than 2,000 people signed petitions calling on the minister of immigration to allow them to stay. Supporters raised money and found them accommodations. Labour groups like Migrante Canada and Damayan Manitoba helped them, and Legal Aid Manitoba stepped up, offering legal services.
The men plan to return to Manitoba as soon as they can. They will apply to have their one-year exclusion order from Canada waived so they can return to work sooner, said Marcelino.
"They love this country."
For now the Filipino foreign workers said they have to go wherever there are jobs.
Until unrest gripped northern Africa and the Middle East, there were plenty of decent-paying jobs for foreign workers there, said Gaviola.
"Now they have to look for another job," said Marcelino.


Economic sectors


Content types

Policy analysis and Documented cases of abuse

Target groups

Public awareness

Geographical focuses

Manitoba and Philippines