Toronto immigration lawyer sues media, government over Global News report

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WATCH ABOVE: A Toronto lawyer has filed a $10.75-million lawsuit following a report on Global News about a program to allow undocumented workers to remain in Canada. Sean O'Shea reports.

A Toronto lawyer is suing Global News and one of its reporters, the attorney general of Canada, two members of parliament, three Ontario immigration lawyers and a Portuguese newspaper following media reports that he processed applications for clients who wanted to stay in Canada using a program he touted but one Ottawa says does not exist.

Richard Boraks is suing for general and punitive damages totaling $10.75 million. A statement of claim was filed in the Superior Court of Ontario on June 29 and served on defendants in early July. None of the allegations contained in the filing have been proven in court.

Boraks, an immigration lawyer in Ontario since 1975, is described in the legal filing as “a leading advocate of undocumented trades’ workers permanent residency issues” in the province.

According to the claim, Boraks has “expended a great deal of time and energy, mostly pro bono, in order to advocate before governments.”

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READ MORE: Lawyer insists he took money for real immigration program, Canadian government denies its existence

Global News reported in April on how one of Boraks’ clients, Paolo Romania, an Italian citizen living temporarily in Mississauga, Ont., complained that he was being ordered to leave Canada despite assurances from Boraks that a pilot project for undocumented workers would allow him to stay and become a permanent resident.

“I paid approximately $10,000 (to Boraks) for this. I have been advised by the government that no file exists, no application has been filed and no pilot project exists. This has been verified by an MP and the Immigration Minister’s office,” Romania wrote in an initial email to Global News, which led to television and online reports documenting his circumstances.

In a follow-up interview, Romania told Global News he felt misled by his lawyer. Romania filed a complaint with the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) about Boraks’ conduct. The LSO said it could not comment on its investigation.

Boraks, in the legal claim, said he explained to his clients that an application “does not guarantee the client status in Canada” and “the pilot project was a probationary program, which the government could cancel at any time.”

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Boraks asserted in his pleading that “the pilot project is/was an undertaking by former Immigration Minister John McCallum, and his successor, Minister Ahmed Hussen, to honour previous promises made by government officials concerning undocumented workers and to accept a limited number of undocumented worker applications, as a test group, to be assessed for the Federal Skilled Worker Class using substantiated principles and procedure.”

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The claim asserted that the “pilot project” began in November 2005 through then Immigration Minister Joe Volpe and his Ontario counterpart, former Eglinton-Lawrence MPP Mike Colle. It said the two signed the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement “that would see $1.3 billion set aside to fund programs aimed at helping newcomers to Canada settle.”

The lawsuit also alleged that in 2013, opposition immigration critic John McCallum pledged to help undocumented workers and “when he resumed his past cabinet post as immigration minister, he endorsed the pilot project on behalf of undocumented trades workers.”

Boraks’ claim alleged that on December 22, 2016, McCallum told Portuguese language media there would be a policy announced soon. The next day, the lawsuit contends Mississauga East-Cooksville MP Peter Fonseca and Brampton South MP Sonia Siddu told a meeting in Brampton that they would be working on a pilot project.

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At the same meeting, Boraks alleged Fonseca advised that “processing of applications would commence in the spring of 2016” and “the pilot project would be limited to 1,000 qualified applicants.”

Boraks’ lawsuit argued that Fonsenca “advised … not to promote the pilot project in the media or among undocumented workers at large because the caucus committee required them to limit the initial applicants to a smaller ‘test group’ … was still in its infancy and required procedural testing.”

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Global News contacted the press secretary for federal Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen in April. He said no pilot program for undocumented workers exists.

A spokesperson for then-Ontario Citizenship and Immigration Minister Laura Albanese echoed the federal government’s statements that there is no project in place at this time.

Boraks was insistent that not only did a program exist but that his clients had filed applications directly to Fonseca.

“I can confirm that at this time there is no active pilot project and consequently no application,” Fonseca told Global News by email in April.

“No member of parliament is allowed to collect applications. I have not received any applications because there are no applications if a program is not in existence.”

Boraks, who is also suing Fonseca and fellow MP Francesco Sorbara (Vaughan-Woodbridge), said the politicians “dishonestly began to represent to the public, other lawyers, and media that the…pilot project ‘never existed.’”

Global News attempted to verify the existence of the pilot project referred to by Boraks, but could not. The process included calls and emails to federal and provincial immigration and citizenship ministers’ offices, members of parliament, two immigration lawyers and a review of newspaper clippings provided by Boraks.

Boraks forwarded audio and video recordings which included Fonseca at a meeting referring to a “pilot project … to start with construction (workers),” but the recording made no reference to an approved program.

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WATCH: Lawyer denies touting bogus Canadian Immigration program. Sean O’Shea reports. (April 4)

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Lawyer denies touting bogus Canadian Immigration program

In another video at a public meeting, Hussen can be heard telling an audience, “We are looking at ways to regularize these people.” But Hussen made no commitment at that meeting to a particular program with any specific requirements.

Boraks contended in his claim that Hussen and members of the Liberal Party caucus are “bound by the procedural doctrine of legitimate expectations” asserting that “in misrepresenting and lying about the pilot project in fact never existing, they engaged in misfeasance of their public offices which caused damages to the Plaintiff.”

In his statement of claim “as against Sean O’Shea, Global News, and Corus Entertainment (parent company of Global News),” Boraks seeks “$4 million for express libel and slander by innuendo and irresponsible publication.” The claim asserted Boraks “suffered, and continues to suffer, considerable financial damages, damage to reputation, and mental anguish.”

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Boraks said the Global News report made “false, malicious, and irresponsible statements which are defamatory.”

Corus Entertainment is filing a statement of defence in response to the allegations.

Boraks, during a televised interview in April, threatened legal action if Global News broadcast and published an unflattering report.

“If you put me on air and you’re grilling me and it comes across that I am not a very nice boy, and you haven’t done your work, that’s not a good thing,” he said.

“If you don’t do your homework and you make me look like a fraud artist, I’m coming at you.”

Boraks also asked the court to issue a declaration that Hussen process 240 applications in compliance with a pilot project he said the government promised.

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