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Crime

Quebec man facing deportation to Italy more than two decades after conviction

In this 2016 file photo, Michele Torre is seen at his home Tin Laval, Quebec. The longtime Quebec resident is facing deportation to his native Italy this week. Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. .
In this 2016 file photo, Michele Torre is seen at his home Tin Laval, Quebec. The longtime Quebec resident is facing deportation to his native Italy this week. Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. . Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

A Quebec man convicted more than 20 years ago for his role in a Mafia-linked drug importation will be deported to his native Italy on Thursday barring a last-minute intervention from Ottawa.

Michele Torre has been here before — he was on the verge of being deported in 2016 before a ministerial reprieve saw that order stayed just 90 minutes before his flight.

Authorities are again seeking to deport him to Italy, and on Tuesday a Federal Court judge ruled against his request for a stay of the deportation order.

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Stéphane Handfield, Torre’s lawyer, argued his client should be allowed to remain because his wife has serious health problems.

But Lisa Maziade, a federal government lawyer, countered that his wife’s health problems would not be aggravated by Torre’s departure. She said the Laval, Que., contractor has exhausted his appeals and failed to establish he would suffer irreparable harm if returned.

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The judge agreed, dismissing Torre’s arguments and noting that his wife has nearly a dozen health professionals attending to her care and three adult children in Canada who could look after her.

“He lived his life and made life choices, and there are consequences,” Judge Simon Noel said, noting Torre, a former permanent resident, failed to seek Canadian citizenship despite decades of living in Canada.

“He is the author of his own misfortune. It’s unfortunate his family will suffer the consequences, it’s very regrettable, but it’s not a reason to accept the requests made by Mr. Torre.”

WATCH: Dutch church now at 6 weeks of non-stop service to block family’s deportation (Dec. 2018)

Church’s marathon service to avoid deportation still going strong six weeks later
Church’s marathon service to avoid deportation still going strong six weeks later

The federal government has sought since 2013 to remove Torre for “serious criminality and organized criminality.”

Torre, now 67, was convicted in 1996 in a cocaine importation conspiracy linked to the Cotroni crime family and served part of a nearly nine-year prison sentence, but there was no mention then of deportation.

He has previously disputed the assertion he was “Mafia-affiliated” or a “foot soldier” tied to that crime network. He instead said he paid dearly for following orders after a bar in which he worked fell under the control of organized crime.

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In 2006, Torre again found himself swept up by police during a massive operation aimed at dismantling Montreal’s powerful Mafia. He spent nearly three years in custody but was ultimately acquitted.

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Torre was granted permanent residency after arriving from Italy in 1967 as a teen — a status that was stripped after the process to remove him began. His inadmissibility emerged years after his conviction when he applied for Canadian citizenship so he could seek a pardon and travel more easily to the United States.

His case wound up before the Supreme Court in 2016, which refused to hear it.

He was slated to be deported later that year, but was granted a last-minute, two-year stay that included a work permit. When that expired, a new removal order was issued in January.

Torre is slated to leave Canada on Thursday evening. His only hope is if the federal ministers of public security and immigration issue orders halting the deportation and allowing him to remain in the country to review his claim on humanitarian grounds.

Handfield and Torre’s family have argued it is unfair to deport him so long after his last conviction, which now dates back 23 years, noting he served his sentence and lived a crime-free life since then. In addition to his wife and children, he has six grandchildren in Canada.

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Because Torre’s efforts to regain his permanent residency have been unsuccessful, his only option to stay in Canada was a temporary certificate — renewable every two years — like the one he received in 2016. Handfield said he does not know why Torre’s renewal was refused, because his situation has not changed in the last two years.

“So I don’t understand the decision,” Handfield said. “We’d hoped to stop the deportation and the court disagreed, so now it’s up to the ministers.”