A mother and daughter from Edmonton facing an imminent deportation order are desperate to remain in Canada.
Vangie Cayanan came to Canada as a temporary foreign worker back in 2010, but she alleges her employer abused her and when she reported it, she was let go.
The next year, she moved to Edmonton where she continued to work.
In 2015, while still in Canada, Cayanan had a baby girl named McKenna. That’s the same year Cayanan became an undocumented migrant.
Recently, her lawyer said the Canada Border Services Agency started rounding up undocumented workers and deporting them.
Family friend Whitney Haynes said the government isn’t being fair to the Cayanans.
“She came here legally, under the temporary foreign worker program,” Haynes said. “She was abused by her employer, abused by a system which has abused many people — that throws people away back to their own country just to bring in a new batch of people to do the same jobs.”
Cayanan was told she and her daughter would have to leave the country and go to the Philippines on May 11.
After being granted an emergency extension allowing McKenna to finish her school year in Canada, a new deportation date has been scheduled for July 11.
“I’m asking for all the support to stay here because McKenna belongs here, I belong here, we belong here. This is our home,” Cayanan said.
Recently, Cayanan said her six-year-old daughter was diagnosed with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder.
In Canada, McKenna is receiving supports in school and is getting medication for her conditions, something Cayanan said wouldn’t happen in the Philippines.
“In an impoverished learning environment, without the resources, I don’t know that those special needs can be met,” agreed registered social worker Susan Otto.
Plus, they added that McKenna only speaks and understands English.
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A statement from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said “all foreign nationals are expected to respect our immigration laws by maintaining a legal status while in Canada, restoring their status within 90 days after their status has expired, or returning to their country of origin.
“An individual who remains in Canada more than 90 days after their status expires should leave Canada. From abroad, they may apply to return to Canada through any type of temporary or permanent status they are eligible to apply for.”
Options include the permanent residence program or a temporary work permit, according to the government agency.
“Everyone deserves a work environment where they are safe and their rights are respected. The government takes the safety and dignity of foreign workers very seriously, which is why we’ve been taking strong action to protect workers since before the pandemic,” the statement continued.
“Migrant workers have the same rights to workplace protections under applicable federal, provincial and territorial employment standards and collective agreements as Canadians and permanent residents.”
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Supporters also say Cayanan has proven herself to be a valuable member of the community.
Despite her status, in 2017 she advocated for children of migrants to have basic rights — and won.
“Every child born in Canada can access health care now because of her work,” explained Clarizze Truscott, vice-chair with Migrante Canada.
Cayanan also helped deliver packages to undocumented people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Her tireless community work earned her the human rights award from the John Humphrey Centre For Peace and Human Rights. This isn’t just given to anybody,” Truscott said.
“We should strive to keep these kinds of wonderful people in our community, because these are the people who contribute positively to the community, always,” explained her lawyer, Manraj Sidhu.
He is appealing the deportation order based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. But that process could take three years.
“I don’t want to beg, I just want to fight for her rights. McKenna deserves everything, just like other children here in Canada,” Cayanan explained.
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In the meantime, Migrante Canada launched a petition for the family to stay, hoping to present it to the federal minister of immigration.
The petition already has more than 2,100 signatures.
“No worker should ever feel like this. No human should ever feel like this. No child should ever, ever be part of this process,” Haynes said.
“Obviously there’s a very real need for workers here, it’s all over the media. I don’t understand why we’re expanding the temporary foreign worker program when we can just let the workers here stay here, that have developed a strong sense of community here.”
Migrante said there are currently more than half a million undocumented people in Canada.