“It hurts to know that I could have been of help and saving lives right now,” Christine Joyce Vega laments as she awaits her deportation. (Toronto Star)

Updated: March 31, 2020, 9 PM

Toronto, Ontario

“Crude and insulting response to her mistake,” says lawyer

By Teodoro ‘Ted’ Alcuitas

Editor

Philippine Canadian news.Com (PCN.Com)

As countries scramble to recruit much needed nurses to help in stemming the coronavirus pandemic, Canada prepares to deport Filipino nurse Christine Joyce Vega back to the Philippines.

For what?

She inadvertently forgot to pay a $100 immigration fee to extend her immigration status.

The 27-year old Vega is an ICU nurse, working in Ontario hospitals for the last three years. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from the Philippines and came to Canada in 2015 under the foreign student immigration stream, according to Toronto Star.

According to The Star, Vega graduated from Conestoga College’s clinical and critical care program as well as the gerontology and chronic illness program in January 2017 when she got her three-year postgraduate work permit while working as a personal support worker and on her licensing exams. She had worked at two hospitals in the York Region since December 2017 –  Markham Stouffville and Mackenzie Richmond Hill hospitals.

She was finally on the verge of achieving her dream to work in Canada – only to be thwarted by an immigration bureaucrat because she failed to pay a processing fee of $100 and missing a document.

She will be deported to the Philippines on April 28, five years after spending $30,000 from her parent’s retirement savings to obtain an education and work in Canada.

“It was an honest mistake,” she told The Star, adding that she thought she did all the right things to process her permanent residence application.

I don’t see how deporting an ICU nurse in the midst of a pandemic is in any Canadian’s interest,” says Toronto immigration lawyer Luke McRae, who is helping Christine Joyce Vega in her fight to stay in Canada.TORONTO STAR

Immigration department spokesperson Nancy Caron told the Star Vega’s work permit extension was refused because she failed to attach her provincial nominee certificate and pay the fee for the open work permit.

“It would have been so simple for the officer to give Christine a chance to provide the missing fees and letter rather than outright refusing her work permit,” said Toronto immigration lawyer Luke McRae, who has been retained by Vega to stop the removal and restore her status. McRae called the deportation order “a crude and insulting response to her mistake. Christine has done so much to serve and assist Canadians as a nurse. I don’t see how deporting an ICU nurse in the midst of a pandemic is in any Canadian’s interest.”

“The truth is a lot of nurses are already overworked,” says Vega, pointing out that the Ontario College of Nurses has already called upon retired and non-practising nurses to reregister and help out during the pandemic.

Ontario worst

A 2018 study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) show that Ontario has the worst RN-to-population ratio in Canada. The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario estimates that the province has only 669 RNs per 100,000 people compared the 828 RNs per 100,000 across the rest of Canada.

For decades, Canada has relied on foreign temporary workers from the Philippines . A majority of these workers are graduate nurses like Vega, but whose only means to immigrate is through the federal Caregiver Program. The program allows them a pathway to immigration after working continuously for two years.

Advocates has long fought for changes to the program to allow applicants to come as permanent residents.The government has been turning a blind eye to these demands.

Perhaps the Coronavirus crisis will open the reality that nurses are a scarce resource and there are thousands of foreign-trained nurses out there that can help.

The case of Christine Joyce Vega begs the question. 

Why deport her?