Fighter for migrants rights wins battle
By Ted Alcuitas
The woman who has become the poster girl for migrant’s rights has won her fight to stay in Canada after bing scheduled to be deported on Sunday, January 15.
Gina Bahiwal is able to stay in Canada pending approval of her permanent residence application, her lawyer Richard Wazana, told Philippine Canadian News.com by telephone from Toronto. Wazana said the Immigration Department will issue his client a one-year temporary resident permit that will allow her to stay and work in Canada while her outstanding humanitarian application for permanent residency is in process.
She was all ready to leave and her luggage were all packed when she heard the news.
“It feels like a dream,” she said when reached by The Toronto Star from her home in Leamington.
Baliwal became a victim of the former Tory government’s controversial “four-in-four-out” rules that banned migrant workers from Canada for four years after having worked here for four.
The rule was recently rescinded by the Liberal government but was not ‘grandfathered’ according to Wazana. Baliwal’s work permit expired in October 2015 under the old regulations. Since her legal status ran out in Canada, Bahiwal has been unable to provide for her 14-year-old son, her mother and a niece in the Philippines.
The 42-year old Bahiwal has been an outspoken advocate for migrant’s rights since she arrived in Canada in 2008 under the temporary foreign worker program.
Bahiwal, who has a university degree and worked as a social worker in the Philippines, worked in Ontario and British Columbia in vegetable packing on farms, hotel housekeeping and at a McDonald’s.
She said she paid a Canadian recruiter $5,000 to find her a job in Leamington, Ont., packing tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers but found herself unemployed when she refused to pay another $2,200 to the recruiter to renew her work permit. She later found another job at a different farm.
In 2012, when the Conservative government introduced the four-year ban on migrant workers, Bahiwal knew her days in Canada were numbered and decided to find another job that could potentially offer her a path to permanent residency here.
Bahiwal said she paid another recruiter $1,500 for a job as a housekeeper in B.C. She said she left after two years because she stood up for another migrant worker over her firing and the employer allegedly refused to sponsor Bahiwal’s immigration.
Bahiwal has been praised by migrant’s organizations for her dedication to the fight for their rights.
“I have been inspired by Gina’s dedication and tenacity to fight for the rights of migrant workers. From advocating for their maternal rights to exposing the unscrupulous practices of migrant recruiters, Gina is one of our unsung heroes,” said Chris Ramsaroop of the advocacy group Justicia for Migrant Workers who led the vanguard against Bahiwal’s deportation.
“Every victory that we have accomplished, from banning recruitment fees to ending the four-in-four-out rule, is attributed to the activism of Gina. She is a leading voice for a more compassionate, fair and inclusive society.”
“I always got into trouble for speaking up but I feel there are so many injustices in the system against migrant workers and if we do not stand up for ourselves, no one will,” Bahiwal told The Toronto Star in an interview.
Later she found a job at a McDonald’s in Hope, B.C., and applied for permanent status in Canada under the provincial nominee program. However, her earnings did not meet the government’s income eligibility threshold.
Bahiwal helped organize the historic 12-hour Pilgrimage to Freedom march from Leamington to Windsor and the Harvesting Freedom caravan in 2010 to call on the federal government to grant permanent status upon arrival for all temporary foreign workers. She was invited to speak before a parliamentary committee in Ottawa last year that led to the revocation of the four-in-four-out rule.