Support grows to stop the deportation of McKenna and mother
Support grows to stop the deportation of McKenna and mother
By Michelle Chermaine Ramos
The Philippine Reporter
Migrante Alberta launched a campaign on June 6, 2022, to keep undocumented worker Evangeline “Vangie” Cayanan and her six-year-old Canadian-born daughter McKenna in Canada. The petition has collected over 2,100 signatures as of their press conference on June 16, 2022.
MP of Edmonton Griesbach, Blake Desjarlais, also brought their plight to the attention of Immigration Minister Sean Fraser in Parliament on June 10, 2022, asking him directly if he will stop the deportation. Fraser responded saying that although they are not at liberty to discuss the specific details of individual case files on the floor of the House of Commons, he is willing to continue to examine and discuss the case “to ensure that the rules are applied fairly but also with a compassionate lens”. As of the time of this writing, we have not received a response from the offices of MP Desjarlais and Minister Fraser regarding the status of this petition.
Vangie tearfully recounted how she arrived in Canada legally in 2011 to work as a skilled worker in a restaurant but lost her status after a dispute with her abusive employer. She and her other migrant coworkers were promised 40 hours of work each week but were given 20 instead. Moreover, she and her Asian migrant colleagues faced harassment and racism on the job. When they were asked to go to a farm to cut trees, which was not in their contract, Vangie and her general manager reported the issue and their lack of safety gear to the agency which resulted in them losing their jobs.
She applied to have her work permit transferred but was denied so she was forced to work a cleaning job under the table to survive. Her second employer took advantage of her situation by paying her less than agreed (See her 2019 interview with the Alberta Labour History Institute here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U-1AG6roZQ&t=3s). “The closed work permit is a source of huge exploitation for all the temporary workers so the government and the parliament should act immediately to address the exploitation. What Vangie is essentially doing is she is paying the price for standing up for her rights and her coworkers,” her lawyer Manraj Sidhu said at the press conference.
Despite her own challenges and the abuse she experienced as a temporary foreign worker, Vangie rose to become a community leader by spearheading a campaign to allow the children of undocumented migrant workers to access healthcare in Canada—and she won. “Every child born in Canada can actually access health care now because of her work. Even as an undocumented worker, she was in front of the Serve the People project of Migrante Alberta, which delivers care packages to undocumented migrants during the time of COVID,” said Clarizze Truscott, Vice-Chair of Migrante Alberta. “Her tireless community work earned her the Human Rights Award from the John Humphrey Center of Peace and Human Rights. So, this is not just given to just anybody. So this is a testament of who she is as a person, her strength as a person, and her strength as a mother.”
Vangie’s 6 year-old daughter McKenna was born here and is a Canadian citizen. Last year, McKenna was diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). Unfortunately, because Vangie is set to be deported on July 11, 2022, McKenna will be forced to leave with her because they have no other family here. Vangie’s close friend, Whitney Haynes was appalled when Vangie told her that a CBSA officer suggested that she could just give custody of McKenna to a Canadian family. “I don’t know how you could ever tell a mom to hand over their child, to people that she doesn’t even know to, in essence, abandon their kid to someone else,” said Haynes. “I don’t understand why we’re expanding a temporary foreign worker program when we can just let people that are already workers here stay here, and have developed a strong sense of community here. And McKenna is just one example of how government systems, not just in Canada, severely and adversely affect children. And this decision, as has been said, is going to affect her for the rest of her life.”
Vangie said that her biggest fear is that McKenna won’t have access to free healthcare in the Philippines where she doesn’t even speak the language because Canada is the only home she knows. Private schools are too expensive and public schools are too crowded and cannot provide her with the special care she needs. McKenna’s teacher, Christina Boisvert was also present at the press conference and clarified that any child could have been diagnosed with McKenna’s conditions. “This is not an effect of parenting or parenting style. This is a parent who has advocated and supported her child through everything and with support any child will flourish with consistency, with routine, with rapport with people who she trusts and always respond in the same predictable way,” she explained.
Susan Otto, McKenna’s social worker who has worked with children and youth for more than 30 years was also there to comment on the importance of early learning as a parent herself. “I have a son with special needs and the luxury of inclusive schools where they can take care of kids and meet their needs developing very individualized supports, program planning, behavior planning, academic planning. That’s what changes students. And if there was a loss to that, it wouldn’t just be a temporary loss, it could be a long-term loss,” Otto explained. “In an impoverished learning environment without the resources, I don’t believe that their special needs could be met at all.”
Truscott mentioned that there are half a million undocumented migrants in Canada and like Vangie, many of them are facing deportation. Many were invited to work in Canada legally to address the labour shortage with the promise of the eligibility to stay. Unfortunately, their work permits were tied to their employers and the types of jobs they came here for, and they can lose their status when they lose or leave their jobs or become sick and unable to work. “No one chooses to be abused or exploited by employers. And no one certainly chooses to become undocumented, but our immigration system makes them that way. The reality of migrant workers today is used, abused, and discarded,” said Truscott.
As the small window of time closes towards July 11, Vangie is pleading for public pressure to help them stay here to allow McKenna access to the healthcare she needs and has a right to as a Canadian citizen. “I’m asking for all the support to stay here because McKenna belongs here. I belong here. We belong here. This is her home. This is our home. Do not deny her rights as a Canadian. I will continue to fight for her. Thank you.”
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SIGN THE PETITION HERE: Stop the deportation of McKenna and mom
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