A Filipino woman who thought she was playing by the rules is being kicked out of Canada after immigration officials ruled she was only authorized to care for one person, not several, in a Red Deer group home.
Florencia Feria recently attended an immigration hearing in Calgary where a judge decided she must leave Canada for one year. The single mother, now destitute, is disheartened because she says she did everything by the book. She is leaving Canada Tuesday.
Feria will not appeal the ruling because she said she must show evidence of danger to her life upon returning to the Philippines.
“In my entire 43 years of life, it’s the worst,” she said. “But I have to go on.”
Like many Filipino women, she sacrificed being with her three children in hopes of earning a better living to care for them.
She was hired as a caregiver through World Care Placement Agency operated by Marlea Ramos of Red Deer.
Feria was faxed a contract from Ramos, which stated her employer was the 29-year-old quadriplegic she’d be caring for.
Arriving in Red Deer in July, Feria began working in a group home, operated by Marsha Kosheluk of Community Care Home Health Services, where the disabled man was living. Feria looked after the man, plus three others with special needs.
Feria’s gross wage was $1,747 monthly, minus room and board of $326. She also paid taxes, employment insurance and CPP. She paid Ramos an agency fee of $3,600. She also paid her own airfare, a visa fee and the cost of a medical examination.
A Canada Border Services agent did a spot check in November and discovered the man had been in hospital since September. Feria was still caring for other residents of the home.
“They got my pay slip which said that my salary doesn’t come from (the man I was caring for),” Feria said.
Scott Deederly, constituency assistant at Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen’s office, assisted Feria after hearing of her case in late November. Deederly said the office regularly deals with foreign worker concerns.
“There are individuals who are taking advantage of foreign workers and are placing them in situations where they violate their terms of their work permits, knowingly or unknowingly,” said Deederly.
An immigration officer with Canada Border Services Agency wrote a report in December after interviewing Feria in the home. Obtained by the Advocate, the report says the employee contract lists there are two other household members, but does not state that Feria will provide their care.
There is no mention in the contract that the residence is operated by Kosheluk, says the officer’s report.
Feria said she continued living in the residence to care for three people after the man she cared for went to hospital.
“She has never been issued a work permit to take care of the three residents or for Marsha Kosheluk or Community Care Home Health Services,” says the immigration officer’s report.
The work permit application was arranged by her agent, Marlea Ramos.
The immigration officer said “Ramos is well aware of regulations regarding work, and the consequences of foreign nationals working without the proper permit.”
“Two of (Marlea Ramos’s) brothers, while on work permits to be her live-in caregivers, were arrested and ordered excluded for working without proper work permits,” says the officer’s report.
The immigration officer’s report also says Kosheluk is also aware of immigration rules in regards to work.
“In this past year, a dozen of her employees have been reported for working without proper permits,” said the report. “Some of them were removed, and some were allowed to remain in Canada based on humanitarian reasons,” says the report.
The officer also suggested having Feria attend a hearing and be issued an exclusion order. That happened on April 23. An exclusion order bans an individual for a year while a deportation order bans someone from a country permanently.
“Marsha (Kosheluk) and Marlea (Ramos) have helped orchestrate her violation, but she is ultimately responsible,” says the report.
When the Advocate asked Kosheluk to comment on Feria’s situation, she said, “You need to talk to (Marlea Ramos).”
As for whether 12 of her employees had been reported to immigration officials for working without proper permits, Kosheluk said it was “in the courts and lawyer system.”
Ramos explained a letter was given to Canada Border Services to explain why Kosheluk was doing the payroll, instead of Feria’s employer who was supposed to be the disabled man.
“I think that’s why Community Care is the one paying her is because of (the man’s) condition,” Ramos said.
Ramos said she wanted to speak with Kosheluk before she would comment further. Ramos did not return repeated calls made by the Advocate.
Feria will return home to look for a job and be with her three teenaged children, whom she hasn’t seen in almost five years. Feria hopes to return to Canada to work next May.
“I hope no one else doesn’t experience the same thing I did,” said Feria.
Jaime Huizing, a settlement counsellor for Catholic Social Services in Red Deer, said this case illustrates how vital it is for foreign workers to know their rights and responsibilities, and that help is available to them through her office and temporary foreign worker advisory offices in Calgary and Edmonton.