|Arnisito Gaviola. (QMI Agency, files)
WINNIPEG -- A Manitoba company at the heart of a high-profile immigration debacle that led to the deportation of three hard-working Filipino men affectionately dubbed the "Three Amigos" pleaded guilty and fined $12,000 for breaking Canadian immigration-protection laws.
5896941 Manitoba Limited -- operating as a Shell gas station in Thompson, Man. -- pleaded guilty last week before provincial court Judge Tim Preston to counts of misrepresentation and employing illegal foreign workers under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Preston fined the company $12,000.
"The potential for abuse is so huge, I think a message has to be sent," Preston said in passing sentence.
The station's owner, Adnan Chaudhary, was in court for the hearing.
Preston was given what was described as a "voluminous" statement of facts regarding the Canada Border Services Agency's investigation in the case, but none were read into the court record.
Migrant workers Antonio Laroya, Arnisito Gaviola and Ermie Zotomayor were deported in May 2011 to their native Philippines and ordered excluded from returning to Canada for at least a year despite a groundswell of public and some political support to try and keep them here.
In June 2010, the three men were arrested and pulled from their jobs at the Shell station after accusations arose they were employed there illegally.
The trio arrived in Canada in 2007 under a federal temporary foreign worker program and paid a recruiter to find them jobs at a gas station in Alberta.
After being laid off and their work permits close to expiring, they got low-paying jobs at the Shell station in Thompson.
The men testified at an immigration hearing their new employer told them he was working to try and complete required documentation and put them to work immediately.
Employers must secure a labour market opinion (LMO) from the federal government before applying for a work permit for foreign workers.
A LMO assesses whether or not the jobs offered can be filled by Canadians.
The men said their employer told them to start work before securing a LMO.
Their efforts to fight the immigration system in court ultimately failed and they were kicked out.
Community members rallied around the men, with many signing petitions to the immigration minister and offering all manner of donations -- cash, shelter and legal services -- in the hopes of them being able to remain.
---With files from Dean Pritchard