On Christmas Eve, 2009, four construction workers were killed in Toronto, when the scaffolding they were standing on collapsed. A fifth worker survived with very serious injuries. All five were migrant workers and their working conditions were unsafe.
Bad enough, eh? No, it gets much, much worse.
The family of one of the four deceased workers are refugee claimants from Israel. They are Orthodox Christians, and came to Canada so their two daughters would not be forced to serve in the Israeli "Defense" Forces. The girls are 7 and 14 years old.
Now the family may be deported. They have a refugee hearing next month, and they cannot afford a lawyer.
On New Year's Eve, Cherniakova got a letter from the Immigration and Refugee Board, telling her she has a hearing Feb. 23. Cherniakova, who speaks little English, knows if things don't go well in the Victoria St. hearing room, she and her two girls may very well be uprooted.
This, she said, would mean Korostin's dream of a future in Canada for his girls would be snuffed out.
Korostin always put his girls first, and left Israel in part because he worried about them doing mandatory military service once they completed high school, she said.
He also thought Canada would be a better fit for his family, who are Orthodox Christian and originally from the tiny community of Guzar, Uzbekistan, which is predominantly Muslim.
They decided to move here three years ago from Israel after a visit from friends who had moved to Canada. "They said, 'If you're Muslim, Christian or Jewish, you can find your place in Canada,'" Cherniakova recalled, through a Russian language interpreter. "You will be respected for who you are as a human being.'"
I'd like to help them. Perhaps we can raise money for their representation, through a ChipIn? I've met some refugee lawyers through the war resister campaign. Maybe they can help. Let me know if you have any ideas - or, more importantly, if you have any time and interest in getting involved.
Update. I contacted a refugee lawyer I've met through the War Resisters Support Campaign. I had seen her posting on Facebook about the construction accident, in relation to the poor workplace safety standards that migrant workers are so often subjected to. She's with Parkdale Community Legal Services, and I asked her if there is anything Parkdale can do.
She gave me quite a bit of information about what might be done on the family's behalf, but said that the family would have to contact Parkdale. Parkdale can probably represent them through Legal Aid, but they (the family) would have to foot the bill for the Humanitarian and Compassionate application.
I then contacted the Star reporter who wrote the story, quoted from the lawyer's email, and asked if he would pass on this information to the family. I also suggested that if they are internet savvy, they might try raising money through ChipIn.
The reporter wrote back to say he would pass along the information through an interpreter, and he said several lawyers have volunteered to represent the family pro bono.
There's no guarantee of anything, of course, but at least there is hope.