family of killed toronto construction worker faces deportation. can we help them? UPDATED

I heard about this yesterday during the Toronto anti-prorogue protest, and I can't stop thinking about it. There must be something we can do to help this family.

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.


Stephanie said...

I would love to help but at the moment I am limited (as you are tooo, I'm sure) in the ways that I could help.

laura k said...

I know. Me too.

I contacted a refugee lawyer I've met through the WR campaign. She sent some info, and I'm trying to forward it to the family through the Star reporter who wrote the story. Worth a try.

laura k said...

Good news! There is hope. I will do an update.

Stephanie said...

Oh I look forward to that update!

Stephanie said...

Oh this is good news indeed.

sassy said...

Well done on your end, a good start.

MSEH said...

You are just terrific, L-girl!!

Dan said...

hello. i'm sorry to include something so trivial on such an important post, but i just wanted to say that i came across your blog while searching for information about the ischool. i'm also a first year ischool student and was very pleased to find a fellow expat american with similarly progressive views have such a great blog. keep up the good work. maybe we'll come across each other at the inforum some day!


laura k said...

Thank you guys :)

Dan, thanks for stopping by and letting me know! By coincidence, just two weeks ago I attended a town hall meeting about Canada in Afghanistan, co-sponsored by the UofT NDP and the UofT Socialists. And... the UofT NDP speaker was also a first-year iSchool student!

If you're on Facebook, look up "I [heart] my iSchool" - progressive people at the iSchool.

Thanks for letting me know and your kind words about wmtc. Hopefully we will have a class together and recognize each other. :)