TORONTO - It backfired. That is one message that emerged from the 18-page summary and findings of the Law Society Tribunal, Hearing Division, chaired by Barbara J. Murchie, Dated October 4, 2019. The stated purpose of the Hearing was an examination of the modus operandi of one immigration lawyer, Richard Boraks, by the Law Society, with respect to client services associated with a Pilot Project for Undocumented Workers.
Someone – another lawyer, the Minister of Immigration or members of a Press Corps – had gone through a lot of trouble to use the Law Society to harass into submission the legal counsel to the Undocumented Workers Committee (UWC). Since 2014, the UWC, in its current form Chaired by Manuel Alexandre, had been representing the interests of “out-ofstatus” migrants, and their families, in the construction industry.
Given the market sector, much of the “clientele” for which the UWC advocates is Brazilian, Italian, Portuguese, Polish or Hispanic. For whatever reason, they cannot meet the level of English required to secure Permanent Residency (PR). They are not indolent. Quite the contrary, they are an “in-demand asset” for their employers in a labour-starved marketplace. The language skills required for the job site are different from those in academia.
Boraks and the UWC lobbied successfully for “substituted evaluation”, permitted under s. 12(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and s. 87.2(4) of its Regulations until a Ministerial directive in the former Conservative government demanded results under formal testing.
It was a heartless, insensitive and counter-productive move. Families were deported. The labour shortage increased. More workers went underground. Boraks and the UWC appealed to the Courts as part of a response to keep workers here legally until a solution – change in government policy – could be effected. The alternative for the workers would be to find a more expedient method: cheat on the examination by paying a stand-in and then be subjected to the on-going potential of having the PR revoked.
The change seemingly came when a Liberal government, at the behest of Minister McCallum, under “ministerial discretion” pursuant to s. 25.2 of IRPA, proposed a limited Pilot Project, on December 22, 2016 to address the plight of both employers and employees.
Pilot Projects do not need Governor in Council (Cabinet) approval. Nor do they have to be Gazetted – a process that formalizes government Legislative/Regulatory initiatives or changes. The Law Society agreed. Ministers can announce them virtually at will and the Department is duty-bound to execute them.
McCallum went further. He established a Caucus Committee to help in the process. Several Toronto area MPS, Julie Dzerowicz and Peter Fonseca among them (although the Tribunal did not name them in its findings), were active in promoting the Pilot Project. MP Fonseca even took delivery of completed application forms for processing through the Department.
The UWC was encouraged. Many workers, trusting in the new “breath of fresh air” came forward and submitted applications though Boraks and co. A new Minister, Ahmed Hussen – a former Refugee who arrived in Canada without papers – made all the right confirmational statements for the next several months until late 2017.
By early 2018, his focus shifted. In a complete reversal, Hussen began to deny the program ever existed. MPs, following suit, said there was no Departmental evidence the Pilot existed. It was complete misrepresentation of the facts. Immigration Canada, through CBSA, began to initiate removal proceedings against Applicants.
To make matters worse, someone motivated Sean O’Shea, a Global News reporter who advances himself as a consumer watchdog, to research and air a “gotcha” (he disagrees with the characterization) piece declaring the non-existence of the Pilot, and, by extension, questioning the ethics of the UWC’s legal counsel. Rogers’ Omni and an even more obscure Portuguese language periodical piled on.
An objective observer might easily conclude this was a full-on character assassination attempt to silence the UWC’s legal counsel. Boraks countered with a lawsuit against Hussen and O’Shea; but clearly his practice suffered as the reputational damage took its toll. He is tenant in the same building our offices occupy.
On May 28, 2019, the Law Society filed a Notice of Motion to suspend Boraks’ license. Who prompted the action is not yet clear. Had it been successful, Boraks’ career would have come at an abrupt end. So would whatever faint chance at “regularization of status” through a Pilot Project or an Amnesty any undocumented worker might have had. There are hundreds of thousands of them in the GTHA.
It was a sleazy, malicious tactic. The Tribunal took two and a half months to assess the evidence and documentation it had received and heard over a five-day period, in June and July. Manuel Alexandre of the UWC, Constitutional lawyer Rocco Galati and I appeared as witnesses. Whoever the Plainti. was called none.
The Tribunal, in its assessment of the facts and analysis of the claim, essentially rejected every claim by the Plaintiff, vindicating Boraks and the UWC on every issue related to the Pilot Project.
The second message to derive from the Tribunal decision is that the Minister and his colleagues contrived and promoted statements and actions unsupported by the facts. This is unacceptable and unjustifiable in our democratic process.
If they were honourable individuals, they would resign their public o¦ce and forgo the e.ort to seek re-election. They won’t. it will be up the voters to mete out justice for the incalculable psychological and economic harm they have caused the deported families and their friends and families.
If Portuguese and Italian voters in York South Weston, Mississauga- Cooksville and Davenport don’t let their anger show on this issue, they are beyond help.