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Montreal metro musician faces deportation over old crimes

There is an article in the Montreal Gazette today about a father being deported because he failed to take care of an old criminal record. Since a pardon application would eliminate the criminal record it is clear that the criminal record is not the reason he is being sent home. Rather, it is his reluctance to take care of the criminal record by applying for a pardon. In other words he procrastinated and now has to be deported where he will no longer have the chance to provide for his children. In my world procrastination is no reason to deprive kids of their father. We all know people make mistakes. But we also know that most mistakes are no reason to take a father away from his kids.

It is an interesting read and hopefully it will act as a wake-up call for anyone in a similar position. The moral of the story is “don’t procrastinate”. If you have a criminal record, take care of it. Apply for a pardon today!

Montreal métro musician faces deportation over old crimes

A Montreal métro musician who immigrated to Canada 32 years ago at age 7 is fighting deportation to his native Chile over crimes he committed more than half a decade ago, saying he has reformed and expelling him to a country he doesn’t know constitutes excessive punishment.

Victor Morales’s lawyer argued Mondayday at the Federal Courthouse in Old Montreal that his client has been clean for seven years, has two teenage boys and an ailing mother to care for, and, after spending the majority of his life in Quebec, sending him to Chile, where he has no family, would be an unjust hardship to him and his family.

“I came here when I was very young, and I don’t agree that it’s a good decision to deport me because my life is here in Canada,” Morales said.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has ordered the deportation of Morales, a permanent resident but not a citizen of Canada, because he had several criminal infractions between 1998 and 2004.

Morales’s parents fled Chile for Argentina, then Canada in 1978, entering as refugees with their children. Morales’s father was abusive, Morales said, which was partly to blame for his slide into alcoholism at a young age.

He was first ordered to a deportation hearing in 1998 based on his criminal record, but failed to show. Further attempts to deport him were put off because he didn’t have a Chilean passport, and his case languished until 2008, when Immigration Canada revived it once again.

Legal counsel for Immigration Canada said Monday it was unfortunate there are children involved, but noted that Morales had an opportunity to work out the problem before, but didn’t.

Morales freely admits to his criminal record for offences like shoplifting, resisting arrest, drug possession and selling drugs, but said he has paid his debt and that time is past. He quit drinking, hasn’t had a criminal accusation since 2004, and plays a close role in the lives of his two sons, age 13 and 14, seeing they do their homework, even though he is divorced from their mother and doesn’t live with them.

He is active in his church. He is also the primary caregiver for his mother, who has AIDS, since his job as a métro musician allows flexible hours. He says he earns about $25,000 a year, although he’s never filed tax returns.

Morales made a request in 2009 to have his deportation order dropped for humanitarian reasons. It was refused in November 2010.

“Now I’m asking for a judicial review of that decision because it makes no sense – he makes lunch for his kids every day, his mother has AIDS,” said his lawyer, Stewart Istvanffy. “He doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke dope, he’s had no criminal problems since 2004 and he’s a born-again Christian.”

Morales has a criminal record, Istvanffy said, but he’s being treated as a criminal by Immigration Canada. Except that the criminal justice system chooses its punishments to suit its crimes, which is why the longest time Morales ever served in prison was 14 days.

Morales produced letters of reference from his mother, his 14-year-old son, his ex-wife, the sister of his ex-wife, two of his sisters, his pastor and the counsellor at his addiction treatment centre.

“It would be impossible for our children to go visit him in Chile,” said Linda Lambert, who described Morales as a best friend even though they’re divorced. “Right now they’re adolescents, they need a father figure.

Lawyers for Immigration Canada said Morales could always reapply to return to Canada for humanitarian reasons starting in 2013, but he and his lawyer considered that a long shot.

Our immigration system has gone crazy, Istvanffy said. We have an extremely draconian, anti-immigrant bias in our immigration system.

We can’t be openly xenophobic, but we’re deporting people for really small bullsh-t, and I don’t think it’s right.

Istvanffy said the possible deportation had the effect of treating the roughly 20 members of Morales family, all Canadians, as second-class citizens.

Federal Court Judge Yves de Montigny said he would render a decision by this morning.

rbruemmer@montrealgazette.com

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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