Canada to deport Filipino frontliner despite plea for 2nd vaccine dose

The Canadian government is set to deport Filipino COVID-19 frontline health worker Carlo Escario despite his plea to stay just 40 more days to get fully vaccinated against the coronavirus disease.

In February, the 36-year-old intensive care unit worker at Toronto General Hospital received his first Pfizer-BioNTech shot against COVID-19. He was meant to get his next shot on June 11, but Canadian immigration has insisted that he follow his deportation schedule on Thursday, May 13.

According to a The Star report, Escario arrived in Toronto in 2007 as a caregiver and became a permanent resident in 2010. However, Canadian authorities revoked his immigration status in 2013 because he was found to have misrepresented himself in his application for failing to declare he had a spouse and child in the Philippines.

Escario's lawyer Natalie Domazet requested a 40-day deferral of her client's deportation. In a decision on Tuesday, May 11, the Canada Border Services Agency ruled that deferring his deportation would be inappropriate.

“The risk of infection exists everywhere, but I am not convinced that the risk is higher in the Philippines than it would be in Canada.... Escario received the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine, which would indicate that he is protected even more than many unvaccinated people in the Philippines,” a border officer said.

Escario said he accepts “full responsibility” for his actions and the decision. Domazet said her client has been cooperative with border officials and that the 40-day deferral was a “meager ask.”

“While the federal government has boasted of its appreciation for frontline workers, their decision to refuse Mr. Escario’s request is not aligned with that message or Canadian values,” Domazet said in The Star report.

Public campaign

On Wednesday, May 12, social media users and advocates participated in a campaign called #KeepCarloInCanada. The campaign invited Canadians to write letters of appeal to Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino and Members of Parliament (MPs) to consider Escario’s extended stay.

Campaigners set up a Google Doc with letter templates and step-by-step instructions for writing to MPs. Many of the tweets in the campaign tagged Mendicino.

A Change.org petition was also set up for Escario, with more than 6,000 signatures as of posting.

On Thursday morning Manila time, Ontario NDP Member of Provincial Parliament Doly Begum wrote her own appeal to Mendicino.

"Filipino immigrant healthcare workers, along with many other immigrant and migrant workers have been heavily impacted by COVID-19. Not only are they at the forefront of fighting this pandemic and protecting Canadians, but they are also often the ones that our governments are failing to protect," said Begum.

As of 11 am on Thursday, Manila time, Mendicino has yet to reply to any of the tweets about Escario. But he has been tweeting about other matters, including a video message for the Muslim community in Canada for Eid'l Fitr, which is on May 13.

“[Escario] deserves to stay in Canada and this blatant display of exploitation is SHAMEFUL. Not granting Escario the humanity to stay 40 more days to be fully vaccinated is UNJUST and INSULTING to healthcare workers across Canada during a global pandemic,” the Toronto chapter of youth rights group Anakbayan said in a Facebook post.

Rappler reached out to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Philippine embassy in Canada for comment, and if they had possible action points for Escario’s situation, but they have yet to reply as of posting. We will update this story as soon as they respond.

The first 193,050 Pfizer vaccine doses finally arrived in the Philippines on Monday, May 10. However, the bulk of the country’s vaccine stock pile is still currently China’s Sinovac and AstraZeneca. – Rappler.com

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer at Rappler. Possessing the heart and soul of a feminist, she is working on specializing in women's issues in Newsbreak, Rappler's investigative arm.

image