The Ordeal of Gemma Concepcion's Family

The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) on January 27, deported Gemma Concepcion, a 49-year-old migrant worker from the Philippines, her Filipino husband Enrico, also a migrant worker, and their two Canadian-born children -- Ricca Mae, 12 and Mark Eli, 8. The 14-year struggle of Gemma to build a productive life for herself and her family in Canada came crashing down at the hands of a Canadian state that can only be characterized as inhuman. Her struggle is not unique and relates to the imperialist control of the world, including Gemma's native Philippines. Workers in this imperialist world are deprived of the rights they possess by virtue of being human. Gemma's case is a striking example of how working people must unite and organize to deprive the ruling imperialist elite of their power to deprive people of their rights.

Every single day more than 6,000 workers leave the Philippines in search of a better life for themselves and to provide for the family members they leave behind. Gemma Concepcion was one of them in 2005. Poverty and unemployment of a Philippines' economy dominated by foreign imperialists and their local flunkies forced her to leave her home. Western and Japanese imperialists have colonized and plundered the Philippines for hundreds of years, stripping it of its social wealth and blocking it from developing a modern socialized economy of industrial mass production under the control of Filipinos in opposition to imperialist dictate. Canadian mining monopolies have long been directly involved in the theft of the Philippines' mineral resources, engaging in displacement of local people and expropriation of their lands and natural resources, particularly the local Indigenous people, called the Lumad.

Gemma Concepcion's Struggle for Her Rights as
a Worker and Human Being

Gemma accepted a job offer through an agency in the Philippines to work in Canada with the promise that she would become a Permanent Resident after working for a period of time. For this promise, the human traffickers forced her to hand over to them $14,000, which she raised through the sale of part of her family's land.

When Gemma arrived in Toronto in September 2005, she was unaware that the recruiting agency was running a human trafficking operation and had issued her a fake passport to bring her into Canada. As soon as she arrived, a representative of the agency confiscated Gemma's documentation, leaving her "undocumented."

Her future husband Enrico, who had arrived in Canada the year before, was also a victim of human trafficking. In Canada, they both worked for an agency that provided custodial services and met while employed as cleaners at the Ontario College of Arts and Design, cleaning classrooms and studios.

They raised their two children and attended a local church and contributed to their community. At the same time, they were always living in a state of terror as "undocumented" workers. Their two children, born in Canada, missed several years of public schooling for fear of being targeted as children of undocumented workers.

The CBSA arrested Gemma on January 16, 2016, detaining her for 10 days, which traumatized her family. The pastor of her church posted bail and the congregation advised her and her family to contact Migrante-Ontario -- a defence organization for Filipino migrant workers, which is the provincial affiliate of Migrante Canada.

The CBSA gave Gemma a temporary reprieve in March the following year, while her case was being reviewed. Her legal team made a permanent residency application based on humanitarian considerations, which was denied. This decision was sent for a judicial review at the Federal Court, which went against Gemma. In the meantime, Migrante Ontario organized fund-raisers and public meetings to bring attention to Gemma's case.

Subsequent to the Federal Court decision, the CBSA informed Gemma that she and her family would be deported on January 27. On January 25 an emergency action was held in downtown Toronto to bring attention to the plight of Gemma and her family. On the same day, her lawyer heard the outcome of an application made to the Supreme Court of Canada to have the deportation order stayed was unsuccessful.

Emergency rally held in Toronto in support of the Concepcion family, January 25, 2019.

Inhumanity Towards the Victims of Colonialism and
Denial of Their Rights

What happened to Gemma and her family was unjust and unconscionable. The Canadian ruling elite take no responsibility for creating the conditions that generate mass migration from oppressed countries such as the Philippines or the abuse vulnerable people suffer at the hands of human traffickers. The Canadian authorities turn a blind eye to the shattered lives of victims who are criminalized and deported.

Gemma is not being assisted to have the $14,000 stolen from her returned or to receive any benefits for the more than a decade of hard work both she and her husband did in Canada. Needless to say, resettling in the Philippines will be difficult especially for the two children who have been torn away from their school and friends.

The Canadian state must be held to account for this crime against Gemma and her family and the tens of thousands of other migrant workers who have been mistreated and had their rights violated.

MacDonald Scott was part of the legal team that supported Gemma's case. Scott says they informed the CBSA that Gemma would cooperate in an investigation into her case but received no response. He notes that Gemma's situation became known because various organizations stood behind her and championed the justice of her case. Many other migrants are just picked up, detained and deported as if they are ghosts and not human beings with rights and historical and personal reasons for their plight. Speaking at the January 25 rally for Gemma and her family, Scott pointed out that when the Liberal government was elected in 2015, Justin Trudeau publicly stated that he was opposed to human trafficking and pledged to do something about it. Scott called on Trudeau "to do the right thing" in the here and now and stop the CBSA deportation proceeding against the Concepcions, which he refused to do.

Through programs such as the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and others, the Canadian state turns workers throughout the world, and in particular from the poor and oppressed countries, into vulnerable fair game to human traffickers and unscrupulous employers in Canada, who view them as disposable objects to exploit. The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) calls on all Canadians to unite and work together for a new direction for the country, where the rights of all are guaranteed without exception. We are one humanity! The rights of all are inviolable! Organize and fight for the New!

This article was published in

Volume 49 Number 16 - May 4, 2019

Article Link:
The Ordeal of Gemma Concepcion's Family


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