Maria Victoria Venancio travelled to Edmonton from her native Philippines in 2011 – she began working at McDonalds under the temporary foreign worker program and was quickly offered a promotion.
Sadly, just seven months later, Venancio was hit by a car as she cycled to work. The tragic accident left her paralysed and unable to work.
Now, Venancio faces deportation as her work permit has expired – but representatives have taken her case to Parliament Hill in the hope the government will step in.
Brent Rathgeber, the MP who raised the issue in the Commons, says there’s no question the young woman should be allowed to stay on compassionate grounds.
“There has to be some accommodation for people in these perilous situations,” he said. “She came here to work and she was on her way to work.”
Had Venancio been injured while at work, she would have been entitled to workers’ compensation benefits – like every other Canadian worker – regardless of whether she remained in the country or not.
Rathgeber added that any comments about Canadian taxpayers shouldering the burden of a disabled worker are “just callous.”
Venancio, who is currently receiving free physiotherapy as part of a research project at the University of Alberta, has been living in Canada illegally since her accident, without medical coverage.
However, the 29-year-old says she’s determined to re-train, get a job and start paying taxes again. “I’m not asking to stay and sit in a wheelchair,” she says. “I want to be useful to society.”
But Costas Mengekas, parliamentary secretary for citizenship and immigration, told the Commons that the immigration system is already generous.
His response; “We must continue to welcome newcomers while respecting the Canadian taxpayer at all times,” was deemed “a terrible answer” by Rathgeber.
“Morally, we have an obligation to people we bring here to work,” argued Venancio’s lawyer, Chris Bataluk.
He urged Canadian officials to consider the implications of sending a severely disabled young woman back to the Phillipines.
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Canada relies on temporary foreign workers to help the economy grow – but what about when it’s their turn to rely on us? One woman’s life-altering accident is now raising serious questions in the House of Commons.