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Okotoks family fears they will be forced to leave Canada following permanent residence rejection

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A family of four chasing the Canadian dream in Okotoks fear they may soon have no choice but to pack up their belongings and leave the country.

Mexican nationals Guillermo Rojas Vertiz Cervantes, his wife Irma Canut and their two children were certain they would obtain permanent residence over the summer, but were rejected by Immigration Canada due to the way an immigration agent defined “employee” versus “self-employed.”

Rojas Vertiz Cervantes – whose temporary work permit expires Dec. 1 and has not yet been extended – believes that without permanent residence, his family will be forced to return to Mexico.

“We are stressed and anxious. We don’t know what to do,” he said.

Investing in Canada

The family was introduced to Okotoks by chance during a trip to western Canada in 2013. Touring B.C. and Alberta, they stopped in the town on Halloween and picked up costumes to celebrate the holiday.

Rojas Vertiz Cervantes said he was struck by the kindness of the locals, and he and his wife decided it would be a good place to fulfill their dream of opening a café and restaurant in Canada.

Guillermo Rojas Vertiz Cervantes was refused permanent residence due to a discrepancy over his work experience.

Blake Lough / Global News

That’s how they met their realtor, Inge French, who quickly became one of their closest friends.

“They are the highest quality people I have ever met,” French said. “They’re delightful, they’re intelligent, they’re articulate, they’re educated, and their children are spectacular.”

Moving to Canada through an investor program, Rojas Vertiz Cervantes and Canut leased a property where they would open their business, Café Cancun.

Both Rojas Vertiz Cervantes and Canut own shares in the company.

“We have sold everything in Mexico in order to set our business here in Canada,” Rojas Vertiz Cervantes said.

In order to qualify for permanent residence in Canada’s Express Entry system, Rojas Vertiz Cervantes needed at least one year of skilled work experience as an employee, so he took on the job of director and manager.

An employee contract as well as pay stubs and tax returns provided to Global News showed Rojas Vertiz Cervantes worked and paid taxes as an employee. Even the work permit issued to Cervantes by Immigration Canada lists him as an employee.

In a ruling the family requested from the Canada Revenue Agency, it concluded Rojas Vertiz Cervantes worked as an employee.

‘Truly a nightmare’

All that information was submitted to Immigration Canada in the application for permanent residence.

But in July, the family received a letter from an immigration agent outlining “serious concerns” with Rojas Vertiz Cervantes’ application.

Citing the fact that he owned shares in the company he worked for, the agent deemed Rojas Vertiz Cervantes’ work experience as “self-employment.”

Under the Canadian Experience Class stream of Immigration Canada’s Express Entry system, self-employment does not count as skilled work experience.

The letter shocked the family.

“I am not self-employed,” Rojas Vertiz Cervantes said. “I pay taxes and the corporation pays taxes as a corporation.”

“We are good people, we are good, hard-working people.”

Rojas Vertiz Cervantes responded with a reconsideration letter, but a few weeks later the refusal letter arrived.

“I am not satisfied based on a balance of probabilities that your employment with Café Cancun Co. Inc. is not self-employment,” read part of the refusal letter.

Irma Canut says the worst case scenario for her family is that they will need to move back to Mexico after investing all they had into their Canadian business.

Blake Lough / Global News

“We never expected it to be this way,” Canut said, “because we thought that we were doing everything as perfect as it could be. We didn’t want to take any chances.”

“It became a catastrophe when we received [the letter],” she added. “We were not thinking of renewing our working permits because we were almost sure that we were going to be permanent residents by the end of the summer.”

‘Arbitrary’ definition

So why does Immigration Canada consider a person “self-employed” when seemingly all other documentation and branches of government consider he or she an “employee?”

Long time immigration lawyer Michael Greene – who is not connected to the case – said that when the Express Entry system was developed, Immigration Canada adopted a much narrower interpretation of employment.

Michael Greene, with Sherritt Greene Barristers & Solicitors, says there is no consistent definition of “employee” versus “self-employed” across federal government branches.

Blake Lough / Global News

“One branch of the federal government says ‘you’re an employee’ and taxes you on that basis and the other branch says, ‘well, we’re not going to count that as employment for immigration purposes so too bad, so sad,’ ” he said.

Greene said he has seen this issue come up in immigration cases before and believes changes should be made to create consistency throughout all government branches.

“When we see something like this happen I say, is this really necessary? Should we be applying such an arbitrary definition and why are we applying a definition that’s different than what the CRA is applying?”

Global News reached out to Immigration Canada for comment on this story, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Worst-case scenario

“We are at a point where we don’t know what to do, we don’t know what door to knock, and we don’t know who to talk to on the phone,” Rojas Vertiz Cervantes said.

Even if the extension is granted when December hits, he would only be allowed to work at the café, which has been closed due to a separate legal issue with the building’s landlord.

Canut’s job at a local daycare alone would not be enough to support the family.

“The worst-case scenario is we need to leave,” Canut said.

“The decision of one agent is really affecting the future of the whole family,” she added. “I’m an adult, I can live with that. I can clean my tears and move on. But I have two kids that have made a whole life here that they can truly not imagine living away from here.”

“It’s really starting to come home that they might have to leave,” added French.

“For a family that is contributing to the community, that is not sucking any resources from Canada – they are contributing – the idea of sending them home? I can’t wrap my head around it,” she said.

The family has sent letters to their local MP, the office of Immigration and to the Prime Minister himself, hoping for some sort of intervention.

“I believe in Canada,” Canut said. “And I truly believe that someone will hear us and realize that we are not a number.”

Friends of the family have launched a GoFundMe campaign to support Rojas Vertiz Cervantes and Canut as they try to find a solution.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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