Three days after coming to Canada to work on a chicken farm, Juan Ariza was injured in one of Ontario’s worst traffic crashes. On February 6 2012, a passenger van carrying thirteen temporary foreign workers collided with a truck. There were three survivors. Juan Ariza was lucky to walk away with broken ribs, a broken wrist, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a severed nerve in his leg.
Since the crash, Ariza had been undergoing rehabilitation at a nursing home. He was driven to regain mobility and become self-sufficient again, stating that, “I want to work. I don’t want the government to support me. I want to live my potential and work as a regular person.”
Ariza remained in Canada because he was afraid that once he left, he would be unable to obtain the same quality of medical treatment in Peru. However, remaining in Canada has a price: separation from his wife and son.
This situation came to a head when Ariza was forced to choose between maintaining his medical treatment and seeing his family. In January 2013, Ariza received notice that his wife had to be rushed to the hospital for spinal cord surgery after she lost feeling in her arms. This left his eight year old son dependent on family friends and neighbours for care. After booking his flight to Peru to be with his family, Ariza discovered that he may not be able to return to Canada as his work visa was close to expiring. Leaving to Peru meant that he would be unable to access quality health care for his injuries, which jeopardized his recovery and ultimately his ability to function as a productive member of society. However, staying in Canada meant ongoing separation from his family.
Instead of leaving, Ariza put in an application for permanent residency based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. After waiting half a year for some change in his application status, he chose to return to Peru on July 26, 2013 so he could look after his wife, who still has not regained use of her limbs, and his son.
From this point onward, what will happen to Ariza and his family is unknown. However, his story is a tragic case illustrating how the Canadian government does little to ensure the long-term care of temporary foreign workers who become permanently disabled after a workplace injury within Canada. Current processing times for applications of humanitarian and compassionate cases inside of Canada is currently set at 30 – 42 months, which means that Juan Ariza had no chance of receiving an approved application before his work visa expired. Temporary foreign workers can only obtain work visas for a maximum of two years before they have to return to their home country. At current wait times, temporary foreign workers will be deported before they can possibly receive a visa extension or permanent residency.
I first heard about Ariza after the story of the crash started to circulate through the news outlets. It is people like Juan Ariza that encourage me to continue to bring attention to the plight of temporary foreign workers in Canada. I believe that no one, whether temporary or not, should have to choose between their family and their recovery. Ariza’s story is a tragic case illustrating how the government does little to ensure the long-term care of temporary foreign workers who become permanently disabled after a workplace injury within Canada.
Please, share this story with your friends and colleagues. While Juan Ariza has left Canada, the least we can do is honour his sacrifice through remembrance.