As a Brazilian family said tearful goodbyes and packed belongings yesterday, their former lawyer said he was baffled and incensed over their deportation order.
Jose Do Prado, his wife Isabel and their daughter Marcela were to head back to their native Brazil today, despite a nine-year stay here in which Jose started his own successful landscaping business, and a flurry of public and political support.
"We are not doing too good today. Marcela woke up crying. She has to leave her friends and everything," said Jose Do Prado, who was wrapping things up at work while his wife and daughter continued to pack yesterday. "They say go, so I need to go, but I don't have nothing (in Brazil)."
Do Prado arrived looking for work in 1999. He got it -- at Holy Cross Catholic Church -- and his wife and daughter soon followed. But in 2002, Jose and Isabel left the church after Isabel said a priest there -- Father Lucio Xavier Couto -- sexually harassed her.
Couto has denied the accusations, but did not return a message yesterday. The couple sued him, along with Bishop Ronald Fabbro and the Roman Catholic Diocese of London, and the case was dismissed after a monetary settlement was reached.
The Do Prados' Canadian work permits were based on employment with the church. Leaving the church invalidated the Do Prados' work permits, and they were turned down as permanent residents.
The family reapplied for permanent resident status three times before being deported. In recent weeks, they have received support from politicians and hundreds of Londoners. Many have expressed outrage someone who employs other Canadians would be deported.
But lawyer Rob Talach said the case hinges on the experience that led them to leave Holy Cross.
"I am baffled as to why this isn't sufficient reason to get them some sort of humanitarian stay in this country," said Talach, who represented the couple in the civil suit.
"This is at the heart of why they are in immigration trouble . . . They have been abused on all levels," he said.
Fiercely religious, the couple did not initially go to police, and then a few years later it was deemed too late to do so, he said.
In 2005, they filed the $3.1 million civil lawsuit. It was settled last September.
"I am just incensed about this, the guy is still working," said Talach, noting Couto is at All Saints Parish in Strathroy.
Nobody at the diocese of London could comment yesterday, a spokesperson said.