A Quebec man is facing deportation to his native Italy nearly two decades after a Mafia-linked drug conviction that is being cited as the reason for his possible expulsion.
Michele Torre, 64, could soon have to leave Canada, the only place the husband and father of three has known for 50 years.
Torre is scheduled to attend a meeting with Canada Border Services Agency on Friday and might receive a departure date then.
The Supreme Court refused two weeks ago to hear his case and his family is hopeful the federal government will intervene. Two departments are studying separate requests: one for a family sponsorship allowing him to stay and the other for a ministerial reprieve on humanitarian grounds.
Stephane Handfield, Torre’s lawyer, said it was the first time in 24 years of practising law he has dealt with an expulsion case so long after a criminal conviction.
Typically, he said, such action is triggered within a few years.
“I consider it an abuse of process to wait 20 years before beginning the deportation process,” Handfield said. “We permit a man to establish himself, build a life.
“If they’d done it in 1996, his children were still young, and Mr. Torre could have decided to leave for Italy then.”
The Federal Court of Appeal found Torre had failed to prove he’d suffered any prejudice due to the passage of time.
Torre was a permanent resident after arriving from Italy in 1967.
He was sentenced to nearly nine years in prison in 1996 after pleading guilty in a cocaine conspiracy case involving the Cotroni crime family, but no one mentioned a deportation order. He ended up spending just a few years behind bars.
Torre’s inadmissibility only emerged years later after he applied for Canadian citizenship to obtain a pardon and facilitate travel to the United States.
His family has a website and a petition aimed at appealing to the federal government.
“If they would just realize what harm they’re doing to the entire family,” daughter Nellie Torre said in an interview. “He was punished, he did his time. Right now they’re punishing everybody else.”
Torre, married for 42 years, is a father of three and grandfather of six. He also has a large extended family.
Being asked to leave in the mid-1990s would’ve been different as his children were still young, Nellie said.
“Now each one has a family, with kids, it’s a big, big difference,” she said. “In 20 years, we’ve built up another life.”
Since 2013, the Canadian government has sought to remove Torre from Canada for “serious criminality and organized criminality.”
Torre and his daughter dispute the assertion he was “Mafia-affiliated” or a “foot soldier” tied to the Cotroni family. Nellie Torre said her father was already working for a pub before it fell under Cotroni control and that he paid dearly for doing as he was asked.
In 2006, Torre found himself swept up again by police, this time during a massive operation aimed at dismantling Montreal’s powerful Italian Mafia. He spent nearly three years in preventive custody, but was ultimately acquitted.
Handfield said Torre testified on several occasions under oath in 2013 that his links to organized crime have been severed since his 1996 arrest.
Nellie Torre intends to fight for her father to stay.
“I told him, you’re not leaving, you’re not going anywhere,” she said. “I’m not going to make my father leave without a fight and I’m going to fight until the end. I’m not going to give up on this.”Report Typo/Error