Forty-nine years after arriving in Canada, an alleged former mafia associate in Laval, Que. is decrying a deportation order to his native Italy.
With the Supreme Court of Canada refusing to hear the 64-year-old grandfather’s appeal, Michele Torre and his family have launched a final plea, urging the federal government to allow him to stay -- despite the fact he was arrested in a major cocaine bust in the 1990s.
Torre, who has permanent residency status, arrived in Canada in 1967.
Twenty years ago, he managed a Quebec pub frequented by the notorious Cotroni crime family. After the Cotronis sent him to Toronto to pick up a container containing 170 kilograms of cocaine in 1996, Torre was arrested. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic cocaine and served time in prison before being granted full parole in 1999.
To this day, Torre maintains that he didn’t know what was inside the container. He says he no longer has ties to the mafia.
An order to have him removed from the country was issued in 2013. Torre said he learned about the removal order after his application to become a Canadian citizen was denied.
“When I see the agent, he says, ‘You're on the list for deportation,’” Torre told CTV Montreal.
“So, for what reason? He says, ‘Oh, because you committed this.’ I said, ‘You're talking about 20 years ago.’”
Immigration lawyer Neil Drabkin says that Torre’s application for citizenship would have raised red flags. Citizenship and Immigration Canada would have looked at the severity of Torre’s crime, Drabkin says, and the fact that he was considered to be part of a criminal organization.
“Obviously the conditions upon which someone’s removed from the country after this long have to be serious,” Drabkin told CTV Montreal.
Torre’s family, however, believes that they are being stereotyped for their Italian heritage.
“We’re an honest family,” Torre’s daughter, Nellie Torre, told CTV Montreal.
“We’ve lived an honest living. It’s frustrating now to be called the mafia.”
But Maria Mourani, a former Quebec MP who has written extensively about organized crime in Montreal, said that one never quits the mafia “definitively.”
“But it also depends on your level of involvement and the relationship you have. So, it depends,” she told CTV Montreal. “But in mafia subculture there is a code of silence, so you never know the whole truth.”
Torre’s lawyer says that while he’s disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision, all might not be lost for his client.
“He’s applied to renew his permanent residency status, which involves family sponsorships,” Stephane Handfield told CTV Montreal. “This could delay his removal.”
The family is petitioning the federal government and have even launched a website to promote their cause. Their efforts, however, may be too late.
Torre will learn of his deportation date on September 9.