HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Immigrants' Plight Concerns Chinese Community In City
Pubdate: Thu, 20 Oct 2005
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2005 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Carol Sanders
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Arrested In Hugh Pot Bust

MEMBERS of Winnipeg's Chinese community say they're concerned about 
immigrants who were packed into a rural Manitoba farmhouse and accused of 
doing the "grunt" work in Manitoba's largest-ever marijuana grow operation.

"These people are innocent victims," said Dr. Joseph Du, president of the 
Winnipeg Chinese Cultural and Community Centre. "They don't know the system 
or the language. People are taking advantage of them."

RCMP said they found the accused -- 25 men and three women -- sleeping 
side-by-side, head-to-toe in every room of a tiny, 700-square-foot house 
during a raid earlier this month in Sundown, southeast of Winnipeg.

The owners of the sprawling pot farm, which had more than 10,000 mature 
plants valued at close to $19 million, have not been arrested.

The farm workers, meanwhile, are being housed at the Winnipeg Remand 
Centre. None has criminal records, most don't speak English and most can't 
afford a lawyer or cash for bail.

"We'd like to get involved somehow -- to send someone, to talk to them, to 
comfort them," said Du. The Chinese immigrants from Toronto were lured to 
the Prairie farm to help with the harvest, court was told Tuesday.

One single mom on welfare said she was approached last month by a man in 
the Toronto Chinese community and told she could make upwards of $300 per 
day, her lawyer Mike Cook told the court Tuesday. He said she was picking 
leaves and watering plants and didn't know what she was doing was illegal.

"I believe it is true considering these people may not even known the 
meaning of 'marijuana' or 'the purpose of trafficking," said Helen Wang, 
editor in chief of the Manitoba Chinese Tribune.

"I am thinking, for those immigrants who have been in Canada for a long 
time and may not have any knowledge about Canadian systems and policies, it 
would be very difficult to (understand) what happened in such cases," said 
Wang, who immigrated to Winnipeg and has a master's degree in social work.

"I can imagine the huge shock these people were experiencing when they were 
put into the Remand Centre," Wang said.

On Tuesday in court, at least three of the accused said through an 
interpreter that they would represent themselves. "Do they have anybody who 
can explain the legal system and procedures here to them in the language 
they can understand?" Wang asked.
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