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'Newfoundlanders are God's gift,' says Jamaican-born trainer after outpouring of support

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 5 days ago Ariana Kelland

Machel Rayner is a fitness guy. He thrives on helping people get healthy and well.

But after he told CBC News on Thursday about his immigration troubles, he has garnered national attention and job offers have poured in from different sectors. 

"The RNC [Royal Newfoundland Constabulary] called me and offered me their recruitment process, because they want someone like me," Rayner said Friday.

Similar offers have been made by small businesses in St. John's. Even the sheriffs' office in Gander reached out, Rayner said. 

Memorial University's School of Human Kinetics and Recreation has created a fundraising campaign to help the former student with financial challenges.

"It has been wonderful, wonderful feedback and support from all walks of life... I know a lot of people where I worked, they support me. But at this magnitude, it was the best feeling ever."

A costly mistake

Originally from Trenchtown, Jamaica, the 31-year-old Rayner has lived in St. John's for eight years and two months. 

He was in the final stages of completing his permanent residency this fall when he said he accidentally hurt his chances of staying in Canada.

Rayner was part of a nominee program that the Newfoundland and Labrador government runs to increase immigration and fill labour shortages. 

After losing part of his salary at his personal training job in St. John's, Rayner said he decided to seek employment temporarily in Halifax.

By leaving the province for work — albeit temporarily — Rayner said he was automatically removed from the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Nominee Program.

It left him with a couple of options, including an appeals hearing that could result in him being banned from the country for up to five years.

Machel Rayner, 31, will continue to work in Newfoundland and Labrador until a hearing in January. © Bruce Tilley/CBC Machel Rayner, 31, will continue to work in Newfoundland and Labrador until a hearing in January.

Without a job, Rayner felt he had no choice but to return to Jamaica and reapply through a federal program. It would be a move, he said, that would financially cripple him and his family. 

A break

After Rayner told his story, he said a provincial government employee called him to say restrictions have been lifted on his work permit. He can now get a job anywhere he pleases in the province.

His lawyer, Meghan Felt, said it's a move that doesn't happen very often, and is a huge gift to Rayner. 

With the outpouring of support from the public and politicians, Rayner said he feels more confident heading to an appeals hearing this January. 

Machel Rayner, seen here on the job as a personal trainer, says his interests lie in preventative health care. © CBC Machel Rayner, seen here on the job as a personal trainer, says his interests lie in preventative health care.

"The work permit is good now because I can continue to support my family and get back on track," he said.

"Newfoundlanders are God's gift to this world. They have your back in any way. If you're a Newfoundlander, they stand behind you all the way. I'm pleased and happy to be working and living here."

The rules exist for a reason

Felt, who is a partner at McInnes Cooper and specializes in immigration law, said the rule that Rayner broke by working in Halifax exists for a reason.

She said the idea of the provincial nominee program is to have the person stay within the province, but that doesn't always happen.

"A lot of time, once they get their permanent residency, they leave for other cities and they wouldn't have contributed to our province here," Felt said.

Felt will represent Rayner at an appeals hearing in January.

"Machel is exactly the type of person that Canada wants. He's young, he's well-educated and he speaks really good English." 

The other option for Rayner is to go through a federal express entry program that could see him back in the country in about six months.

An Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program is another option, but it has a processing time of between nine and 10 months, Felt said. 

Now to carry on

It was 1:30 a.m. Friday before Machel Rayner went to bed after a full day of fielding calls and messages of support.

There's one person he hasn't spoken to yet: his mother, Linda, who is back home in Jamaica, and has been praying for him not to have to return. 

Machel Rayner and his lawyer Meghan Felt prior to a CBC interview Friday. © Paula Gale/CBC Machel Rayner and his lawyer Meghan Felt prior to a CBC interview Friday.

Despite the support and well wishes, Rayner said, the stress of possibly having to leave Canada is still on his mind. 

"Now with this support, I'm more confident," he said. "But it can still go the other way."

His goal, however, remains the same. After years of calling himself a Newfoundlander and a Canadian, he wants to make it official with citizenship. 

"It would be a big moment for my mom... if she still stays around. I have to work fast to get her here."

Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Machel Rayner had hoped to bring his mother to Newfoundland and Labrador with him and his two brothers. It's a promise he still wants to keep. © Submitted Machel Rayner had hoped to bring his mother to Newfoundland and Labrador with him and his two brothers. It's a promise he still wants to keep.
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