Editorial: Canada’s Deportation Laws Are Too Rigid

Graphic Madeleine Gendreau

On Sunday, Winifred Agimelen, a refugee and mother of three, was deported back to Nigeria—a country from which she was forced to flee in 2008, after being kidnapped and threatened with genital mutilation.

Despite finding a sponsor, and one of her children being a legal Canadian resident, Agimelen was unable to extend her family’s stay in Canada.

In a similar case, the Fuh-Cham family of LaSalle is facing deportation back to their native Cameroon, a country they fled for fear that their lives might be in danger due to conflicts between the Catholic religion they practice and indigenous beliefs.

Finding refuge in Canada in 2007, the Fuh-Cham family chaired the Cameroon Goodwill Association and managed a local church choir.

Despite becoming well-integrated members of the Montreal community, the family of five is facing deportation on Oct. 9.

The irony is there. For a country that purports to be one of the most welcoming in the world, Canada is deporting and refusing to admit people who are in perilous circumstances in their native countries.

A recent immigration reform has made things worse for refugees attempting to gain Canadian citizenship or extend their refugee claims.

The series of changes to Canada’s immigration laws require more proof of threats faced in the countries from which refugee claimants flee and mandate that refugees provide more information on their lives in Canada, such as tax records.

The shift is noticeable, and with a 50 per cent increase in deportations in the last decade, press releases have begun to fill our inboxes at The Link.

In February, we wrote about a Mexican mother, Ivonne Hernandez, who was faced with being removed without her infant son after her sponsorship fell through. She was lucky and managed to gain custody of her son as well as a temporary reprieve from being deported.

Sheila Sedinger, another Mexican mother faced with deportation in August, was granted two years to fight for the custody of her two daughters, who would have had to stay in Canada, and for her Canadian citizenship. After that, their status is up in the air.

The four aforementioned cases share more than the fact they exemplify the government making it harder to reverse or extend deportation decisions. Indeed, the government also seems to be deporting the wrong people.

In all of the above cases, these are people who are invested in their communities and contribute to society by working and raising children.

But beyond removing people who benefit their communities, deportation in itself is costly. In Agimelen’s case alone, more than $8,000 of taxpayers’ money went to sending Agimelen and her three children back to Nigeria, according to her lawyer, Angela Potvin.

According to the Canadian Border Services Agency, the part of government responsible for deportation, 4,632 refused refugee claimants have already been deported in 2014, while the total number for 2013 was 10,505.

Canada’s system for hearing and reviewing refugee claimants’ cases has proven to be a far too rigid process, and is continually failing the vulnerable persons it is meant to assist.

Cases like the ones above, when reviewed in detail, paint a satirical picture of the current system of claim assessment.

Although laws regarding refugee claims must be consistent and fair, the current bureaucratic system is proving itself unable to adjust to the wide array of situations refugee claimants often face.