“I’m Not a Criminal”

Photo Adam Kovac

Paola Ortiz came to Canada five years ago, hoping to find sanctuary from a violent fiancé, who also happened to be a member of Mexico’s federal police force. Yesterday, a Canadian federal judge decreed that she will have to return to her homeland, where she says she fears for her safety.

In a press conference before the hearing, an emotional Ortiz pled with reporters and Canada as a whole, saying, “Please, help me. Help me. I’m not a criminal. I’m a person who wants to live without violence,” she said. “The criminal is my ex-fiancé. I’m quiet, and now I’m being treated like a criminal. Why is it a crime for a woman to get away from violence?”

Ortiz was joined by her lawyer, Stewart Istvanffy, and members of the activist group Solidarity Across Borders, as well as her four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son, both of whom are Canadian citizens. According to SAB’s press release, her son was recently diagnosed with autism, while her daughter suffers from hearing problems.

“SAB joins over 25 community organizations and over 100 individuals in condemning the imminent deportation of Paola Ortiz to Mexico, where she faces horrible sexual and conjugal violence on behalf of a federal police officer,” said SAB spokesperson Rosalind Wong during the press conference.

“We denounce the governments systematic refusal to recognize the dangers faced by women living in Mexico, where violence against women and corruption are rampant.” In her statement, Wong referenced the 2009 case of a 24-year-old woman, known only as Grise after her family requested anonymity.

Grise, who had been deported from Canada after twice seeking refuge here, was found murdered in Mexico after being refused asylum in Canada on multiple occasions, despite claiming she feared for her life due to her father’s connection to the drug trade.

The Link spoke to SAB’s Daniel Veron several hours after the hearing. Veron confirmed that the judge had ruled against Ortiz, and that she is set to be deported on Sept. 20 at 7:00 a.m.

“We don’t know about the children. They might stay here with their aunt in Sherbrooke, but Ortiz will leave the country tomorrow morning. There’s no appeal.” Veron said there would be a demonstration at Trudeau Airport as a symbolic gesture, but didn’t know of any other plans on behalf of the organization beyond that.

Ortiz’s case is not unique among high profile deportation files. Dany Villanueva, whose brother Fredy was shot to death by Montreal police three years ago, is currently appealing an immigration tribunal ruling, which would see the 24-year-old deported to Venezuela, a country he left when he was 12.