Connect with us

Canada

Activists attempt to stop deportation of convicted man to Somalia

Published

on

CTV — HALIFAX — Abdoul Abdi was a wide-eyed six-year-old when he arrived in Canada as a child refugee from a war-torn country.

At 24, he’s now facing deportation to Somalia — a country so dangerous Canada has imposed sweeping travel restrictions and which he has no connection to.

His case has become a rallying point for advocates of immigration reform, with calls to halt his deportation hearing and a protest planned Tuesday night outside a Halifax-area town hall being held by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Abdi, facing ejection because of a criminal record including an aggravated assault conviction, has spent his life in Canada, but never obtained citizenship after he was apprehended as a child by the Nova Scotia government and put into foster care.

“This is really a story about a child falling through a massive legal gap that prevented him from applying for citizenship on his own and a policy gap that created a situation where his legal guardian did not apply for citizenship,” said Benjamin Perryman, Abdi’s Halifax-based lawyer.

The boy and his sister were taken from his struggling aunt, who spoke little English, less than a year after arriving in Canada.

Between the ages of eight and 19, Abdi was moved 31 times, separated from his sister and never completed high school.

His aunt’s efforts to regain custody were rejected, and her attempt to file a citizenship application for the children blocked.

Abdi has served five years in prison for multiple charges including aggravated assault.

The Canada Border Services Agency “gated” Abdi when he was released from prison earlier this month. He was transferred to the Madawaska Regional Correctional Centre in Saint-Hilaire, N.B., where he remains in segregation.

Perryman said the province deprived Abdi of his rights when it failed to file a citizenship application on his behalf, especially given the higher risk children in care face for coming into contact with the criminal justice system.

“When you have a former child in care who was prevented from becoming a citizen, it would violate international law and the charter to remove that person,” Perryman said. “I find it appalling that children’s services in Nova Scotia failed to obtain citizenship for Mr. Abdi.”

Meanwhile, an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing this week granted Abdi a four-week reprieve, but refused to put off his deportation hearing until a court case raising charter and international law arguments is heard by federal court.

“It’s really disturbing that this has happened, the fact that Abdoul Abdi was in the care of the province of Nova Scotia and the question of his citizenship was never taken care of,” said Susan Leblanc, the provincial NDP’s community services critic. “Now he finds himself in this horrible situation where he could be deported to a country that I’m sure he doesn’t remember.”

She called on the province to advocate on Abdi’s behalf to squash deportation efforts and help him obtain citizenship.

Lynn Hartwell, deputy minister of community services, said the province is now working on a policy for non-citizen children in care but is “not in a position to be able to correct what’s happened.”

“We’re not going to be able to override or change federal decisions,” she said.

In an interview with Halifax’s News 95.7 radio station Tuesday, Trudeau said Canada has a “compassionate” but “rules-based system.”

“I can reassure people that decisions around immigration cases are made very seriously with compassion and thoughtfulness,” Trudeau said. “There is never a decision to deport someone that is taken lightly.”

Yet El Jones, a local activist, said Abdi’s rights have been violated and officials need to do more than “shrug their shoulders.”

“All of these MPs and ministers who have incredible power keep claiming ‘I can’t say anything, I can’t do anything,”‘ she said. “There is nothing that requires people to remain silent in the face of injustice. Nothing.”

Abdi’s aunt did not speak English when the children were apprehended, Jones said, and she was not provided with a Somali translator.

“He was abused, he was homeless. Him and his sister split up,” she said. “What you see is an incredible level of neglect and we can’t separate that neglect from systemic anti-blackness.”

Jones added: “These kids were particularly disregarded because of who they are and because of their race. We know there is a pipeline between foster care and incarceration, and that’s where he ended up.”

If he’s deported, Perryman said Abdi’s safety would be at risk. He said Somalia lacks a stable government and is home to extremist terrorist groups.

Abdi also has a daughter, born in Canada.

Canada

N.S. man facing deportation to Somalia to be released, lawyer says

Published

on

TIMES COLONIST — HALIFAX — The lawyer for a young man who has spent most of his life in Canada but is now facing deportation to Somalia says his client will soon be released from detention.

Benjamin Perryman says the Immigration and Refugee Board has ordered Abdoul Abdi to be released from custody.

Abdi was six years old when he arrived in Nova Scotia as a refugee from the war-torn, African country.

He went to live with his aunt, who didn’t speak English, and was soon apprehended by the Nova Scotia government and put into foster care.

Between the ages of eight and 19, Abdi was moved 31 times, separated from his sister and was never granted citizenship.

His aunt’s efforts to regain custody were rejected, and attempts to file a citizenship application for the children was blocked.

Abdi served five years in prison for multiple charges, including aggravated assault.

Perryman said Abdi was given grossly inadequate care by the province as a foster child. He has said deporting him to Somalia — a country to which he has no ties and where he would be unable to care for his Canadian-born daughter — would be unfair.

Abdi’s case has become a rallying point for advocates who say it was wrong for the province to fail to apply for citizenship on his behalf.

Stephen McNeil, Nova Scotia’s premier, said last week that he has ordered the province’s Community Services Department to complete a review of any cases that would require supports similar to those needed by Abdi.

The Canada Border Services Agency detained Abdi when he was released from prison earlier this month.

Although a date is not finalized, Abdi, 24, will soon be released to a halfway house in the greater Toronto area.

“He will likely be transferred to a halfway house tomorrow. Canada continues to pursue his deportation,” Perryman said in a tweet Monday.

(Global News, The Canadian Press)

Continue Reading

Canada

Canada failed Abdoul Abdi but it’s not too late to do the right thing

Published

on

The Somali refugees life is a tragic story that highlights the gaps in Canadian institutions and systems that disproportionately and negatively impact Black Canadians.

“If it was your son, would you do anything to stop this?”

This was the question posed directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by Fatouma, the sister of Abdoul Abdi, at a town hall event in Halifax this week.

Abdi’s is a tragic story that highlights the gaps in Canadian institutions and systems that disproportionately and negatively impact Black Canadians.

Abdi came to Canada as a child refugee from Somalia in 2000 with his sister and aunts. His mother died in a refugee camp while awaiting the three-year process that eventually landed his family here.

Under uncertain circumstances, of which his family continues to seek clarification due to language barriers at the time, the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services removed a 7-year-old Abdi and his sister from the care of their aunt. Over the next decade the siblings were separated and Abdi was shuffled between 31 homes.

Abdi’s aunt never stopped fighting for guardianship, and while she obtained her own citizenship she was denied the opportunity to apply for citizenship on behalf of her niece and nephew. While under child protection, Abdi was provided insufficient support to navigate the process of becoming a Canadian citizen on his own.

He was failed by the very system that was meant to protect him.

For child welfare advocates, Abdi’s story and path from care to the criminal justice system is a familiar one. For the crimes he committed in his youth, which included aggravated assault, time has justly been served. At the moment of his release, as he prepared to reunite with his family and reintegrate into society, Abdi was detained once more.

Without his citizenship in place, Abdi was left vulnerable to the immigration process that could possibly lead to deportation.

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder to speak truth to power, advocates across Canada have spoken out with a resounding roar on Abdi’s behalf, garnering attention and seeking immediate remedy for his case.

In response to Fatouma’s question, Trudeau emphasized compassion and empathy while outlining the ways in which he recognized Canadian systems failed Abdi.

“It opened our eyes to something that many of us knew was ongoing in many communities but we continue to need to address,” he said.

While his response was well informed, I would have liked to hear the prime minister name systemic anti-Black racism as a key factor to be addressed.

We need to directly acknowledge the cracks in our government systems through which Black Canadians are falling through at disproportionately high rates so that we can proactively tackle them.

South of our border, the president of the United States has continued his divisive political agenda anchored in anti-Black racism. After hearing of his comments this week I wonder how his defenders continue to uphold him as a leader.

Characterizing Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations as “s—hole countries,” in an immigration meeting Trump reportedly asked, “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”

As thousands of Haitian families look to Canada in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to rescind deportation protections from nearly 60,000 Haitian refugees following the devastation of the 2010 earthquake, I hope Canada will show the compassion and empathy our prime minister talked about in his town hall this week and take them in.

Canada should be aiming for nothing less than global leadership in the steps we take to address anti-Black racism. To do this successfully we will need active engagement from Canadian political leaders.

They should be proactively partnering with Black communities to identify priorities, set goals, communicate them publicly, and track progress toward success.

It’s difficult to engage in dialogue about policy while Abdi and his family live in crisis, facing this terrifying uncertainty. I hope this nightmare is over for them very soon.

But how is it fair that his story be used to advance public policy before his own livelihood is restored?

It is time for him to be reunited with his family so they may begin the long journey of healing from these painful experiences. That is what’s fair.

And I hope once that happens we can dive deeply into rectifying the systems that failed him, and map our way forward.

Tiffany Gooch is a political strategist at public affairs firms Enterprise and Ensight, secretary of the Ontario Liberal Party Executive Council, and an advocate for increased cultural and gender diversity in Canadian politics.

Continue Reading

Canada

Memorable story: Respect, truth key in reporting young boy’s drowning death

Published

on

As 2017 came to a close, StarPhoenix staff reflected on the stories that struck a personal chord with them this year. For Morgan Modjeski, it was getting at the truth in the chaotic hours after the tragic death of a child.

The goal of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix was to get it right.

That was what I told Hussein Elmmi a day after his five-year-old son, Ahmedsadiq Elmmi, drowned in a pond near Dundonald School. When I sat down with Hussein, the boy’s funeral had been held just a few hours earlier at the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan Mosque on Copland Crescent.

Like any father in his situation would be, Hussein was crushed. Listening to the tape of our interview three months later, I heard his quiet voice again, speaking about his family’s unfathomable loss.

Support was pouring in for them. People all over Saskatoon were heartbroken over the accident, but no one more than Hussein and his loved ones. In our interview, he said there was no adjective to describe how the death affected his family.

Their lives would never be the same, and his frustration and anger were magnified by the misinformation circulating about his boy. The hours after a tragedy are chaotic. Some reports said Ahmedsadiq was a newcomer to Canada, but as The StarPhoenix gathered more information, it became clear that was not the case.

Hussein had questions about where the information was coming from. He felt people were stereotyping his son. While the family was new to Saskatoon, his wife had been living in Prince Albert since 2000 and Ahmedsadiq was a Canadian citizen, born in Prince Albert’s Victoria Hospital.

Gathering information about a person who has died is always a challenge, and never enjoyable. It’s even more difficult when the person is a child.

Various people told reporters the boy’s family was a member of three different communities in Saskatoon: the Filipino community, the Pakistani community and the Somali community.

We started to reach out to community associations on Facebook in an attempt to get more information. That’s when a representative from the Pakistani community told me the child was a member of the Somali community and his funeral was taking place as we messaged back and forth.

After speaking with my editors, we decided I should stop by the funeral to seek more information from people who knew the family directly, or to see if it was possible to speak with the boy’s parents.

It was a delicate situation, to say the least. In looking for answers, we had to be respectful.

By the time I arrived, the funeral had ended and the small casket carrying Ahmedsadiq’s body was being loaded into the back of a hearse. There was no opportunity to speak with anyone extensively, as family had already moved on to the burial site. However, a trusted contact agreed to try to get a message to the family that the paper was hoping to speak with them.

An hour or so later, the contact called and after some brief conversations, we were told the boy’s father was willing to speak with me directly. We were going to hear more about the boy from the man who raised him.

Meanwhile, people across the city were also looking for answers. Information about the death — accurate or not — was spreading. More than 480 students attend the school, and few people knew the identity of the child who had drowned. Was it a relative, the child of a friend or an acquaintance?

When such questions are swirling around, journalists are under pressure to find the truth. Without help from the people directly involved, carrying out that task borders on impossible.

Frustrated by the misinformation spreading on the social media rumour mill, Hussein and his family wanted people to know the facts about Ahmedsadiq. At a time of unimaginable stress, they chose to trust The StarPhoenix, and nothing mattered more to us than living up to that responsibility.

Ahmedsadiq’s death is still under investigation by the Saskatoon Public School Division and Saskatchewan’s Advocate for Children and Youth.

mmodjeski@postmedia.com

Continue Reading
Advertisement

TRENDING