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The shameful attempt to deport a man who’s been in Canada since childhood

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THE CONVERSATION — As migration scholars and detention experts, we will show that while perhaps lawful, this deportation is the accumulation of governmental historical, social and moral failures. Abdoul arrived in Canada as a six-year-old child, and is a product of this country. His deportation should be halted.

Abdoul was born in Saudi Arabia to a Somali mother, and spent four years in a Djibouti refugee camp. Eighteen years ago, he was only six years old when he claimed asylum in Nova Scotia. With his mother deceased, Abdoul arrived in the care of his sister and aunts.

The province intervened to remove Abdoul from his aunts’ care. The Nova Scotia Department of Community Services then placed him in foster care until he aged out of the system. Abdoul was in 31 different “care” arrangements: Permanent and temporary foster homes, halfway houses, hospitals, wards and so on.

Not one addressed his struggles, and some were abusive. The government did not apply for citizenship for Abdoul despite pressure from the Abdi family.

When Abdoul was about 18 years old, he was convicted on criminal charges. He served four-and-a-half years in prison and was released to a halfway house. It was at the gates of this house that the Canada Border Services Agency arrested him, took him to an immigration detention facility and began deportation proceedings to send him to Somalia.

Abdoul has never lived in Somalia, a country under an extreme travel advisory alert.
Until they apply for and are granted citizenship, asylum-seekers are only granted permanent residence in Canada. Canadian law stipulates that asylum-seekers or permanent residents who receive criminal convictions carrying custodial sentences exceeding six months may be deported. Abdi’s conviction falls under this category.

This deportation order is wrong. With the support of his sister Fatuma Abdi, the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter has begun an anti-deportation campaign called All Out 4 Abdoul. His removal is being legally contested by his lawyer, Benjamin Perryman, with the support of the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto.

Through news conferences, social media and mainstream and prominent media coverage, Abdoul and his supporters have called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ahmed Hussen, the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, to use their discretionary powers to stop the deportation. The Federal Court is now hearing the case.

Why has Abdoul’s plight struck such a visceral chord?

‘Scapegoats’ for poor policy

We argue that Abdoul Abdi’s case illuminates how Canada is failing asylum-seekers, criminalized people and visible minorities. The federal government’s ongoing and persistent efforts to banish Abdoul to Somalia indicate how asylum-seekers have once again become the scapegoats for poor policy.

We find local and federal government failures at various points culminating in this deportation order. On these grounds, we argue it’s the government’s responsibility to stop the deportation.

Firstly, Nova Scotia failed to provide Abdoul’s aunts, themselves newcomers, with the full support they needed to raise the child and to keep him safe.

The decision to remove the child from his aunts contradicts the evidence that the best outcomes for children occur when they remain with their families. Nova Scotia is grappling with a disturbing history of abuses at the now-shuttered Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children in Dartmouth, where a provincial inquiry is entering its third phase. The decision to remove Abdoul should be situated within a system plagued by institutional racism.

What’s more, as a Crown ward, the state shuttled Abdoul among 31 different living arrangements in 12 years — on average, this is a new home every four-and-a-half months. Abdoul has alleged that some of these homes were abusive.

Clearly, the state failed to provide him with sufficient care and support to assist him to make good life choices.

Crown wards at greater risk of committing crimes

Governments cannot control an individual’s actions, but we know that people from disadvantaged backgrounds commit crimes at a higher rate than the overall population. As a Crown ward, this child would have been at greater risk of offending. The community is right to expect that the support provided to Abdoul should have been commensurate to the risk.

The Nova Scotia Department of Community Services also failed to execute its duty to assist Abdoul in becoming a citizen. Given the logistical and other barriers hindering Crown wards from applying, this assistance was its policy-mandated responsibility.

Surely, it’s logical to have more long-term residents as citizens, and fewer people here as asylum-seekers, permanent residents, or other less-than-full statuses. At least 15 cases of former child refugees facing deportation are surfacing; of these, at least three have been deported to a country they have no connection to because of criminal activity after they turned 18.

Morality aside, this practice breaches international law: Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Childstate that everyone has the right to nationality and citizenship.

Finally, and most fundamentally, the government of Canada is failing to recognize that Abdoul Abdi, who arrived in Canada as a six-year-old child, is the product of their state. Indeed it could be argued that, as a Crown ward, Abdoul is even more a product of the Canadian system than others who were raised within a nuclear family unit.

By attempting to deport Abdoul, the Canadian government has indicated an adherence to biological determinism: The view that Abdoul’s “nurture” — his social ties, relationships and mutually reinforcing personal and community histories — matters less than his “nature” as a perpetual foreigner.

The Somali Canadian community already faces significant challenges from “systematic, institutional racism on the part of schools, police and intelligence agencies and the media.”It would be a shame if the federal government fed in to false — not to mention racist — perceptions by continuing its efforts to deport Abdoul Abdi.

Books

CANADA: Edmonton author aims to boost diversity in children’s book publishing

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EDMONTON—Two years ago Rahma Mohamed’s then four-year-old daughter saw an Elsa costume, complete with blond braids, and pleaded with her mother to buy it so she would look “beautiful.”

That’s when Mohamed decided her kids needed more cultural inspiration than the blond princess from Frozen.

After a year of work, the first-time author published Muhima’s Quest, a children’s book that tells the story of a young African-America Muslim girl who wakes up on her 10th birthday and goes on a journey.

Now, Mohamed’s at work on her second book, which is due out at the end of the month. She’s on a journey of her own, she said, to boost diversity in children’s publishing.

“I wanted to create a character who had African descent and is a Muslim in a children’s book because I just found out that there were none that were available in the mainstream,” she said.

Her books show kids it’s OK to be different, she said. Take her first book: some Muslims don’t celebrate birthdays, she explains, and the little girl in the book struggles with her faith and questions why she doesn’t celebrate like her classmates do.

“The overall message is that we do things differently, but that part is what makes us beautiful,” Mohamed said.

She said she felt it necessary for her kids to see themselves represented in the books they read in order to “enhance their self-confidence, as well as bolster their sense of pride.”

Mohamed, who writes under the pen name Rahma Rodaah, self-published her first book and since last summer, has sold 200 copies locally.

“It does take a lot of resources and you have to self-finance, but I believe in the end it’s worth it,” she said.

She hopes to go bigger with her second book, which focuses on the universal concept of sibling rivalry, and features a young girl who plans on selling her little brother because she believes he is getting all the attention.

“My overall goal is to portray Muslim Africans who are basically a normal family.”

Mohamed says her previous book was well-received by parents at readings she had done at public libraries and schools.

“Most of them who are Muslims really loved that the kids could identify with the characters,” she said.

The books also acted as a conversation starter for non-Muslim families, she said.

She said, for her, the most exciting part of the journey is knowing that she is making a difference in shaping the minds of young Black Muslims.

“We are underrepresented, misunderstood and mostly mischaracterized. It is time we paint a different picture.”

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Canada

Canadian Mohammed Ahmed wins silver medal in Commonwealth 5,000M

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CANADIAN PRESS — GOLD COAST, Australia — Canadian Mohammed Ahmed earned silver Sunday in the 5,000 metres on the first day of track and field at the Commonwealth Games.

Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei won gold in 13 minutes 50.83 seconds, ahead of Ahmed in 13:52.78 and Kenya’s Edward Zakayo in 13:54.06.

“I’ve been at the cusp for many years, but I finally get to stand on the podium and hopefully (one day) I get to climb one more step,” said the 27-year-old Ahmed, who was fifth in the 5,000 and sixth in the 10,000 at the 2014 games in Glasgow.

Ahmed was sixth in the 5,000 and eighth in the 10,000 at last year’s world championships, both Canadian-best finishes. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, he was fourth and 32nd, respectively, in the races.

Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, Ahmed spent the first 10 years of his life in Kenya before his family moved to St. Catharines, Ont.

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A Somali-Canadian’s reflections on Refugee Rights Day in Canada

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MUSLIM LINK — Refugee Rights Day is a day to create awareness in the public consciousness about the rights and protection of refugees in Canada. Celebrated on April 4th, this day is significant particularly for refugee claimants because it brings attention to the advances made in the protection of refugee rights in Canada as a result of the Supreme Court’s 1985 Singh Decision. In this decision, the Supreme Court found that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the fundamental rights of refugees. The Court decided that ‘everyone’ includes refugee claimants in the sentence: ‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.’

Refugee claimants are therefore entitled to the right to have their refugee claim heard, in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice and international law.

I came to Canada as a refugee from Somalia. I live in Victoria, BC, a city with a growing refugee community.

Every year on June 20, cities and communities in Canada and around the world celebrate and commemorate World Refugee Day which gives the world a chance to focus its attention on forced migration and refugee issues.

But World Refugee Day wasn’t celebrated in Victoria.

I wanted to change that.

I wanted the city, community organizations, community members, faith groups and elected officials etc to come together to celebrate and recognize their coworkers, neighbors, friends, supervisors, doctors etc who have refugee history in their families, or refugee or former refugees to honor refugees and recognize their resilience.

I really wanted to see the community coming together to talk about how we can be more welcoming and create more empathy and understanding for our shared future in this city.

Days like Refugee Rights Day and World Refugee Day create an opportunity to raise public awareness about the long-term challenges refugees in Canada face beyond just settlement.

What many Canadians often don’t realize is the importance of family reunification after part of a family is able to settle in Canada. One of the many shared experiences of refugees is family separation, which has devastating impacts on their wellbeing, and their ability to contribute more to their host countries. Keeping families separated is not good for Canada. When families are united they are able to contribute more to the economy and the mental health of the family is greatly improved.

As a Somali Canadian, I have seen the negative impact of delayed family reunification all to well. I like to think that Somali people are resilient, resourceful and friendly people. I take pride how Somali people have strong family values and support each other, because of that, I was privately sponsored as a refugee to come to Canada by my uncle.

In 2015, just three countries produced half the world’s refugees, and Somalia was one of them. Many Western countries are closing their doors on Somali refugees and that includes Canada. For the last few years I have been advocating to make it easier for African refugees to come to Canada through the Canadian Council for Refugees.

Even though Canada has provided a new home to many Somali refugees in the decades since the fall of Siad Barré, it has not offered special immigration measures to respond to the longstanding catastrophic situation in Somalia as it has with other communities. On the contrary, some immigration policies have particularly discriminated against Somalis, with devastating consequences.

In February 1993, Canada’s Immigration Act was changed so that accepted refugees had to provide satisfactory identity documents in order to be granted permanent residence. Many Somali and Afghan refugees could not provide satisfactory identity documents, because of the lack of a functioning government in their country of origin. Others were also affected, but the Somalis were by far the most numerous to be caught up in the ID issue over the coming years. The consequences for refugees who could not become permanent residents were dire:

They could not reunite with spouses or young children outside Canada.

They could not go to university or college (unless they could afford to pay foreign student fees). They were not eligible for student loans.

They could not travel outside Canada.

They often could not get better-paid jobs as employers didn’t want to hire someone without permanent status.

People’s mental health suffered because of their powerlessness.

By 1999 the number of people in limbo was estimated to be 13,000. Finally in 2000, the government agreed to the settlement of a legal challenge, launched in 1996, which argued that the ID rule was discriminatory against Somalis (the case is called Aden). Under the terms of the settlement, Somali refugees without ID would be able to submit instead affidavits from someone who knew them before their arrival in Canada or from a credible Somali organization in Canada. The terms of the agreement were written into the 2002 regulations of the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

During the 1990s, it was often pointed out that keeping thousands of refugees in limbo would have devastating long-term social impacts. Even though the ID issue was largely resolved a decade ago, some of the struggles in the Somali Canadian community today may well be at least partly due to the impacts of the policies, which are felt into the next generation. Families were only reunited after a long separation, people were unable to educate themselves or get decent jobs, and many fell into depression. Many Somalis felt that their community had been rebuffed and rejected by the government.

Somalis being Muslim and Black faced discrimination, but the community resisted and remained resilient and thrived despite the challenges by community coming together and organizing and building social networks which have helped refugees who have came after 2000s. Somali refugees like me.

am so proud of the Somali Canadian community for all the things they have achieved, I have traveled in the last six years across the country, and met Doctors, Lawyers, Business people, scholars, activists, social workers, public servants, community leaders all of Somali origin. Many Canadians are of course familiar with Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Somali Canadian Ahmed Hussen who came to Canada Somali as 16 year old refugee.

Somali Canadians work hard to continue making Canada a better place – a place that I hope will welcome more refugees. The Somali community’s experience must be retold again and again, so we can learn from it. The Somali community have a lot to share to improve the settlement and integration of refugees today.

I was a refugee for more than two decades before arriving to Canada. It was these experiences that have convinced me to dedicate my life to creating more just, inclusive and peaceful communities; both in my new home country of Canada and in areas where conflict and instability continue to ravage and destroy many lives. I appreciate that these have led me to become who I am, and that’s why I continue to work harder to play my role to make Canada a better place for everyone.

I have worked with a variety of refugee populations in protracted situations in various urban and camp-based locations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Fortunately I continued my work with refugees when I arrived in Canada. I facilitie volunteer support services for refugees in Greater Victoria at the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria and formerly facilitated wraparound support services for vulnerable immigrant and refugee youth in Greater Victoria at Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society. I closely work at the national level with the Canadian Council for Refugees — this gives me the opportunity to work around policy issues while locally I work on frontline issues. Through my life experience and my work with refugees at various organisational and community-based levels, I have gained a deep understanding of the protection-related issues refugees are facing in their countries of origin and asylum. This has strengthened my ability to strong advocate for refugees.

One of the big questions I am exploring now is how can Indigenous communities and refugee communities learn more about each other and work in solidarity with one another.

I recognize that as a new Canadian citizen, I am a guest on this beautiful Victoria/Lekwungen territory… land that rightfully belongs to the First Nations.

We are all settlers – including those of us who came here as newcomers or migrants, either in this generation or in generations past, whether voluntary or as a result of war, persecution or conflict.

Unfortunately there is lack of education for newcomers about the history and realities of Indigenous communities upon arrival. Often newcomers pick up negative stereotypes about our brothers and sisters who are Indigenous peoples. I think settlement agencies can draw out some of the similar challenges and cultural similarities of newcomers and Indigenous communities — they may share similar experiences with injustice due to persecution, oppression, colonization, discrimination, stereotyping and exclusion. One in five Canadians is an immigrant so it is crucial to continue building bridges and respectful relationship in order to continue the reconciliation process.

I hope after reading this you will take the time to educate yourself more about refugee rights in Canada.

This year, the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) is running the campaign slogan “Protecting Refugees = Stronger Communities

CCR and all its member organizations are calling on the Government of Canada to:

Resettle 20,000 government-assisted refugees annually.

Ensure applications of privately sponsored refugees are processed within 12 months.

Reform the refugee determination system so that all claimants have access to a fair hearing before an expert independent tribunal.

To conclude, I would like to quote my role model in refugee advocate Barbara Harrel-Bond, who said “Refugees are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.”

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