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Canada won’t deport lesbian refugee, at least for now

NDP MP thanks new Liberal immigration minister for emergency intervention

A lesbian woman facing imminent deportation from Canada will not be on a plane out of the country tonight, thanks to a last-minute decision to issue her a stay of removal.

The move allows Angela, whose last name and country of origin have not been released due to safety concerns, to stay in Canada for now, as she and her lawyer appeal the pre-removal risk assessment that would have seen her deported.

It’s not clear whether the decision was granted by a federal judge or through direct intervention by Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s new Liberal minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship.

In an email to Xtra, a spokesperson from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says Hussen cannot comment on specific cases due to privacy laws. But NDP MP Jenny Kwan says she spoke with Hussen about the case yesterday, just 24 hours before Angela’s scheduled deportation, and he stepped in to make sure Angela was not sent home.

“It was my understanding that there was intervention from the minister,” says Kwan, who is the NDP’s critic on immigration, refugees and citizenship. “He advised me he would intervene to ensure there is a stay of her proceedings so she could in fact go before judicial review.”

“I thank the minister for that intervention and thank him for his action with this urgent case,” Kwan continues. “I think it bodes well for a new minister who came in and who’s responsive in that regard.”

If Angela is deported, her advocates fear she’ll be imprisoned and physically harmed, especially since she and her girlfriend were outed a few months ago by a newspaper in their home country. Police have since apprehended her girlfriend and allegedly threatened and sexually assaulted her.

Jordan says the previous risk assessment and deportation order did not take into account the newspaper article that outed Angela.

Advocates from the Vancouver organization Rainbow Refugee, which assists LGBT asylum seekers, and the Vancouver Association for the Survivors of Torture approached Kwan months ago about Angela’s situation and kept the MP abreast of the case as it developed. On Jan 15, 2017, three days before Angela’s scheduled deportation, Kwan says the group met at her constituency office and drafted a joint letter to Hussen.

“In these instances we’re talking about life and death. So it’s not child’s play,” Kwan says. “It’s very serious and it comes with very serious consequences.”

Sharalyn Jordan, a Simon Fraser University professor whose research focuses on LGBT refugee protection, has been helping to support Angela during this process and expressed relief and gratitude following news that the young woman would not be deported immediately.

“We want to express our deep, deep appreciation and respect for the willingness of both Minister Hussen and MP Jenny Kwan to work together to protect the human rights of this woman and LGBTQ refugees generally,” she says.

Jordan was not aware of a direct intervention by Hussen, instead citing a special hearing with a federal judge to decide if Angela would receive a stay of removal. But she wasn’t aware of the conversation Kwan says she had with Hussen; Jordan says she’s “very encouraged” by these talks.

Still, this latest decision only buys Angela more time.

“We want to stress this is not a long-term solution,” Jordan says.

“Rainbow Refugee and VAST and all of us working with Angela will continue to be vigilant and work with her until she has full status, safety, and respect for her human rights in Canada,” Jordan says.

The upcoming appeal and legal proceedings may keep Angela in Canada for another year. Angela came to Canada in 2014 as an international student and in 2015 applied for refugee status on the grounds that she faces threats of bodily harm and imprisonment if she were to return home.

“We’re talking years of a young woman’s life in limbo, so we are continuing to reach out to Minister Ahmed Hussen to ask him to please grant her a minister’s permit, to allow this young woman to move on with her life, start focusing on work and school and the things a 21-year-old should,” Jordan says.