A reminder of how lucky we are to be in Canada

December 18, 2018, 11:36 am


On the front page is an article on a family whose dreams have come true. They have been given the right to live in Canada.

For most of us, that’s a right that we take for granted. We were born here. We take for granted the rights and the rule of law that make our lives secure. Many people in many parts of the world would love to live in a place like Canada. For families like the Santos-Cardoza family it’s a matter of life and death. They fear for their future had they been deported to Honduras, where they fled from.

Victor Santos feared for his life because he had witnessed the murder of a journalist and his life had been threatened.

He fled to the United States and then to Canada, and filed a refugee claim. It was rejected, as thousands of refugee claims are every year. Even though Victor feared for his life, he could not be given a positive decision as a refugee because he was fearing personal violence in his home country, not because he was facing violence or oppression based on race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group, such as women or people with a different sexual orientation.

Like large numbers of people fleeing to Canada, the family did not meet those strict and particular criteria, so their refugee status was rejected and they were ordered deported.

Many of these cases are not reported on, often based on legal advice from immigration lawyers that going public may hurt their case.

When the Santos-Cardoza case went public in the summer of 2017 when they were to be deported, it attracted national attention, and attracted the attention of the two federal ministers with the power to intervene and stop the deportation, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen. A stay of the deportation was ordered, and the family was given a two year visa extension, interestingly at 11:37 am on the day 400 people had gathered to show their support. The two-year extension allowed the family to file for permanent residency under a totally different process than the refugee process. They applied to be granted residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, arguing it would be very difficult for their two sons if they had to leave Canada. Their argument has been accepted, the first part of the process, and they now just have to prove they meet statutory requirements

The odd other case has gone public but the deportations have almost always gone ahead anyway. One recent story went national. The Montoya family of Toronto, who have been in Canada for six years, are scheduled to be deported to Columbia on Christmas Eve, among the 10,000 deportations this year.

Several people asked me why they hear about these cases so rarely if there are 10,000 deportations a year.

Lots of reasons. First of all, any family going public, who fears for their lives if deported, are putting their lives in the hands of the journalist they are dealing with if they go public. If you are scheduled to be deported to a country where people want to kill you, you probably don’t want the news all over the internet that you are being sent back there. If the attempt fails and you are deported, you have just given a heads-up to the people you fear harm from that you are being sent back to that country. Victor and Lesi knew they were taking a huge risk when they went public, they thought about it very carefully, and thank God it worked in this case.

Secondly, it’s a lot of work for the media involved. One very sharp-eyed person noted to me that all the coverage of the Montoya case included comments from the ministers’ offices that they can’t comment on the specific case, and yet our coverage of the Santos-Cardoza family has included comments from ministers and other government officials. The reason is that we went to the effort to get the family to sign a legal consent to disclose personal information, and sent it to the government, a document that says the family allows anything the government knows about the family’s case to be shared with me. The document was signed in July of 2016—to give you an idea of how long work behind the scenes has been going on to help the family. Last week, for the latest update, I met with the family and some of their supporters, I spoke with Minister Hussen’s office, I heard from Minister Goodale on the case, we went back through the files from the 2017 effort to prevent the deportation—it was hours of work. It’s many, many times more work for all the people who have been supporting the family and working behind the scenes to help their application. But that is part of the reason you don’t hear about more of these cases.

It was a massive effort and this family is now closer to having what most of us take for granted—the right to live in this wonderful, beautiful country called Canada. The family sees this as an amazing Christmas gift from the community that supported them. Think about that this Christmas season. Just living here is a wonderful gift that many of us take for granted, but others are willing to risk their lives for.