Despite the freezing temperatures, members of the Fredericton chapter of No One is Illegal stood outside of MP Matt DeCourcey’s office on January 15. Their goal: deliver a letter to DeCourcey urging him to take action to stop the deportation of Abdoulkader Abdi on the day that Abdi was set to appear before his second detention review hearing.
“I think it’s important for people to be here today to show our MP, Matt DeCourcey, and other representatives of the Canadian government that we aren’t just going to sit by and let this happen,” said Nathan Gullison, a member of No One Is Illegal and a St. Thomas University student.
Supporters celebrated the news that Abdi, 24, was being released from the Maplehurst Immigration Detention Centre and being transferred to a halfway house in Toronto but they vow to keep working to support Abdi until the threat of his deportation is over.
Abdi is a Somalian refugee who came to Canada as a child. He was put into the Nova Scotia foster care system which failed to make a citizenship claim for him. Four years ago Abdi was imprisoned for committing an aggravated assault. It was during his release in early January that the Canadian Border Services Agency informed him that he was at risk for deportation. This has left many Canadians believing that the circumstances of his proposed deportation are unfair.
“In this particular case, through no fault of his own, he was denied Canadian citizenship,” said picketer Susan O’Donnell. She stood amongst others who were holding signs reading “free Abdoul Abdi” and handing out information pamphlets.
Abdi is now facing deportation to Somalia where he cannot speak the language and has no family ties. He would be leaving behind in Canada a daughter, an older sister, and his aunt who raised him like a mother after Abdi’s birth mother died in a refugee camp before he came to Canada.
“He’s going back to a country he has no history in and where there’s potential for violence and harm,” O’Donnell explained.
Abdi’s older sister, Fatouma, has been speaking out about the abuse they both experienced within the foster care system. She told CBC that instances such as being pulled out of school, moving to over 20 different foster homes, and physical and emotional abuse all occurred while under care of the Nova Scotia government.
Abdi’s story shows a major gap within the Canadian foster care system affecting immigrant children. This is a message that No One is Illegal (NOII) wants to spread. They say Adbi’s case is just one example of the unjust treatment refugee youth receive within foster systems.
“Child welfare agencies failed him as a child. It’s up to us to not fail him again,” said Tracy Glynn, an organizer with NOII Fredericton. “Abdoul wants his supporters to know how humbled and grateful he is. His friend tells us that he is making jokes and that it feels good to laugh, something he says he hasn’t done for a long time,” she added.
The crowd ended the picket by chanting “Free Abdoul Abdi now!” — a phrase many Canadians will be repeating until a decision is rendered in Abdi’s case. He is scheduled to appear before an admissibility hearing in late February. Although there is no date set yet for the deportation hearing, local demonstrations such as this one have been opening up larger conversations about government systems. They also show those in similar situations that they are not alone.
As O’Donnell explains: “I think this demonstration today shows that people from many different backgrounds do care for people that they’ve never met before. I think that’s important that we step outside of ourselves and our families and look at the bigger picture.”
Madison McLaughlin is a second year journalism student at St. Thomas University.