Abdoul Abdi, who is now 24, has spent his entire life since the age of 6 in Canada, and is the father of a young, Canadian born daughter. He came from Somalia as a refugee and obtained his permanent residency, but never his citizenship due to a failure of his state guardians to apply for his citizenship. Now, as a consequence of having been convicted of a number of criminal offences committed when he was 18, he faces deportation from Canada. He has a deportation hearing on March 21, 2018, where he will be issued a deportation order if it goes ahead. But this result can still be stopped if the Minister of Refugees Immigration and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Ahmed Hussen, acts to stop the deportation.
The fight against the deportation of Abdoul Abdi is fight against racism. His hearing takes place on the International Day to End Racial Discrimination, which is borne from the fight against apartheid in South Africa, where Black people were denied fundamental freedoms as human beings due to the state deeming them of lesser value.
What happens in Abdou’s case will make a statement for where Canada stands on two crucial issues:
1) Whether all children in Canada deserve the same protection and
2) The treatment of non-Canadian-citizens as inherently more dangerous than citizens.
Many have joined this fight across the country, so the result of his case will make a significant mark.
The protection of a Black child is neglected
Abdoulkader Abdi came to Canada at the age of six, with his sister and two aunts, all as jointly-sponsored refugees fleeing Somalia. He was soon put into the care of the state, after being taken away from his aunt. The justification for this apprehension is somewhat mysterious, but typical in cases of Black and Indigenous children, where there is greater scrutiny on parenting, and children are often taken into the care of the state.
Once he was in the care of the state, he was bounced around between an astounding 31 homes, with a number of them involving abusive situations. Such tumultuous foster care experiences such as Abdoul’s, in addition to the inevitable profiling he faced as a Black and non Canadian youth, made him a very high risk for criminality.
Despite his high degree of vulnerability, he was not protected as he should have been.
While Abdoul was a ward of the State, the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services (DCS) was responsible for ensuring his best interests. They failed to do so. DCS should have applied for Abdoul’s citizenship to ensure he would be protected against possible deportation if he was ever convicted criminal offences. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act allows the state to strip a person’s permanent residency, make him “inadmissible” and non-status, then deport him from the country. This was not a remote possibility in Abdoul’s case. It was a very likely outcome considering his vulnerability, but one that could have easily been avoided through applying for his citizenship.
If it was not for this neglect, Abdoulkader would not be facing his current predicament. He would not have been put in the position to be declared inadmissible and face removal from Canada.
The Deputy Minister of DCS in Nova Scotia has stated that Canada has no policies for children in its care who are non-citizens and that DCS does not expect to fix this policy gap until March 2019. This position is not in keeping with Canada’s obligations under the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Canada has ratified. The Convention requires that the best interests of all children are protected by States parties. The Convention does not allow a signatory to exclude and discriminate against protection of a child based on immigration status or racial background. By stating that the policy “gap” will be fixed, DCS has made clear that there are people who they have failed; children who have ended up vulnerable on account of inaction.
Only a non-citizen need worry about being thrown out of the country for a crime
If Abdoul is deported, it will be for his criminal convictions. This cannot happen for Canadian citizens, but only to those who have lesser or no status, such as Abdoul.
In theory, Canada does this – removes a person from the country – to protect Canadian society from those who are deemed dangerous. However, Abdoul has already served his jail sentence, having spent years in prison. He is now in a halfway house in Toronto, working with a program for youth who are in care in Toronto. According to the protocol of the Correctional Service of Canada, he is safe to be in the community.
How then is it justified for another federal government department, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to consider him dangerous today? The answer is that, according to IRCC, he is assumed to be a risk to re-offend based on his past. They ignore the results of his sentence, including rehabilitation. They have the power to make this selective determination only because he is not a Canadian citizen. What they are saying is that a non-citizen is simply more dangerous than a citizen. This is blatant racism based on immigration status.
Furthermore, Abdoul has insisted that he is not the same person today as the young man he was when the offences took place, but a better human being.
If Abdoul is deported, it will be to deprive him of his security in Canada and to remove him to a country – either Somalia or Saudi Arabia – where has no family, does not speak the language and has no experience with the respective local cultures. It would also result in the separation of Abdoul from his young daughter, aunts and communities that his story has touched. Not only would his deportation be a punishment, but it would also be a cruel and unusual punishment of banishment, akin to being dropped off in a desert, and leaving survival to one’s chance to beat the disproportionate odds.
This cannot be allowed to pass. Other options are available. Abdoul’s lawyer Bejamin Perryman has suggested a fair alternative: issue a warning letter to Abdoul that if he is of good behavior for a period of time, deportation proceedings will be stopped.
Please contact the Minister of IRCC to demand that Abdoul be given a chance to stay:
Honourable Ahmed D. Hussen
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
Minister@CIC.GC.CA, Te: 613-954-1064
Asaf Rashid is a member of No One is Illegal in Fredericton.