Court rejects former child refugee's request to pause deportation proceedings
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HALIFAX — A former Somali child refugee's request to temporarily halt his deportation proceedings has been rejected by the Federal Court.
Abdoul Abdi, who never got Canadian citizenship while growing up in foster care in Nova Scotia, was detained by the Canada Border Services Agency after serving five years in prison for multiple offences, including aggravated assault.
Abdi's lawyer, Benjamin Perryman, asked the Federal Court to pause deportation proceedings scheduled for March 7 while he pursues a constitutional challenge.
But, in a decision released Friday, Justice Keith Boswell rejected the bid, saying there were no exceptional circumstances warranting inference by the Federal Court.
"Mr. Abdi is extremely distressed by the result," said Perryman in an interview Friday. "My biggest concern is that Mr. Abdi's human dignity has been ignored to date."
Perryman had argued before the Federal Court that going ahead with a deportation hearing while the 24-year-old's constitutional challenge is ongoing would cause irreparable harm.
He said the Immigration Division hearing would inevitably lead to a deportation order given the circumstances of Abdi's case, and that he would be stripped of his right to work and his right to health care.
Working is one of the conditions of Abdi's release to a Toronto-area halfway house, so he's at risk of returning to jail if he's unable to meet his conditions, Perryman noted.
Perryman said the Immigration Division can only look at criminal records and citizenship status — Abdi was convicted of crimes and isn't a Canadian citizen — and cannot look at other possible factors in his case, including international human rights law and the Charter, or the fact that Nova Scotia did not apply for citizenship on his behalf when he was in foster care.
"In my view, none of these reasons advanced by the applicant persuades or compels the court in this case to order a stay of the pending admissibility hearing before the Immigration Division," wrote Boswell.
"The applicant's concerns about procedural fairness or bias and the claimed inability to raise important legal or constitutional issues before the Immigration Division are not exceptional circumstances to bypass the administrative process."
Abdi's constitutional challenge is still in its early stages.
His case has become a rallying point for advocates who say it was wrong for the province to fail to apply for citizenship on his behalf.
Perryman has said deporting Abdi to Somalia — a country to which he has no ties and where he would be unable to care for his Canadian-born daughter — would be unfair.
Abdi was born in Saudi Arabia in 1993. After his parents divorced, his mother — fearing persecution if she returned to Somalia — fled to Djibouti, where the family obtained refugee status.
His biological mother died in the refugee camp when he was four, and two years later he came to Canada with his sister and aunts.
But shortly after arriving, the children were apprehended by the Nova Scotia government. Abdi's aunt's efforts to regain custody were rejected, and her attempt to file a citizenship application for the children blocked.
Perryman has said if the division makes a deportation order, Abdi would not be deported immediately.
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