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Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.

Vicky Mochama: With Abdoul Abdi, we must make amends and give him citizenship

It is time for Canada to right a terrible wrong for the 23-year-old man facing deportation to Somalia.

Photo of Abdoul Abdi taken from his childhood residency application.


Photo of Abdoul Abdi taken from his childhood residency application.

By any reasonable measure, Abdoul Abdi is a Canadian and yet, because of a callous and careless child welfare system, he is now at risk of being deported away from the only country he has ever known.

Speaking on Toronto journalist Desmond Cole’s Sunday radio show, Abdi’s aunt Asha, who considers herself his mother, spoke about the case.

She said community services in Nova Scotia took Abdi, now 23 years old, and his sister away from her in early 2000 after they had arrived in Canada as refugees. Back then, Asha didn’t speak English and was unsure of why her children were being apprehended. It was not, she says, for neglect: “I am a good mother. If I didn’t love my son, I wouldn’t be here (on the radio) today.”

Asha and Abdi have been living with the consequences of child services’ decisions for 14 years. For example, they would not allow Asha to apply for citizenship for Abdi when he was a child. The child welfare agency in Nova Scotia also failed to apply for citizenship on the boy’s behalf.

After completing a four-year prison sentence for aggravated assault and other crimes, the Canada Border Services Agency detained Abdi on Thursday upon his release and took him to a prison in New Brunswick.

On Friday, Abdi’s lawyer was notified that both an admissibility hearing and a detention review would be held on Monday. The detention review is required within 48 hours of arrest, but the admissibility hearing appears rushed, he said.

“It’s extremely short notice for any legal proceeding in Canada to be scheduled on Friday for the following Monday, especially one that has the potential to result in the loss of rights,” Benjamin Perryman, who has been representing Abdi, told me.

From practically the very moment he arrived in Canada, Abdi’s rights have been undermined.

“We know that there’s a pipeline between foster care and prison,” says El Jones, an activist and poet in Halifax who learned of Abdi’s case in November. Another inmate who served time with him was so distressed that he reached out to Jones to see what could be done.

At the end of Cole’s radio show, Asha spoke directly to the immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen, and the public safety minister, Ralph Goodale, saying, “Please. I need my son. I lost my son when he was seven years old, and I’m not willing to lose him again.”

Perryman accuses the ministers of bearing direct responsibility. “The minister is driving every step of this process. This is not an automatic process.”

“He’s eligible for citizenship. Let him have it,” says Jones, who has seen similar cases in her activism work. “Everything that happened to him happened here. We made him.”

It is time for Canada — Hussen and Goodale, especially — to make right this terrible wrong, and do the utmost to grant a Canadian what he has long been due.

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