Widowed mom of 3 kids faces deportation, fears for family's safety in Jamaica
Teachers and students at a St. Catharines high school are lobbying Ottawa to reverse the decision
A widowed mother of three, facing deportation, says Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada failed her family, who fear their lives will be in jeopardy if they are sent back to Jamaica next month.
"I'm at a loss," said Natasha Gordon-Jones, who has spent the last five years in St. Catharines, Ont. trying to keep her family safe after her husband's brutal murder.
"I have exhausted my efforts. I have paid over $25,000 to lawyers. I've got receipts to show."
The family of four is scheduled to be deported on Feb. 24 by Canada Border Service Agency, to the country they've been trying to escape.
"It's not because of poverty why I'm here. It's circumstance," Gordon-Jones told CBC News.
The Gordon-Jones family kept its deportation fight a secret, until one of her sons, 17-year-old Joshua-Lee Jones revealed this unknown past and his family's struggle to his Grade 12 English class at Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School two weeks ago.
Now students and teachers are fighting for the family and supporting them. They've launched a campaign to help them obtain refugee status.
'What murder is like in Jamaica'
Gordon-Jones and her husband, Everton Jones owned a scrap metal business in Spanish Town, Jamaica before he was murdered while heading to work, on July 29, 2011, she says for refusing to pay extortion money to a gang.
"I thought that was where it would have ended," she said. "Little did I know, that was the beginning."
It didn't stop there, despite police involvement.
'Just imagine what we've gone through for five years and out of nowhere people start being nice and you're like 'whoa, this has been Canada all this time?'"- Jason-Lee Jones
After Everton's death, Gordon-Jones claims she "started getting threats," including two unidentified men who showed up at then 12-year-old Jason-Lee's school, and a phone call telling her if she didn't pay protection money her 18-year-old daughter, Sasha would be raped.
"They're going to make an example of the family. They don't stop," she stated.
"Do you know what murder is like in Jamaica? They leave nothing, these are heirs of me and heirs of my husband. [We're] dead."
When the threats didn't stop, Gordon-Jones got on the next flight to Toronto with her three children, Sasha, 18, Jason-Lee, 12, and Michael, 8 to stay with her sister in Mississauga, Ont as tourists.
Fighting 2nd deportation order, lawyer says
She's been fighting ever since appealing for refugee status to keep her family alive, but she's running out of time and resources.
According to her immigration lawyer, Osborne Barnwell, this isn't the first time the family faced deportation.
In early 2014, the family's refugee status application was dismissed because a previous lawyer didn't include relevant facts to her case, Barnwell told CBC News.
He says this launched a long, drawn legal battle with Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada and Canadian Border Service Agency.
I'm at a loss. I have exhausted my efforts. I have paid over $25,000 to lawyers.- Natasha Gordon-Jones
One day before they were scheduled to be deported Gordon-Jones applied for a judicial review of their case, which granted them an additional two years, but it wasn't enough. It was ultimately rejected in November 2016.
Shortly after, Barnwell filed a federal court petition seeking a pre-removal risk assessment application, which evaluates the risk of persecution for those being removed from Canada.
Ultimately this avenue was denied too because, according to Barnwell, Canada Border Service Agency didn't believe the letter a Jamaican police officer supplied —supporting the family's claims that they would be in danger if they moved back to the country — was legitimate.
CBC News contacted Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada about the case, but didn't receive a response to our questions.
On Feb. 24, the family will be deported.
'They're everything, they're my life'
Jason-Lee says he is surprised and grateful for the reaction after he decided to reveal his and his family's plight to his teacher and classmates at Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School two weeks ago.
Now, the school's students, teachers and alumni are advocating on their behalf.
"Just imagine what we've gone through for five years and out of nowhere people start being nice and you're like 'whoa, this has been Canada all this time?'" Jason-Lee said. "It surprised me actually."
His grade 12 English teacher, Catherine Chin Yet is spearheading the support.
"We've had alumni students from Holy Cross contact me who've heard the story and writing letters to the Minister of Immigration. Its been overwhelming," Chin Yet said.
To Jason-Lee, his class is not just supportive, "they're everything, they're my life," he adds.
They're going to make an example of the family. They don't stop.- Natasha Gordon-Jones
"They make sure I have food. They make sure I'm stable in my mind. They just think of it and they're doing it... They're doing everything that is humanly possible."
The 17-year-old wants to be an aeronautical engineer and plans to pursue a post-secondary education. He was recently accepted into Brock University and Carleton University's engineering programs.
This is what Gordon-Jones says hurts her the most about her family's situation is they're "going to kill [her] son's dream."
"The kids are happy. This is life, this is freedom," she said. "Why are you taking away my kids' lives?"
With files from Michelle Cheung