About 100 people marched in front of the federal building in downtown Hamilton on Friday afternoon, demanding the Conservative government halt the deportation of Wafaa Abdou, an Egyptian-born woman who is married to a local man.
The crowd, which included seniors, families, labour activists and students, shouted chants like "Let Wafaa stay! Deport Harper!" and "Wafaa needs her family!" while marching in a circle.
Ian Wilkie — Abdou's husband of 12 years, with whom she has three children — took the megaphone to lead supporters in chants of his own.
"Wafaa needs her family!" he yelled, coaxing those in attendance. "Her family needs Wafaa!"
Abdou has been incarcerated at a Rexdale detention centre since January, just after her refugee claim was denied. She is scheduled to be deported back to Egypt on April 27.
Abdou and Wilkie, who met in Egypt over a decade ago, were living in Syria in 2011 when that country's civil war broke out. They fled to Canada, looking to settle in Hamilton, Wilkie's hometown, with their three children — Fatima, 6, Yusuf, 8, and Zaynab, 11.
A Canadian citizen, Wilkie said he tried to sponsor his wife's immigration immediately. They were told to seek refugee status instead, which Wilkie has said was bad advice. The process eventually led to a Jan. 14 appointment in which Abdou was interrogated and told her claim had been denied.
"As someone who came to Canada as the wife of the Canadian citizen and I know what that's like, and I know that it normally goes quite smoothly," said rally attendee Catherine Clase, whose children go to the same school as Abdou's.
"I feel that Wafaa will eventually show that she has the right to stay in this country as Ian's wife. But this, to me, seems like a paperwork nightmare, a Kafkaesque situation."
We don't offer immigration advice: CIC
Citizenship and Immigration officials can't comment on specific cases before the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), Erika-Kirsten Easton, director of ministerial events and media relations, told CBC Hamilton in March.
But as for the notion of Abdou being erroneously advised to file for refugee status, the department "does not offer immigration advice of the kind you suggest," she said.
Canada's refugee system, Easton said, is "one of the fairest refugee systems in the world. Decisions regarding who is granted refugee status are made "only after a thorough review," she said. "Due process is diligently followed at every step."
And unless a spouse sponsors an immigrant, the government does not give more weight to someone married to a Canadian, she said.
"(Citizenship and Immigration Canada) considers all applications in a fair and impartial manner according to Canada's immigration laws and based on the facts of the case."