An ailing 57-year-old grandmother is taking refuge in a Montreal church to avoid an order for her deportation to Pakistan.
Supporters of Kurshid Begum Awan, who arrived in Canada in 2011 with her husband and grandson, say her health is too fragile to deport her.
“I recognize that some would say we’re breaking the law but I would suggest that we are challenging the law based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds,” said Rev. Barry Bryan Clarke, Anglican Bishop of Montreal.
Awan filed for refugee status for her and her family upon their arrival. She claimed they were targeted by extremist groups back in Pakistan and could not return.
A refugee board denied their claim, and Awan’s husband was deported earlier this year. He is said to be living in hiding after an alleged attack against him since his return.
Awan has suffered two heart attacks — one in 2008 and a second while she was in a Canada Border Services Agency office in Montreal last July. She also suffers from asthma and pulmonary hypertension.
Her doctor said the situation is putting Awan’s health at even greater risk.
“She’s very vulnerable to stress, so she’s very likely to have another heart attack anytime,” said Marie-Jo Ouimet.
Her daughter, Tahira Malik, arrived and settled in Canada a decade ago after fleeing an abusive husband.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Malik could barely speak through the tears.
“This is too much, too stressful for me and my family,” she told reporters.
Awan’s appeal on humanitarian grounds could take months or even years to decide.
In a statement issued to CBC News, a spokesperson for the federal Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Alexander, said the minister does not have the authority to stay deportation orders.