A Malaysian man who is to be deported Thursday after being refused refugee status is pleading with the federal government to intervene and let him stay in Canada.
Kulenthiran Amirthalingan made a last-ditch appeal to Immigration Minister Diane Finley, asking her to stay the March 6 deportation order to his native Malaysia. He fears persecution because he is gay.
Amirthalingan, who lives in Montreal, appeared in Ottawa at a news conference Wednesday along with New Democrat MP Thomas Mulcair to request Finley's intervention.
"I am deported back to Malaysia, and I fear my imprisonment, so I would like to ask Ms. Finley to let me stay in Canada," he said.
The soft-spoken Kulen, as he is known to his friends, says he fears for his life if he is sent back to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he experienced discrimination, was harassed and abused for being gay.
Homosexuality is a crime in Malaysia, and punishable by 20 years in jail or caning.
Section 377 of Malaysian's Penal Code states anal and oral sex are illegal whether it's between men, or heterosexual couples.
The penal code also outlaws any sex that is against the "order of nature," whether it is sex between two men, two women or in a heterosexual relationship.
Amirthalingan moved to Montreal in 2003 and applied for refugee status in Canada on humanitarian grounds, arguing his life was in danger because his homosexuality made him a target of Malaysian police who detained him for five days, and abused him, physically and sexually.
"They were punching me, pushing me down to the floor and putting their leg on me to confess that I am a gay," he told CBC last week.
Being gay in Malaysia is difficult, and he is "a bit afraid for my safety" if he's forced to go back.
"I don't have family support too, because my brothers and sisters are against [me] because I'm gay."
Amirthalingan lost his refugee status case because the judge was not convinced he was gay. He filed for a humanitarian appeal and a pre-removal risk assessment, which were both rejected by the Quebec Immigration Board.
Mulcair made a public plea to Finley on Wednesday after Amirthalingan's supporters contacted his Outremont riding office.
"What is really shocking is that they're threatening to deport Kulen not for something he did but for who he is," he said in French at the Ottawa news conference.
"That's a transgression of Canada's fundamental values, and we're having a hard time understanding the government's attitude, and we want this to transcend all partisan considerations."
Montreal human rights lawyer Julius Grey believes Amirthalingan's case merits the immigration minister's review, because "in Canada it is well-established that homosexuality can be a motive for refugee status."
"It would be contrary to my conscience to send back a homosexual to an openly Muslim country," he told CBC last week. "I would say chances of something terrible happening are so high, that it would be unconscionable to not act."
The Malaysia co-ordinator for Amnesty International Canada, Margaret John, said it's not clear whether Amirthalingan's life is at risk "but certainly his right to freedom of expression is at risk" she said.
"He may be charged with being a homosexual, he may be fined, he may be imprisoned."