The Alvarez-Rivera family is en route to El Salvador after losing a long fight to stay in Canada as refugees, and say they will now face danger and uncertainty in their native country.
Friends and supporters of the couple and three children were at Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport early this morning, hoping for a last-minute reprieve that never arrived from the Minister of Public Safety, Steven Blaney.
Dominique Mac Conaill, who works at the school two of the children attended, said fellow students were sad and disappointed to see the family leave.
"The students are very concerned and they’re worried for [the family's] security and for their lives even," said Mac Conaill, spiritual and community involvement animator at the Mont-de-La Salle secondary school in Laval.
"They are, in a certain way, angry towards the minister that decided to not involve himself and make a decision to keep the family in Canada."
Refugee claims of gang violence fears
The family settled into Laval after arriving in Canada in 2009, claiming they were escaping extortion by local street gangs.
The parents and oldest daughter found jobs here, and the two younger girls settled into high school.
But their refugee claim was rejected, and all subsequent appeals failed.
"Although I am touched by the civic act by students of the Mont-de-La-Salle school in Laval, my duty as Minister of Public Safety is the proper application of Canadian immigration laws," said a written statement from Minister Blaney.
Mac Conaill said his students are even more afraid for their friends now that a local paper in El Salvador published the story of their pending deportation — complete with photos of the family,
He said the very gangs that allegedly harassed the Alvarez-Rivera family have now been alerted to their return.
"The parents were clearly sad but also unsure if their security — mostly the security of their children — was going to be at risk or not,” said Mac Conaill.
Still hope of return to Canada
Mac Conaill said his students haven't entirely given up hope their friends may one day be allowed to return to Canada.
Their case is still under appeal, but under recent changes to immigration law, claimants can now be deported before all appeals have been heard.
Latifa Salifou, one of hundreds of the girls' classmates who rallied to support the family, said she can't believe they weren't allowed to stay.
“It’s just incomprehensible because we have proof, we have documents that prove that yes, they are really in danger," said Salifou.