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The Immigration Files

The case of the girl in pink pyjamas

Yan Jiang was seven years old when her relatives sent her to live with family in America, with a woman who would pose as her mother during their time aboard the Black Dragon.

In immigration files reviewed by the fifth estate, Yan and the woman are referred to numbers 9 and 10. According to those files, other passengers on the boat clearly told authorities that number 10 was not Yan’s mother.

Immigration law offers sanctuary to people who need protection. Since Yan was a child without a parent in Canada or China, a lawyer could have made a strong case that she was a refugee.

But Canadian immigration officials chose to believe that another passenger posing as Yan’s mother was all the protection she required.

Yan was deported back to China on May 10, 2000 along with nearly 100 other migrants, in the largest single deportation in Canadian history.

View the documents

Below are several excerpts from the immigration documents, where passengers describe their understanding of the relationship between # 9 and #10. We have redacted the file numbers and names of the passengers, interviewers and translators to protect their identities.

In this witness’ statement, one of the passengers says that he doesn’t think the little girl is #10’s daughter. Cst. Peter is the officer interviewing the passenger, and Leo is the translator.

The same passenger says he heard Yan (#9) address #10 as ‘Auntie’. In China, the term ‘Auntie’ is often loosely used to mean a woman who is older, not necessarily a relation.

In this document, another passenger is recorded simply as stating: #9 - not #10's child. The passenger also says that Yan is accompanied by a cousin. Other records show that #68 was 15 years old at the time, and so if he was her cousin, he was not old enough to care for her.

In an interview, one of the crew members says he was told that #10 was the mother of #9, but he didn’t believe it because of their behaviour.

In another interview, a passenger says she is from the same village as Yan, but #10 is from another village.