Journalist in B.C. fears deportation to Mexico
Mother of 2 concerned about harm to family for book she wrote
A Mexican journalist is fighting to stay in Canada says she is worried about the safety of her family and herself if she's deported.
Karla Ramirez fled from Mexico to B.C. in 2008 after trying to uncover suspected corruption inside the Mexican government's cultural affairs department, and she has written a book about what she discovered in her investigation.
Ramirez, 38, says she and her family have been threatened and claims powerful officials in the Mexican government are trying to silence her.
"I am here to say that if something bad happens to me or my family, it is because of what I wrote and who I name in this book," Ramirez told a Vancouver news conference Thursday.
The book, The Talent of Charlatans, was written and published with the help of Vancouver's University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University last July.
Ramirez, who writes under the pen name Karla Lottini, and her husband, Cesar Casso, who is also from Mexico, have two young children.
"I am afraid for my life and my family's life, including my two Canadian babies," she said.
Ramirez faces imminent deportation because her claim for refugee status and a subsequent appeal were rejected. She said she has not yet been given a deportation date.
Her lawyer, Shane Molyneaux, said one last appeal has been launched on the grounds his client could be killed if she's returned to Mexico.
"This is a case that calls out for what the refugee system was developed for," said Molyneaux. "It's a person who is political, she's a journalist, passionate about what she does. It's about free expression."
The number of refugee claimants from Mexico peaked in 2009, when more than 9,000 people applied.
But that number has fallen drastically after Canada toughened rules for claimants.
Last year more than 80 per cent of the refugee claims filed by Mexicans were rejected.
Journalists in danger
Mexico can be an especially dangerous place for journalists, according to Brendan DeCaires, program co-ordinator with Pen Canada, an organization that works to protect writers and journalists.
"There's a problem with free expression in large parts of Mexico, where people criticizing powerful interests are facing immediate threats," DeCaires said. "There simply seems to be no mechanism to protect them."
DeCaires said it's difficult to get exact figures, but Pen Canada estimates nearly 70 writers and journalists have been killed in Mexico in the last six years.
Victims range from accredited journalists to bloggers posting online comments, DeCaires said.
Alexander Dawson, director of Latin American Studies with SFU, said the federal government should act in a less restrictive manner in cases like Ramirez's.
"Vendettas that are unrelated to the drug war are often carried out with complete impunity under its cover," Dawson said in a letter. "This is why I believe [Ramirez's] claim is credible."