British Columbia

Paralyzed man ready to return home, Sikh temple president says

A paralyzed failed refugee claimant who took sanctuary at an Abbotsford Sikh temple says he now wants to go home to India, according to temple officials.

A paralyzed failed refugee claimant who took sanctuary at an Abbotsford Sikh temple says he now wants to go home to India, according to temple officials.

Swarn Singh Gill, the president of Kalgidhar Darbar Gurdwara, said Laibar Singh is frustrated and fears Canada's border officials will put him in jail.

"I'm not too happy to send him back because his health, but this is his decision, so I really can't say too much because he make his decision his own," said Gill.

Gill is calling on those who have pledged money to help Singh to give him the cash so he can receive medical help when he returns to India.

Singh's saga began when he arrived in Canada in 2003 on a forged passport and initially sought refugee status that year on the grounds that he would be persecuted by police in Punjab, where officials have accused him of links to separatist militants. At that time, Singh was not disabled.

His refugee claim was denied in late 2003 and his appeals to stay in Canada were turned down by immigration officials who ruled Singh couldn't remain because he didn't have adequate community ties.

Singh suffered a stroke in 2006 that left him a quadriplegic and unable to care for himself. He has since argued that he will die if he is deported to India because he won't be able to get proper medical treatment.

Singh first sought sanctuary at the Kalgidhar Darbar Sahib Society Temple in Abbotsford in July 2007, after the Canadian Border Services Agency issued a deportation order.

The agency negotiated his deportation with temple leaders in December 2007, but it was aborted after more than 1,000 people blocked his taxi at the departures terminal of Vancouver International Airport. He then returned to sanctuary, first to a Surrey temple, then back at the one in Abbotsford.

Singh's supporters originally said he should be allowed to remain on humanitarian grounds, and have pledged to cover all his medical and personal costs while he remains in Canada.

But in March 2008, a committee of supporters said they would like to see Singh stay in Canada for one more year so his health can improve before he is sent back to India. At the time, it was unclear if Singh himself also wanted to return home.