Community unites to fight deportation for Farai Chigogora
Hamilton man faces deportation Jan. 13
Several community groups rallying to prevent a young Hamilton man from being deported to Zimbabwe say he is scheduled to leave Canada due to a justice system that fails immigrants facing criminal charges.
Farai Chigogora, 21, who has lived in Hamilton as a permanent resident since the age of 14, is set to be deported on Jan. 13.
Chigogora served 15 months in prison for his connection with a Boxing Day home invasion back in 2012.
Supporters from Ngen Youth Centre, Community Coalition Against Racism, Black Brown and Red Lives Matter, The Hamilton Sanctuary City Coalition, No One is Illegal Toronto, as well as friends and family of Chigogora spoke at a community meeting at NGen Youth Centre in Hamilton on Friday, where around 35 people attended.
Chigogora is an active volunteer and youth leader at the centre.
During the meeting the Chigogora said that he takes full responsibility for his charges and conviction, but that he felt forced by the courts to plead guilty to theft under $5,000 at the time.
“It took a lot out of me that day. I did not want to make that decision,” he said.
Leo Johnson, community organizer, says the young man is being punished because the justice system does not allow immigrants to access the same opportunities and services as Canadian citizens.
Johnson, who spent eight years in a refugee camp in Ivory Coast and Ghana before immigrating to Canada in 2006 as a government sponsored refugee, works with immigrants and young people, like Chigogora, who are navigating through the court system.
He said many young people are asked or forced to make plea agreements because of the financial overburden and overwhelming conditions that courts place on them.
“It makes me question the true meaning of how we treat people who live here and contribute to society,” said Johnson.
Johnson said it was impossible for Chigogora to continue in the court system and that the young man was forced to plead guilty, noting Farai was often denied access to appeals. Now he will face deportation due to recently new immigration policies.
“Farari’s case is not unique it’s a very systematic problem we have in this country. If people go wrong they should not be condemned the rest of their lives. Let’s give him a chance to access the justice system,” he said.
The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, introduced by the Harper government in 2012, has made it easier for the government to deport permanent residents, like Chigogora, who commit crimes in Canada.
In the past, criminals who were not Canadian citizens had to commit a crime serious enough to serve two years or more in prison to face deportation. Now a six month sentence is enough for someone like Chigogora to be deported.
If people go wrong they should not be condemned the rest of their lives- Leo Johnson
“I feel really stressed and sometimes really helpless. I am hopeful but I feel like the justice system was unjust towards my case. I feel betrayed and unwelcomed by Canada,” said Chigogora.
Rachael Edge, Initiative Lead at Ngen Youth Centre, has worked alongside Chigogora for four years. She said the community needs to stop silencing the needs of youth, like Chigogora.
“He deserves to be supported. What good comes out of deporting this person who is an active community member and leader in our community?” said Edge.
Chigogora said his volunteering and community involvement has inspired him to become a social worker, but that can only happen if he is allowed to stay in Canada.
On Tuesday Chigogora and his supporters will attend court in Toronto where a file of stay will be heard. If denied, he will be deported to Zimbabwe.
“I’m always a positive person but I’m also expecting the worst. It’s not me who’s making the decision but the community support makes me believe I can do it,” he said.
"Thank you to everyone who is supporting me."