Winnipeg man fights deportation order after sexual assault conviction

Vasco Andrade, a citizen of Portugal, is fighting to stay in Canada, where he's lived for 43 years, after being found guilty and serving a 28-month prison sentence for a sexual assault. He says leaving his children and family behind in Canada will worsen his existing mental illnesses.

Vasco Andrade, a permanent resident of Canada for 43 years, now faces deportation

Vasco Andrade, a citizen of Portugal, is fighting to stay in Canada after being found guilty and serving a 28-month prison sentence for a sexual assault. He says leaving his children and wife behind in Canada will aggravate existing mental illnesses. (Submitted)

A Winnipeg man is fighting a deportation order after serving 28 months at Stony Mountain Institution for sexual assault.

Vasco Andrade, 53, has lived in Canada for 43 years. In 2009, while working for a janitorial and building maintenance company, he sexually assaulted a co-worker.

"It was just the wrong thing to do. I was in a position of power. I should have never gotten in a position like that. I was a supervisor. I should have never got in that situation," said Andrade.

He said he holds himself fully responsible and is filled with remorse over what he did to the victim.

"I was under the influence of a lot of alcohol. Feeling depressed. And three days later I tried suicide with pills and alcohol. Fortunately, I'm still here."

After Andrade's conviction, he was deemed inadmissable to Canada and ordered to return to his home country of Portugal.

On Tuesday, Joshua Slayen, the immigration lawyer representing Andrade, filed an emergency federal court application for a stay of removal in hopes of preventing Andrade's deportation. It was unsuccessful.

Andrade's flight is now scheduled to depart Winnipeg at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

Slayen believes an exception should be made on the basis of Andrade's mental state and the pain being separated from his loved ones will cause him. 

Andrade has only distant relatives in Portugal. His three children, siblings and wife are in Winnipeg.

"I'm terrified. I mean I'm not terrified 'cause we're not at war, I'm not terrified of being killed. I'm just terrified of being by myself," he said.

Andrade has also been diagnosed with depression and anxiety and made two attempts to commit suicide. Slayen said his client suffers psychological trauma after being sexually abused as a child. He sees doctors in Winnipeg for his mental health and for a previous diagnosis of lymphoma, which is now in remission. He is registered in a support group to help with the trauma of his childhood sexual abuse.

"All my supports here are in Canada. I got nobody in Portugal to support me through my mental illness," said Andrade, who fears Portugal will bring back memories of his abuse.

He acknowledges he inflicted the same trauma on someone else.

"Back when this incident happened in 2009, I was a very messed up person, but I'm not that person anymore, through counselling, and through prayers and through my faith," said Andrade.

While in prison, Andrade became a born-again Christian.

"Jail can change a person. Tremendously. I've quit drinking two years before I went in jail. I've got my depression under control," said Andrade.

Slayen said his client deeply regrets his crime, and he believes Canada should show Andrade compassion.

"He served his sentence. He did his time. But now, in the midst of him experiencing severe anxiety, hypertension, having suicidal tendencies, for Canada to ship him off to a foreign country that he knows nothing about, to me just breaches all aspects of humanitarian and compassionate considerations that I would expect to go into these decisions," Slayen said.

At a detention hearing in December, Andrade was deemed not a safety risk to the public. 

"I'm very remorseful about my victim.… I feel a lot of compassion and I pray for her and I pray that she gets through this and goes on with her life," he said.

"I wish no harm on her. I hold myself fully responsible for all of this. All I've been asking for is a second chance to rebuild my life here in Canada, with my children."

His lawyer is writing to the airlines Wednesday to inform them of Andrade's conditions, in a last-ditch effort to prevent him from leaving.

"I think that in the 21st century we have to accept that mental illnesses exist, and it's something that we need to find a way to help those in need. Sending somebody off overseas where they have no support, no family, is not helping somebody with a mental illness. Providing them with a support network here, in Canada, to help them succeed, that would be in my view what Canada's really about," said Slayen.