Family that skirted 4 deportations can stay in Canada

A family from Laval, Que., were celebrating on Saturday following news that their long fight to remain in Canada — in which they came close to deportation several times — is over.

Kankou Keita Mansaré feared daughters faced forced marriages and genital mutilation

Kankou Keita Mansaré, left, and her five children found out in February that their first application to stay on humanitarian grounds hadn't been received, which led to a months-long ordeal where they narrowly missed being deported several times. (CBC)

A Laval, Que., family celebrated on Saturday following news that their long fight to remain in Canada — in which they came close to deportation four times — is over.

Kankou Keita Mansaré and her five children, all originally from Guinea, have received word that Citizenship and Immigration Canada accepted their application to stay in the country on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

"It all happened so quickly, and it was pure joy," daughter Zenab Mansaré said of the news. "It means we can be calm, stress-free, no fears, and we can plan our future in peace."

Zenab Keita said the family is very happy they can stay in Canada. She said she hopes to study to become a doctor or lawyer.

The family had been scheduled for deportation four times since last March. There were glitches in the first three instances that prevented them from boarding an airplane to West Africa, and then in the fourth, the federal government intervened to temporarily halt their removal. 

The family arrived in Canada nearly six years ago as refugees. They said they feared their teenaged daughters would be subject to forced marriage and genital mutilation in Guinea, a country where 40 per cent of women aged 15 to 19 are subject to the practices, according to the World Health Organization. But their refugee claim was denied.

Court appeals were also turned down, so the family got a lawyer to prepare an application to stay on humanitarian grounds. But because of a mistake by the lawyer, Immigration Canada never received that application, Keita said.

Daughter's health was a concern

The family resubmitted the paperwork and heard back on Friday that they've been granted temporary resident status in Canada for now.

"We have to wait a couple weeks to get the permanent resident card and other documents," said the family's new lawyer, Salif Sangare.

He said the application on humanitarian and compassionate grounds had several bases, including the risk of forced marriage and genital mutilation, but also the health of Zenab Mansaré, who has hyperthyroidism.

"If the children go back, Zenab cannot get really the treatment for her" condition, Sangare said.

Previous attempts to deport the family were held up by various issues. When immigration authorities first tried in March, Keita was sick in hospital and couldn't make it to Trudeau airport to be sent back to Guinea. On two further attempts in April, the airline wouldn't take the family aboard because they didn't have proper travel documents.

The family's plight prompted a number of public demonstrations in support of them. Zenab Mansaré said many of those supporters will be assembling on Sunday to celebrate the good news at the home of a social worker who has been working with the family.

"There will be lots of people there."