New Brunswick

Community rallies around Korean family

A South Korean family living in Moncton, N.B., is winning widespread community support in their fight to avoid deportation.

A South Korean family living in Moncton, N.B., is winning widespread community support in their fight to avoid deportation.

The Department of Citizenship and Immigration told the Maeng family last week they must leave Canada by the end of the month because care for their youngest son, who is epileptic and autistic, is too expensive.

Sung-Joo Maeng, 15, was diagnosed with autism and epilepsy at age five. His father, Tae-Shik Maeng, and his mother, Hee-Eun Jang, moved the family to Canada with the hope of getting help to treat their son's illnesses. They have another son, Jung-Joo Maeng, who is studying science at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

The family has owned and operated Moncton's Main Stop Oriental Market on West Main Street since 2003.

Mary Sullivan, a frequent customer at the market, said she stopped by as soon as she heard the family had been given a month to leave the country.

"I did go down to talk to the family to see how they were doing that morning," she told CBC News.

"It was very sad. They looked very sad. The kind of vibe of the store — which is usually very vibrant and exciting — it was very somber."

Sullivan said she was so outraged she decided to plan a rally and started a Facebook group to spread the word about the Maeng family's plight. She said social media are giving people the power to stand up for the family.

"There's so many people on there that are saying, 'How can I help? What can I do? I can't show up but I really want to help,'" she said.

Scott Agnew, the co-founder of the Facebook group, said the story has touched a nerve in the community.

"These are the people we're trying to attract. These are the people we need. Our population in New Brunswick is dwindling — we need to attract more immigrants the government knows that," he said Tuesday.

"They're putting money into attracting them. They did attract them and now the federal government is asking them to leave. It's just ridiculous."

An online petition in support of the family has more than 5,000 signatures.

Sue Stultz, the Minister of Social Development and the MLA for the Maeng family, said she's not surprised by the outpouring of community support.

"I have to commend the community for standing up for what they believe is right and we're all coming together to help this family in any way we can."

Organizers said the rally for the family will be held on Sunday. If a decision to allow the family to stay is made in the meantime, they said the event will go ahead as a celebration.