Former child refugee's deportation hearing temporarily paused

The deportation hearing for a former child refugee from Somalia was adjourned Wednesday until March 21 to give the Immigration and Refugee Review Board (IRB) time to decide whether to pause its proceeding and allow for an upcoming Federal Court case in May.

Immigration and Refugee Board to decide whether Abdoul Abdi's Federal Court case should proceed 1st

Abdoul Abdi, who came to Canada as a child refugee with his sister and aunts, grew up in foster care in Nova Scotia, but officials never applied for him to become a citizen. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The deportation hearing for a former child refugee from Somalia was adjourned Wednesday until March 21 to give the Immigration and Refugee Review Board (IRB) time to decide whether to pause its proceeding and allow for an upcoming Federal Court case in May.

Wednesday's hearing with the IRB in Toronto was supposed to determine Abdoul Abdi's future in Canada — a country the 24-year-old has called home for most of his life.

Abdi's Toronto lawyer, Andrew Brouwer, argued for an adjournment based on justice and fairness.

On Tuesday, the Federal Court agreed to hear Abdi's case and scheduled a hearing for May 29.

Warning letter sought

According to Ben Perryman, Abdi's lawyer in Halifax, the court's decision could upend the deportation case because it will consider aspects of the case that the IRB cannot, including Abdi's experiences in the Nova Scotia childcare system and his bleak prospects in Somalia.

Perryman said earlier he expected his client would be ordered deported if the IRB hearing went ahead.

"Mr. Abdi is used to living in uncertainty. He's lived in uncertainty for his entire life while he's been in Canada and Canada's continued steps to keep him in that place of uncertainty is not something new to him," said Perryman.

Abdi has asked the Federal Court for a warning letter instead of a deportation order.

"A warning letter gives Mr. Abdi a second chance and says that if you are of good behaviour for a period of time, we will not pursue your deportation. If however that is not your case, we can instigate the deportation proceeding again," Perryman said.

Ben Perryman is Abdoul Abdi's lawyer based in Halifax. (CBC)

Abdi was at the IRB hearing, but did not speak at it, nor to media outside. He was accompanied by two women, identified by an IRB member as family members.

He wore a red toque and a black sweatshirt with a giant gold Mercedes Benz emblem on it.

Abdi's sister, Fatouma, and her son Kayden Cockerill-Abdi arrive at Federal Court in Halifax on Feb. 15. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

If the deportation hearing proceeds, Perryman said there are going to be "multiple simultaneous proceedings going on at the same time. If Mr. Abdi is ultimately successful in Federal Court … it will undo all those proceedings." 

"I think there is a strong case here for the [Minister of Public Safety] to press pause on the deportation process," he added. 

If the court rules in Abdi's favour, a deportation order from the IRB would be invalidated and Abdi would retain his status as a permanent resident, Perryman said. The government would have the option, however, of restarting the deportation process.

Abdi was detained by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) earlier this year after serving nearly five years in prison for multiple offences, including aggravated assault. 

Tumultuous childhood

Supporters argue more should be done for Abdi, who arrived in Nova Scotia at age six with his sister and aunts but landed in the care of the province soon after. 

He was shuffled between foster homes 31 times throughout his childhood and Nova Scotia's Department of Community Services never applied for him to become a citizen. His criminal past, together with his lack of citizenship, are the grounds for the would-be deportation. 

His sister, Fatouma, has said there's nothing in Somalia for her brother. She said he doesn't speak the language and has no family there.

On Tuesday, she, along with his friends and family, gathered at the Nova Scotia Legislature in an unsuccessful attempt to convince the province to intervene in his deportation case.

"I think it's unfair that they're trying to strip him of his permanent resident's card," she told reporters. 

"He's trying to better himself, but the government is moving him 10 steps back."

'Volatile' Somalia

According to the CBSA, between 2015 and Feb. 26, 2018, Canada has deported 31 people to Somalia, a war-torn country considered to be very dangerous.

On its travel site, the federal government warns Canadians not to visit Somalia because the "security situation" is "extremely volatile and the threat of domestic terrorism is high."

Abdi has been living in a Toronto halfway house since his release in January from immigration detention.

If the deportation order is issued, Abdi's lawyer doesn't expect him to be immediately deported. But he has said he would lose his right to work in Canada and his access to healthcare, which could put Abdi at risk of returning to jail.

Currently, Abdi is employed in a research project that examines youth who have contact with both the child-welfare system and the criminal justice system.

About the Author

Anjuli Patil

Reporter

Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.

With files from Ron Charles and Kayla Hounsell