Fliss Cramman's detention hearing to continue Oct. 21
Mother of four only learned she wasn't a Canadian as she was released from Nova Institution
A woman who faced an immigration detention hearing Friday while recovering from surgery in a Halifax-area hospital bed has learned she will remain in custody for at least the next month as she awaits deportation.
Advocates say Fliss Cramman, 33, could die if she's forced to leave Canada.
Cramman came from England to Canada when she was eight. She was sexually abused by her family and taken into care at 11. She was a ward of the state until she turned 18, and she assumed she was a Canadian citizen.
She recently served time at the Nova Institution for Women in Truro, N.S., for offering to traffic heroin. While in prison, she learned she was not a Canadian and would be deported to the U.K. on Nov. 4. She's never met her relatives in England.
Detention hearing in hospital
The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada held the detention hearing Friday. They planned to do it in her hospital room, but switched to a meeting room in the hospital. Cramman is shackled to her bed and was too ill to attend the hearing.
Dr. Alex Mitchell, Dartmouth General's chief of surgery, said sending her to England with no money or support would be dangerous and "un-Canadian," given her physical and mental illnesses.
"I know that she'll get off the airplane in a jumpsuit, with no money, no phone, no contacts, no home, no food, in one of the world's busiest airports. I don't know if you've ever been to the airport at Heathrow, in London, but it would be a terrible place for someone with mental illness to show up with nothing and be homeless with mental illness," he told the board.
Deporting Cramman is "just simply wrong" and her situation should be considered an adult protection issue, he added.
The adjudicator ordered the woman remain in custody for 30 days. Her next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 21 and her removal will not be "imminent" if it goes ahead.
Two surgeries in two months
Cramman served two-thirds of her sentence in prison. When she was set for release this summer, the Canada Border Services Agency detained her in a Halifax jail. She suffered a perforated colon and was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery in August.
Cramman needed a second surgery Thursday at the Dartmouth General Hospital, which is where the hearing was held.
Her doctor said she needs 18 months of follow-up medical care in Nova Scotia.
Darlene MacEachern, the executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society in Cape Breton, said Cramman's prison term stems from a history of mental health and addictions issues.
"To deport her before all of that [recovery] happens is unbelievable and so dangerous to her health," she told CBC's Information Morning on Friday. "We are very afraid that if they do this she could die."
State has been legal guardian
Cramman usually resides in Hamilton, Ont. where her four young daughters live. The society hopes she can do her statutory release there,
"Fliss is a mother, Fliss was a trained chef, she has people who love her. She went to high school in this country. She went to elementary school in this country. She lived her life in this country. All her friends and her family are here," said Emma Halpern, a regional advocate with the society.
"She is in my estimation all the things that I would deem to be a Canadian. I hope that common sense and compassion do prevail."
MacEachern added it is "unbelievable" that the state would have been her legal guardian for so long, and yet not applied for her citizenship.
'A chance to heal'
MacEachern says women with mental health and addictions issues are one of the fastest-growing prison populations.
"Instead of looking at community options for these women, we tend to be criminalizing them at an alarming rate. And they are some of our most vulnerable population."
MacEachern said Cramman needs time to deal with the immigration issue without endangering her recovery from surgery.
"That's really what we're looking for, a place she can come and have some support — we have 24-hour staffing — and a chance to heal, not in a prison," MacEachern said.
The CBC's Jack Julian reported live from the hearing.
- A previous version of this story said the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship held a deportation hearing Friday. In fact, it was a detention hearing held by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.Sep 23, 2016 5:23 PM AT
With files from Jack Julian