Another family that has successfully integrated into Canadian life is now being threatened with deportation. On Christmas eve, no less. This is yet another family who moved to Canada for a better life and have contributed to this country. They own property, small businesses and volunteer in their community.
The Montoyas fled to Canada, from Columbia, in 2012 after Camilo was kidnapped by members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia.
“A guy cama to me and made me jump in a car and they kept me for two days,” he claims. “All the time they told me they will kill me, they will kill me.” He says he still has flashbacks. “I was afraid all the time. What if something happened to my son? What about if something happened to my wife? Basically, they took my life into their hands.”
The family of seven includes his wife Bettsy, their seven year old son Martin, Camilo’s parents Henry and Dora and his younger sister Luisa and 3 year-old Thomas who was born in Canada. Before fleeing Columbia, the family was constantly assaulted and threatened with death if they didn’t pay thousands of dollars which they didn’t have. With no help from Bogota police, the family decided to flee.
Now, more than six years after their claim was first submitted, the Montoyas are set to be deported because a judge at Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) said they were not in need of
protection. Conditions in Colombia have improved since they came to Canada, the board said, and FARC is no longer a threat.
The family claims that members of FARC continue to harass neighbours of their former home, asking where the Montoyas are and making threats.
The Montoyas filed their application for asylum in December of 2012 before Canada implemented a new system for review refugee claims, making them “legacy” refugee claimants. With a backlog of more than 32,000 cases at the IRB, their claim was not heard until November of 2017. Their claim was denied and the family is subject to deportation.
Luisa, who married a Canadian five years after moving to Toronto says, “I was devastated, to think that it’s just two weeks for us to leave, it was just absolutely devastating. I think that it was the
worst news.” She has an an application for spousal sponsorship outstanding.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” said the family’s lawyer Tyna Vayalilkollattu.
This process is unfair and unjust, especially since Camilo and his family have outstanding applications to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds that have yet to be heard by the Canadian government.
“[In] this case, they have fallen short of their obligations to meet human rights and humanitarian [considerations],” she said.
A spokesperson for public safety minister Ralph Goodale said the government cannot comment on the Montoya’s case specifically. He did, however, say Canada’s system for determining who gets to stay in the country involves a “robust assessment process and safeguards to ensure that no one is removed to risk or persecution.” He also said all Canadian citizens — which would include three-year-old Thomas — have a constitutional right to remain in Canada and that it’s up to parents to decide what is in the best interest of their child.
“An application for humanitarian and compassionate consideration does not stay a removal,” said Public Safety spokesperson Scott Bardsley. “By law, once all avenues of appeal are exhausted, CBSA must enforce removal orders as soon as possible.”
Are the Montoyas victim of CBSA’s renewed efforts to “substantially increase” the number of failed refugees it deports each year? Their goal of removing 10,000 failed asylum seekers in 2018 — a 35 per cent increase over previous years, has placed other families seeking asylum in jeopardy. Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees says it’s likely.
“These deportations are happening and it just doesn’t make any sense. It’s not the fault of the people that they didn’t get their claims heard soon after they fled when maybe they might have had a good chance of being recognized as refugees,” she said.
The Montoyas are fighting the CBSA’s decision to send them back to Colombia and have filed an application with the CBSA to postpone their removal date until their humanitarian applications have been heard. They’re also calling on the Canadian government to intervene, hoping they will not be forced to leave their home on Christmas Eve.
“I made Canada my home,” Luisa said. “I did all I could with the position I was put in.” “I love this country. I love its people. I would never do anything to go against [it],” she said. “This
country definitely gave us the opportunity that my home country took away from me and my entire family.”
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