She was nearly ripped from her three-year-old daughter, but in a sudden reversal, a Toronto personal support worker who faced deportation despite having worked on the front lines during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic can now stay in Canada permanently.
After going public with her story, Fatumah Najjuma has won her fight for permanent residence.
On Friday, she received word that her permanent resident application on humanitarian grounds was granted.
“This means a lot to me because I have been given a chance to live, stay and raise my baby girl,” Najjuma told CBC Toronto, thanking her lawyer, advocates, her friends and the many strangers who supported her.
“As I am her only living parent, she is going to grow up a happy child because her mother is present in all her life.”
Najjuma, 29, had been facing deportation to Uganda — a country she says she fled for her life after being disowned by her family and for her religious and social affiliations.
Her deportation date had been set for Jan. 7. But after garnering tens of thousands of signatures in an online petition, a campaign by advocacy groups and telling her story to CBC News, her removal was delayed in late December.
Now, her fight is over. But she says she remains concerned about the countless others who find themselves also facing deportation despite Canada’s commitment to work towards granting status to undocumented workers.
“I shouldn’t have to fight for basic rights,” she said. “Everyone deserves status so we can live a good life. I encourage all migrants to speak up and raise their strong voice.”
‘Over 30 people being deported every day’: advocate
Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change shares that concern.
“Thousands of people signed petitions, joined protests and Fatumah bravely spoke up to ensure that her family can now access basic rights that permanent resident status allows but there are over 30 people being deported every day,” he told CBC Toronto.
“It doesn’t make sense to create exceptional measures for each person; we need systematic changes and that means full and permanent immigration status for every migrant including workers, students, refugees and undocumented people.”
Canada had been pressing forward with Najuma’s deportation despite Federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser’s mandate, which includes working to “further explore ways of regularizing status for undocumented workers who are contributing to Canadian communities.”
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada recently told CBC Toronto that work remains underway, but that it could not comment on programs or policies under development.
That means while a change could soon be coming to ease the path to permanent residence for those in Najjuma’s position, she could have nevertheless been deported while the specifics are ironed out.
Najjuma’s win comes after the end of deportation nightmare for another personal support worker, Nike Okafor, and her son, who faced removal after 19 years in Canada.
As CBC Toronto recently reported, their nightmare finally ended in December, when they got word that their permanent resident application had been approved.
‘The storm is over’
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told CBC Toronto tens of thousands of temporary workers transition to permanent status each year. Of the 406,000 foreign nationals who became permanent residents in 2021, it says nearly 169,000 of them transitioned from worker status.
Asked why it was removing someone who had an application on humanitarian and compassionate grounds still under way, the Canadian Border Services Agency previously told CBC Toronto it cannot comment on individual cases for privacy reasons, but that it has a legal obligation to remove those who are inadmissible to Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and who have removal orders in force.
That’s despite a federal court judge ruling last year that suggested applicants who have worked as health-care aids or on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic deserve special consideration.
“The moral debt owed to immigrants who worked on the front lines to help protect vulnerable people in Canada during the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be overstated,” Justice Shirzad Ahmed wrote.
As for Najjuma, the news that her own fight is over means she can now envision a stable future for her and her daughter.
“I am going to tell my daughter that the storm is over,” she said. “We have nothing to worry about anymore, we have our peace and freedom now.”
Renters in Canada are facing the toughest market since 2001: CMHC report – Global News
Renters in Canada are facing the toughest market in decades with low vacancies, higher prices and surging demand, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).
The housing agency released its annual rental market report Thursday, which showed that the national vacancy rate for purpose-built rental apartments declined to 1.9 per cent last year — the lowest level since 2001.
Meanwhile, the demand for rentals outstripped supply due to higher net migration, the return of students to on-campus learning and a rise in homeownership costs.
“Higher mortgage rates, which drove up already-elevated costs of homeownership, made it harder and less attractive for renters to transition to homeownership,” CMHC said in a statement.
CMHC data also showed that the average rent for two-bedroom units that were occupied by a new tenant rose by 18.3 per cent — well above the average rent growth for units without turnover. This made it difficult for Canadians trying to enter the rental market or find new housing to rent, the agency said.
“Lower vacancy rates and rising rents were a common theme across Canada in 2022,” Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist, said in a statement.
“This caused affordability challenges for renters, especially those in the lower income ranges, with very few units in the market available in their price range.”
How will housing market look in the next year?
The average rent for a two-bedroom rental condominium apartment saw a significant increase to $1,930 from $1,771, about nine per cent year over year, according to CMHC.
Canada is also facing a housing crunch with a shortage of both homes and construction workers to build new units.
Another CMHC report released last week found that the annual rate of new home building had slowed by five per cent in December 2022 compared with November.
Last month, in a bid to help tackle skyrocketing rents across the country, the government of Canada opened applications for a one-time top-up as part of the Canada Housing Benefit (CHB) program — an initiative that would put $500 in the pockets of low-income renters.
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada sharing Haiti sanctions evidence, in bid to convince UN peers to freeze elites
“We continue to share whatever information we can — with respect to the decisions that we have made — with other countries,” Bob Rae said in an interview.
“Canada still maintains the right to make its own decisions as well, which is what we’re doing.”
Rae visited Haiti last December as part of Canada’s efforts to try forming a political consensus on how western countries should best respond to the country’s cascading political and humanitarian crises.
Violent, feuding gangs have taken over the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince since last summer. A UN report last October said gangs are sexually assaulting women and children, in addition to curtailing access to health care, electricity and clean water.
The gangs have reportedly killed and kidnapped hundreds, while filling a power vacuum in a country led by politicians whose terms have expired. No elections have been held since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The country’s unelected prime minister, Ariel Henry, has requested a foreign military intervention, which Washington says Canada ought to lead, though the idea is divisive among Haitians.
Instead, Canada has sought a political consensus in Haiti, and has sanctioned 15 of the country’s political and economic elite, accusing them of emboldening the gangs.
Canada has not publicly shared the evidence upon which it has based those decisions. The length of its Haiti sanctions list is unmatched.
The U.S. sanctioned just four Haitians last year over alleged ties to gangs, in addition to three whom Washington had sanctioned in 2020.
Most countries have opted to follow a United Nations process to identify people affiliated with gangs who should be subject to sanction. It has listed just one person since October — gang federation leader Jimmy Cherizier, known locally as “Barbecue.”
Anyone who ends up on that list will see a nearly global travel and assets ban. But Rae said it is expected that countries will take a long time to agree on who merits such heavy restrictions.
“Canada knew the process at the UN could become a complex one,” he said.
“We thought it was important for us to get ahead of that process, which we fully respect, and look forward to hearing from the experts.”
In an interview with The Canadian Press last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on European governments to follow Canada’s lead and implement their own, unilateral sanctions on Haiti’s elites. That hasn’t happened yet.
In an interview earlier this month, former governor general Michaëlle Jean, who has roots in Haiti, singled France out for doing “nothing at all” on sanctions.
The French embassy in Ottawa deferred to the speech France gave Monday to the UN Security Council, suggesting that the country is sticking with the UN sanctions process.
“France welcomes the establishment of the (sanctions) committee and its panel of experts. We hope that this committee will quickly get to work to make proposals,” senior diplomat Nathalie Broadhurst told the council.
“It is with a sense of great urgency that France calls on the international community to redouble its efforts.”
Rae said sanctions from France would likely have a strong effect. He also noted that the neighbouring Dominican Republic is a haven for Haitian elites, but it lacks laws to sanction individuals.
“We’re having some discussions with the EU and with the French and others. We’re continuing to have as constructive a dialogue as we can,” he said.
“Our experience in Haiti has been that the sanctions have had a strong impact. And obviously, their impact is increased when other countries join in.”
To that end, Rae said Canada has been giving the UN sanctions committee and other countries the evidence that Ottawa has used in its decision-making.
“We’ve been talking to the panel and sharing information, and sharing as much documentation as we can,” said Rae, who said that the evidence can’t be made public.
Unlike other countries such as Britain, which publishes detailed reasons when it places someone on its sanctions list, the Canadian approach is to keep reasons confidential.
Former Haitian prime ministers Laurent Lamothe and Jean-Henry Céant have both demanded that Canada reveal its reasoning, with both denying Ottawa’s claims that they have supported gangs. Lamothe has filed a claim in Federal Court, while Céant asked the UN this week to intervene against Canada.
“We have to deal with this information carefully. It’s important for everybody to know that the law has to be followed carefully,” Rae said.
“None of these decisions are taken lightly, and they’re all taken in the awareness that many people will naturally not be happy about being sanctioned, will be obviously exercising the rights they have under our legal structure.”
In Haiti, the National Network for the Defence of Human Rights has reported that Canada’s sanctions have slightly alleviated the suffering, with gangs loosening their grip on locals’ movements.
“They were ordered to calm down,” director Rosy Auguste Ducena told Radio France International earlier this month in French.
“Those who have not yet been affected by these sanctions have decided to slow down their relations with the armed bandits.”
Yet a former U.S. envoy for Haiti, Dan Foote, has doubts. He resigned in September 2021 over frustration with western policies he witnessed in Haiti, which he argued in his resignation letter “consistently produce catastrophic results.”
“For sanctions to work, those sanctions need to be transparent,” Foote said in an interview.
He added that sanctions can have unintended negative consequences. “There are a few people who would have brought a lot of Haitians to the table who are now under sanctions.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.
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