Go back where you came from: Canada is deporting a senior after 21 years in the country

Not all those fleeing persecution are welcome to Canada. Only a select few, who meet specific criteria are allowed to settle

By Wambui Essie_______

Around the world, Canada is praised for its embracing stance towards newcomers. Data from Immigration Canada shows the country had been welcoming around 300,000 new immigrants annually in the years leading up to the coronavirus pandemic.

Samuel Nyaga. Photo / Courtesy

A little-known fact however, is that while the country is constantly welcoming new people, it also effectually deports thousands of others each year.

After 21 years of calling Canada home, 75-year-old Samuel Nyaga is one of those facing deportation. His application and appeals to remain in Canada on humanitarian grounds have all been turned down. Presently, a request to CBSA seeking deferral of his removal is in progress.

Why would a country that touts itself as a safe and welcoming destination for immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers spend this much time and resources to get rid of an elderly resident?

A July report by the Migrants Rights Network shows that Canada doubled its rejection for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds application from 35% in 2019 to nearly 70% in the first quarter of 2021.

At the same time, a Reuters report that cites Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) shows that Trudeau’s government deported some 12,122 people in 2020. This was the highest number of deportations in a year since 2015, when the Conservative government of Stephen Harper was in power. Thousands more face the risk of being forcefully removed from the country before the end of 2021.

Granted, there have been some personal missteps on Nyaga’s part and a lack of access to the right information. Over time, these factors compounded by immigration system errors have translated into the predicament that Nyaga now finds himself in. In a conversation with me, his lawyer, Ariel Hollander expressed that “unfortunately, Mr. Nyaga came to see us when CBSA were ‘knocking on his door’.” Hollander says that for years, Mr. Nyaga was not aware of his immigration rights. “We are asking CBSA and the Government of Canada not to deport a person in his 70s, and to give him more time until the IRCC reviews his application.”

The eloquent senior who is fluent in 5 languages safely fled Kenya at the height of democracy movements and a push for a multi-party system in the country. This was a time rife with injustices, corruption and political persecution. Nyaga’s political work was in the crosshairs of the then government and it put his life in danger. His hasty escape meant he left the country with only the bare minimum.

Upon arrival in Toronto, Nyaga applied for a refugee claim, but unfortunately, he was rejected. He soon enrolled in various courses and worked legally until 2017 when he lost his job upon expiry of his last work permit. It is unconscionable that for 17 years, Nyaga was given work permits that only extended annually, biannually, triennially, and finally for six months. Though he is in his 70s, he is still willing to work and support himself.

Photo Courtesy / Kenyan Canadian Association (KCA) 2021 Seniors Celebration Day in Toronto, ON

Despite his service to the country, paying taxes and always stepping up to volunteer, a removal from Canada in the next few weeks appears imminent. He sees this as both unfair and a miscarriage of justice. He is affronted by Canada’s lack of compassion particularly at a time when a global pandemic has brought most countries’ economies – including Kenya’s – to their knees.

“My exemplary service to Canada is clear. I have letters of support from different members of my and other communities and even a letter from my former employer. I have made more friends in Canada than those I remember in Kenya after a 21 years absence from my motherland.”

Service to community

Besides his job, Nyaga has always dedicated time to various causes particularly for youth, seniors and civic programs. “My volunteer work in Canada is well known and documented. I even volunteered twice for the election campaigns of my Humber River-Black Creek Liberal MP, honourable Judy Sgro.”

The Kenyan-Canadian community is outraged at the possibility of Canada deporting a valuable member of their community, one who has always lived within the normative values of Canada. Their collective heart has been awakened by this threat of removal and last month, a community initiative fundraised for Nyaga’s legal representation. It was their way of giving him his flowers while he can still smell them.  

One person who felt the need to be involved is Terry Ortlieb. She describes Nyaga as a wonderful gentleman, and one of only few father and grandfather figures that the Kenyan community here has, always showing up for others. “Our community is stronger with him here and because of people like him. The community supporting Nyaga with their money is in and of itself a testament to the kind of person that he is.”

Photo Courtesy / Kenyan Canadian Association (KCA) 2021 Seniors Celebration Day in Toronto, ON

Jane Njambi, the Chair of the board of the Kenya Global Church in Toronto has known Nyaga for over 10 years as a member of the congregation. She represents one of the community groups standing up for Nyaga. “I am well aware of his current predicament. Samuel (Nyaga) has always held a job until he was denied a work permit 4 years ago.” She says that since then, the church has stood with him to ensure that he has a roof over his head and food on the table.

She describes Nyaga as a hard working and productive individual who is an asset to this country where he has grown old. “Samuel bears a lot of wisdom and has been very resourceful especially in mentoring and guiding our youth on being responsible citizens and staying out of trouble.”

If there is someone who knows fully well what Nyaga might be subjected to were he to be returned to Kenya, it is Flora Terah. The former Kenyan politician, human rights activist and author who now lives in Canada after fleeing persecution in Kenya cannot believe that Canada is about to carry out such an injustice. “Deportation of a 75-year-old man who has spent two decades here is heartbreaking and as a Kenyan politician, I know what is going on in Nyaga’s mind.”

“I hope and pray someone will get to intervene in this unfortunate case because personally, and knowing his political background, it’s even worse to think of what awaits him in Kenya.” 

Since the start of COVID-19, Canada has created two new programs to give access to permanent residency to migrants already in the country. But both the Health Care Workers permanent residence pathway and the Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident Pathway, largely exclude undocumented residents like Nyaga. 

The pandemic has also increased scrutiny on striking inequalities and longstanding problems with Canada’s immigration system; one that is tilted against racialized groups.

A petition has been created by the community to help stop this deportation: https://www.change.org/p/help-stop-the-deportation-of-samuel-nyaga

Nyaga cannot understand why he is being rejected. “I’ve been a valuable resident of Canada and have been reporting monthly to the CBSA for over ten years without fail in compliance with their conditions.”

He is bewildered by the act of a government ignoring a senior, whose sunset years are more suited to the Canadian system than that of a country that he hasn’t lived in for over two decades.

By Wambui Essie

~WakenyaCanada. Email: editor.wakenyacanada@gmail.com

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