Two University of Regina students from Nigeria are facing deportation for violating terms of their visas that said they could not work off campus.
Victoria Ordu and Ihuoma Amadi were given the deportation notice last summer after the end of the 2012 winter semester, and have been taking sanctuary in a Regina church since then.
Since the beginning of the academic year, the case has generated a lot of attention at the University and in the House of Commons. In Question Period, Ralph Goodale asked why the Conservative government is demanding deportation, while the University of Regina and the Government of Saskatchewan oppose these measures. The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, responded saying, “I have information in my hands from the Canada Border Services Agency indicating that one of the subjects had not attended classes at the University in the Winter 2011 semester, [and] was required to discontinue from studies based on failure to meet academic standards.”
However, some people, such as Ralph Goodale, claim the opposite of Kenny’s remarks.
“The University has been very clear that at all material times, these two young women were properly registered as students at the University of Regina,” Goodale said, in an interview with the Carillon. He also said that saying that Kenney’s statement “flies in the face of the facts.”
In the past couple of months, the local community group ‘Saskatchewan Immigration Justice Network’ has organized many forms of activism, protesting the deportation and supporting the two students. Events hosted included “Teach-Ins” in the Ad-Hum building, rallies both on and off campus, and a viral Twitter campaign called #honestmistake, where people were encouraged to use the hashtag to share honest mistakes with Kenny and Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews.
These events have raised many questions surrounding the case, such as how the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) treated the students, and what role Wal-Mart –the employer of the two women – has to play in the breakdown of the ordeal.
Joseph Mburu, professor of political science at the University of Regina, said that they were “arrested by the CBSA” and that “one of them was arrested at Wal-Mart, while serving customers at the till… [she was] taken through the walkway and through the shop in handcuffs into the car, brought into campus in handcuffs, walked around from the car-park to her dorm in handcuffs, which was very humiliating.”
When asked what role Wal-Mart had in this situation, Mburu stated that “if the students presented their social insurance numbers, it’s expected that the employers would have detected that these students needed work permits, but Wal-Mart did not notify these particular students, and so Wal-Mart failed in this case.”
“These two young women, who have done a small mistake, should they really be sent away? They will lose one whole year of their education, and we don’t know if they’ll ever be able to come back, because their funding [from the Nigerian Government] may be terminated.” – Joseph Mburu
It was suggested that this situation could have been avoided if Wal-Mart had noticed that these students were not allowed to work outside the campus.
Although many remain optimistic that the students will be able to finish up their last year of studies, Goodale said that if they were to experience the “guillotine of deportation” it would “certainly destroy any chance of these two young people ever being able to complete their education, and have long term negative consequences for the rest of their lives. It’s, in effect, a kind of life sentence that the government is trying to dole out here, and it’s just wrong.”
Goodale suggests that more appropriate measures would be “reprimands, or warnings, or fines.” He also felt it was strange that the government was taking such a harsh stance, because “that’s the other factor that needs to be noted in all of this: none of this is costing the government of Canada anything, because these students are on scholarship provided by the Nigerian Government, so it’s their nickel, not the [Canadian] government’s.”
Professor Mburu questions the government’s stance on this case.
“These two young women, who have done a small mistake, should they really be sent
away? They will lose one whole year of their education, and we don’t know if they’ll ever be able to come back, because their funding [from the Nigerian Government] may be terminated,” he said.
He also explained the problems that the two women would encounter in re-applying and re-funding their visas if they were deported, because the deportation would affect their evaluation if they tried to come back to Canada to finish their studies.
“Their future would be ruined by the fact that they are being deported. They wouldn’t be able to get a job, they would be seen as people who are not good, there is a shame, and a lot of social exclusion.” He continued to say that in Nigeria, the effect of deportation would not only be felt by “these girls, but on their parents too.”
Furthermore, the insistence of the Conservative government on deportation, and their general ideology, has been seen, according to Goodale, as “anti-immigrant” and might deter other international students from taking up their studies in Canada.
Mburu poses a similar question in where potential foreign students will then be asking themselves “should I come to Canada to study?”
Goodale feels that international students significantly contribute to Canadian society, and bring with them “brainpower, creativity, productivity, innovation and contribute to a larger tax base.” He believes that Kenney is sending a “very negative, very contradictory message” that is saying “yeah, we want you to come, but watch out for CBSA, watch out for Immigration Canada, you cannot rely on them to be fair, or to be consistent, or to follow due process, or to behave in a reasonable manner.”
The message “will give some international students reason to pause and think, ‘well, if that’s the way the border service works in Canada, maybe we should go to the U.K, or maybe the U.S., or maybe we should go to Japan rather than going to Canada,’” he said.
Even through all the messy details in this case, both Professor Mburu and Ralph Goodale remain optimistic, amongst others, and Goodale hopes that “saner heads will prevail here.”
Photo by metronews.ca