Three weeks ago, Emmanuel Asiegbu got a call from Canada Border Services Agency, and was told to report immediately to their offices on Airport Road in Mississauga. As he’s done dozens of times over the past decade, Emmanuel made the trip—his wife Erika and his seven month old son Eshai came with him. CBSA officials told Emmanuel they plan to deport him from the country on Tuesday December 8.
Although the family have come together to numerous appointments, CBSA officials asked Emmanuel to identify Erika and Eshai while giving him the news. Erika returned to the office this past week to plead for another option, but CBSA officials told her the officer who made the decision was not available, and that it was unlikely he’d change his decision.
Canada had put a pause on deportations in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic but this week, at the height of new infections across the country, the federal Liberal government has decided to resume them. Emmanuel, who was born in Nigeria, has been in Canada since he was a teenager. He applied for refugee protection in 2011 but was denied. Since then, he’s been navigating the immigration system, and reporting monthly to CBSA.
“People need to know how the Canadian government really acts,” Emmanuel tells me in an interview. “How are they helping by separating a family, by taking me away from my wife and son?” Erika tells me that she grew up without her father. “This is the absolute last thing I wanted for my son,” she says. “Both he and I need Manny here with us.”
The government wants to remove Emmanuel because he has never been able to obtain permanent residency in all the years he’s lived and worked in Canada. He and Erika got married last year, and are waiting for a reply on her application to sponsor him—the couple’s marriage does not automatically grant Emmanuel citizenship.
Emmanuel’s lawyer wrote to CBSA to request a deferral of his removal—a last formal effort to stop a deportation in Canada. In part, his lawyer argued that keeping the family together would serve the best interests of Erika and Ishai. The enforcement officer who responded to the appeal disagreed, and said Emmanuel’s Canadian wife and child will have access to the welfare system in his absence, and can use technology to stay connected to him:
“I have considered the best interests Mr. Asiegbu’s Spouse and Child. I note that the Spouse and Child are Canadian Citizens and that they will continue to reside in Canada. As Canadian Citizens they will have access to the Canadian Social programs, this includes: Education, Social Assistance and Health Care. I am aware that the removal of Mr. Asiegbu from Canada may require a period of adjustment for his Spouse and Child, however with the support of the Canadian Social programs, I am positive that they will have every opportunity to become successful in life.
I acknowledge that the separation of family is an emotional situation, however, this is an inherent part of the removals process. I further note that if the Spouse and Child choose to, they may relocate or visit Mr. Asiegbu in Nigeria at any time. I also note that with modern technology such as skype and whatsapp it is easier for the Spouse and Child to stay in contact with Mr. Asiegbu.”
Emmanuel says the government’s attempts to divide his family are part of a broader struggle in Black communities. “They say we have single-parent homes, they say the father isn’t there. So now I’m here for my son every day, and they still want to split us up. I don’t understand who this is supposed to help, but it’s not helping us.”
With deportation looming, only Marco Mendocino, the federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Refugees, can intervene to stop the deportation. Emmanuel and his family are asking everyone to contact Mendocino and keep his family together. He says, “I’ve had a tough life in Canada, but I also have a community. I’m asking people to think about the government trying to split up your family, and how hard you would fight to stop that. We really need Canadians to speak up for my family so we can stay together.”
You can contact Minister Mendocino at Minister@cic.gc.ca