TORONTO - January 26, 2005
A Man Accused Of Witchcraft Wins Last Minute Stay Of Deportation
A Toronto resident of Nigerian origin who faces accusations of practicing witchcraft has won a temporary stay of the plans by Canadian Immigration authorities to deport him from Canada on January 30, 2005. The Canadian Federal Court put brakes on the deportation efforts by Canadian officials, after the man's lawyer, Kingsley Jesuorobo, successfully convinced The Honourable Justice Campbell of the Federal Court that his client's case deserves a reassessment in light of news from Nigeria that persons accused of practicing witchcraft face terrible ordeals, including deaths. In his ruling dated January 26, 2005, Justice Campbell adjourned the matter until March 1, 2005, and stated that serious issues have been raised and “[i]n order to maintain the status quo until that date, I hereby stay the pending removal”.
Although Mr. Jesuorobo refused to release the man's name, citing "solicitor/client privilege" and fearing a "backlash of ostracism against my client from members of his community here in Canada who may still be holding on to the unfounded beliefs that witches and persons perceived to be witches are harmful and are therefore to be avoided and/or feared", documents he made available show that the man was under an Immigration deportation order and was originally scheduled to be deported to Nigeria on January 30, 2005.
Nigeria and many African countries have gained notoriety for witch-killing incidents. In November 2004, Nigerian newspapers reported that 27 persons accused of practicing witchcraft were murdered in Ozalla, Edo State of Nigeria, and senior police officers, including an Assistant Inspector General of Police and a former state administrator (governor) were implicated. The BBC News has also reported incidents such as the killing of persons perceived as witches from the north to the south of Nigeria. In one of its articles on the issue dated April 29, 1999, the BBC News reported that “[a]lthough Christianity is firmly rooted in the Delta, belief in witchcraft is also widespread. In Akassa, several women who were accused of being witches and casting evil spells on the community have been tortured and killed in recent weeks”.
Mr. Jesuorobo succeeded despite facing stiff resistance from the Canadian government lawyers who opposed his application. Lawyer Marcel Larouche of Department of Justice had unsuccessfully argued before the court that Mr. Jesuorobo's application should be dismissed because Mr. Jesuorobo's client, who first entered Canada in 2001, had unsuccessfully tried and exhausted many avenues, including refugee claim, Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) ground, Spousal (marriage) Sponsorship and Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA).
However, the unrelenting Mr. Jesuorobo countered that since the last review of his client's case occurred in 2003, and since there has been a new development regarding his client, a fresh review of the case was warranted pursuant to a provision of Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Regulations. The “new development” being that the client has recently been accused of practicing witchcraft to the detriment of his relatives. The court agreed with Mr. Jesuorobo.
Mr. Jesuorobo pointed out that before applying to the Federal Court, he had "requested
Canadian officials to voluntarily delay my client's deportation in light of new circumstances,
but they perfunctorily refused citing their obligation to remove persons under deportation
Mr. Jesuorobo stressed that his client’s fears are two-pronged: “Firstly, my client fears the invasion of his freedom of religion. As a Christian, he does not want to subscribe to the
act of swearing before deities and gods and the drinking of concoctions which characterize
the so-called witch verification exercises. Secondly, my client fears the physical
maltreatment to which an accused is subjected during the process as well as the probable
death that often results from the consumption of the concoctions which invariably prove
to be poisonous”. Asked about what message he has for people who might be in similar situation, Mr. Jesuorobo, who is one of the leading Immigration lawyers in Canada, said:
"They should have confidence in the Canadian legal process. It works! Do not lose hope.
Get a competent lawyer to represent you. Even though it is a monumental task, you may
very well have a chance against all odds". He jokingly added: "I may have to change my
practice motto from 'Fearless Advocacy Is Our Hallmark' to ‘Against All Odds'”.
TORONTO - March 1, 2005
On March 1, 2005: Mr. Jesuorobo and Mr. Larouche re-attended court to continue
arguments in this matter. At that sitting, Justice Campbell amended his Order, and stated:
“I hereby grant a stay of removal to be in effect until the judicial review application is finally determined”. The learned Justice gave his Order after reviewing further evidence and
submissions furnished, and upon being satisfied that the applicant would suffer irreparable
harm if a further stay were not granted. This means that Mr. Jesuorobo’s client is
protected from removal until the court has had full opportunity to review his case.
Mr. Jesuorobo stated that his client “is expectedly excited about having such a rare
opportunity to have his case re-evaluated”. “We are confident of victory all the way.
The hard part is now behind us.
The Federal Court – and we are talking here about a very experienced, knowledgeable and
highly respected judge - has seen and agreed with my contention that my client’s case not
only raises serious issues, but also that my client will suffer irreparable harm were he to be returned to Nigeria before the matter is fully adjudicated.”, he added. Mr. Jesuorobo further explained that judicial review applications take a long time to be finally determined.
Meanwhile, according to Mr. Jesuorobo, the Canadian authorities, apparently in appreciation
of the Court Order, have now agreed to re-examine his client’s case and assess the
evidence of the risk he would face upon return to Nigeria.
Go to Top of Page
Toronto - August 05, 2004
Church Leaders Take Federal Government To Task Over Flawed
Refugee Determination System
BY DIANA MAVUNDUSE
Canadian church leaders called upon the federal government to address the flawed refugee determination system and to live up to its obligations toward refugees.
"The refugee system fails because it is unable to correct errors," reads a campaign letter addressed to the minister of citizenship and immigration, launched at a press conference
held yesterday (August 4) at The Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto.
| Archbishop Andrew Hutchison signing the campaign letter addressed to the minister of citizenship and immigration, photo by Marites Sison/Anglican Journal
The campaign letter is a direct response to Immigration Minister Judy Sgro's recent comments that the churches should stop offering sanctuary to rejected refugee claimants.
The letter notes that in June 2002, Parliament recognized the need for and provided an appeal in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), however, "the failure of the government to implement the appeal is a betrayal of refugees and of Parliament," said the letter.
Hundreds of people have sought sanctuary in Canadian churches since the early eighties. It's a practice Ms. Sgro would like to stop.
However, this offer of sanctuary, taken for granted in the social order of the Middle Ages, has no legal basis today. The subject regularly gives rise to heated discussion between the church and state as well as in public about its legal status in a sovereign ruled law.
"The real problem we want to address today is not sanctuary, but the flawed refugee determination system that fails to protect some refugees," said Archbishop Andrew
Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, during the news conference,
challenging the federal government to come up with a "merit-based appeal process" that "provides refugee claimants the assurance that, in Canada, their case will always be heard."
Also present at the press conference organised by KAIROS - Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives -- were Right Rev. Peter Short, moderator of the United Church of Canada;
Rev. Richard Fee, moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada; Rev. William Veenstra,
director, Canada ministries of the Christian Reformed Church in North America; Tom Reilly, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops; Jehad Aliweiwi, Canadian Council for Refugees;
Mary Jo Leddy, activist, Canadian sanctuary and Mary Corkery, executive director, KAIROS.
Offering sanctuary to refugees who face deportation is not our first choice, said Rev.
Short, but it is a pastoral response, "to exercise the obligation to love and the duty to
care for those in need."
Talking of his experience with the Immigration Department, Kingsley Jesuorobo, an
immigration lawyer based in Toronto, said, "The desire of those seeking refuge within
the hallowed walls of the churches may indeed not be reflective of an attempt to run away
from justice, but an attempt to seek solace at God's feet, having simply been left with no reasonable alternative by a system that is growing increasingly harsh and unnecessarily
Churches are put in this awkward position because of problems manifesting in the
Immigration Department especially with regards to enforcement and deportation.
"Immigration enforcement officers routinely apprehend would-be deportees and ship them
out of Canada without warning," explained Mr. Jesuorobo.
About half a dozen people - both families and individuals -- are currently in sanctuary
in seven churches across Canada.
Church leaders and refugee advocates were alarmed four months ago when 10 police
officers in Quebec City stormed Église Unie St. Pierre and took away 35-year-old
Mohammed Cherfi, who had taken refuge in the church basement.
Mr. Cherfi, who faced deportation to his homeland of Algeria, was arrested for violating bail conditions imposed after his participation in a demonstration. He was then turned over to immigration officials.
For Sanja Pecelj her fate still hangs in balance as the deadline is drawing near on a stay of deportation. Ms. Pecelj spent 14 months hiding in the basement of St. Mark's Anglican
church in Halifax, trying to avoid being deported to Serbia-Montenegro. The federal
granted her a 60-day stay of the deportation after the case was brought
to the attention
of the prime minister during the election campaign.
During its 37th triennial meeting, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada,
agreed to set up a working group that will develop a policy for the national church which
would enable parishes and dioceses to give "prayerful consideration to the moral, ethical
and legal challenges raised by requests for sanctuary."
For further information please contact:
Sara Stratton, KAIROS
Go to Top of Page