Sunday, August 23, 2009

Deportation of blind grandmother from Canada back to Poland could mean her death, family members say

From The Toronto Sun:

Immigration officials say blind Etobicoke granny Stefania Elzbieta Magdziak will be accompanied on a LOT Polish airlines flight August 23 at Pearson airport when she's deported to Warsaw.

"Where is the God?" Magdziak, 69, asked through a translator yesterday as she sobbed uncontrollably. "It will be tough on me and my family."

The mother of two children and six grandchildren shook and moaned when she was told of her removal. She had filed a last-ditch bid to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Magdziak arrived in Canada in 1998 as a visitor and never left. She blamed an unscrupulous immigration consultant for making her file a failed refugee claim.

Polish community activist Ben Gondek said life for her in Poland will be hard because of her disability.

"They're deporting her to her death," Gondek said. "She is totally devastated and hasn't stopped crying."

He had to break the news to Magdziak and her family, who speak little English.

The family plan to have someone travel with Magdziak and help with her resettlement.

"She will have to rely on neighbours and others for help," Gondek said. "She's in poor condition and will have a difficult time."

NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow made several requests for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to halt the removal on compassionate grounds.

"This is quite unbelievable," Chow said yesterday. "I am stunned that we are deporting a blind woman from Canada."

She had spoken and e-mailed Kenney's staff a number of times with information on the case.

"It is inhumane to deport a blind person from Canada," Chow said.

Chow, her husband, NDP leader Jack Layton, and his family have worked closely with the blind for decades. His great-grandfather, Philip, started the Montreal Association of the Blind in 1908.

Patrizia Giolti, of the Canada Border Services Agency, said she couldn't discuss the deportation for security reasons.

We have "an obligation to remove people who are not entitled to remain in Canada," Giolti said. "Those ordered removed from Canada are only removed once all due process has been completed."

Once an individual has exhausted due process, they're expected to respect our laws and leave Canada or be removed, she said.