One youth lawyer is calling foul on a federal system she believes is putting some Canadian foster children unfairly at risk of deportation once they turn 18.
“The way it’s all set up doesn’t make sense — you have young people in care from the state, then that same state tries to remove them once they become adults,” says Julia Huys, from Justice for Children and Youth. “It’s incredibly unjust and feels extremely unfair.”
Huys says, in the three years she has worked for the group, she has heard of at least 15 cases of former child refugees facing deportation. She knows of at least three who have been removed from Canada to a country they have no connection to, because of criminal activity after they turn 18.
“Oftentimes they didn’t even know the risk, no one warned them ‘you could lose your permanent residency’,” she tells CityNews. “They had no idea until they are incarcerated, and Canada Border Services comes and visits them and says ‘we’re seeking your removal from Canada’.”
It’s the exact scenario 23-year-old Abdoul Abdi is facing. After five years behind bars, Abdi was set to be released from prison last Thursday, but instead he’s now facing deportation to Somalia — a country he hasn’t seen since he was three.
Arrested at 17, Abdi spent nearly his entire childhood in foster care in Halifax. His aunt claims she tried numerous times to submit his Canadian citizenship application, but was denied because she was not his legal guardian.
Huys says the problem is federal law doesn’t require, or even allow, children’s services to obtain citizenship for a child either.
“Before last year, Immigration Canada was not accepting Children’s Aid Society (CAS) as a parent or guardian, so even if CAS signed the form, they were not accepting it,” she explains.
Minors can apply for themselves by obtaining a ministerial waiver, but Huys says they often have to navigate the process on their own, which can also be a financial challenge.
“It’s a huge burden to expect a 16-year-old to pay a fee that’s over $500.”
Huys wants to see the system changed for a group she says is vulnerable to incarceration, and shouldn’t have to face a harsher penalty.
“Among incarcerated young people, 40 to 50 per cent of them were involved in child welfare,” says Huys.
“If any other citizen is charged with a crime, they serve their sentence and it’s over. They have the chance to move forward, whereas this option is never given to these young people.”
Abdi’s sister, Fatouma Abdi, asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about her brother’s deportation case during a town hall in Nova Scotia on Tuesday. Watch below.