Trudeau grilled over Abdi case

Trudeau of­fers plat­i­tudes and no prom­ises af­ter tough ques­tions about Ab­doul Abdi’s de­por­ta­tion order.



Abdi needs to be free!” came the chants of a small crowd of pro­test­ers out­side Sackville High School on Tues­day night.

The pro­test­ers aimed their cries at the sprawl­ing line wait­ing to at­tend prime min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s town hall event in hopes of rais­ing aware­ness about the de­por­ta­tion case of So­ma­lian refugee Ab­doul Abdi.

Abdi came to Nova Sco­tia with his sis­ter and two aunts as a refugee at age six. Less than a year later he and his sis­ter were seized from their aunt, who spoke lit­tle English at the time, by Chil­dren’s Ser­vices. Abdi be­came a ward of the state by age nine.

“She wasn’t able to ex­plain her­self,” ac­tivist El Jones, who or­ga­nized this week’s protest, says about Abdi’s aunt. “There was just this as­sump­tion that here’s this African wo­man and she must be abus­ing and ne­glect­ing the kids.”

Now Abdi, who is 23 years old and has a Cana­dian-born daugh­ter, is be­ing held in soli­tary con­fine­ment at an im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­tre af­ter fin­ish­ing a four-year sen­tence for ag­gra­vated as­sault. As a per­ma­nent res­i­dent with a crim­i­nal record, he’s fac­ing de­por­ta­tion to So­ma­lia.

Abdi’s lack of cit­i­zen­ship, how­ever, is a re­spon­si­bil­ity that should have fallen on Nova Sco­tia’s depart­ment of Com­mu­nity Ser­vices. In his 18 years of state care, Abdi lived in over 20 fos­ter homes and suf­fered abuse at the hands of fos­ter fam­i­lies. Nei­ther he nor his sis­ter were able to ap­ply for cit­i­zen­ship be­cause no policy is cur­rently in place to grant Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship to chil­dren in care.

“No one told us that,” says Ab­doul’s sis­ter, Fa­touma Abdi. “They just ba­si­cally waited un­til we out­grew the sys­tem and booted us out.”

Be­cause the state failed to ap­ply for cit­i­zen­ship for Ab­doul, his lawyer Ben­jamin Per­ry­man says the govern­ment is in vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights law.

“Mr. Abdi is fac­ing de­por­ta­tion be­cause he is a non-cit­i­zen and he is a non-cit­i­zen be­cause chil­dren’s ser­vices failed to ap­ply for cit­i­zen­ship on his be­half,” said Per­ry­man in a press release.

Fa­touma Abdi at­tended the prime min­is­ter’s town hall on Tues­day to ask Trudeau why her brother was fac­ing de­por­ta­tion.

“Why are you de­port­ing my brother?” Abdi asked the prime min­is­ter. “If it was your son, would you do any­thing to stop this?”

Trudeau never re­sponded to the se­cond half of Fa­touma’s question, but did thank her and pro­test­ers for rallying be­hind her brother’s story.

“I think I speak for most of us in this room and in­deed across the coun­try, I say, when we saw how the care sys­tem failed your brother; we saw the how the chal­lenges he’s fac­ing have im­pacted upon him; we saw the real chal­lenges that we’re fac­ing in the sys­tem,” said Trudeau, right be­fore de­fend­ing the ‘rules and prin­ci­ples’ of the very same sys­tem.

“The way we con­tinue to be­lieve in our im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem is to know that our im- mi­gra­tion sys­tem is strong and rig­or­ous and fairly ap­plied. That there are rules and there is a frame­work and it goes through the eval­u­a­tion process.”

Ul­ti­mately, Trudeau de­clined to com­ment on specifics of the case, cit­ing pri­vacy law, and gave Fa­touma no as­sur­ances ex­cept a prom­ise to “try to do the right thing based on both rules and com­pas­sion.”

Abdi’s fam­ily, how­ever, is look­ing for more. His sup­port­ers have brought the case be­fore MPs, and Jones pre­sented it to the min­is­ter of Im­mi­gra­tion—him­self a So­ma­lian refugee— but the fam­ily has re­ceived no re­sponse.

“He’s been failed on all lev­els,” says Jones. “He’s failed by the fos­ter care sys­tem; he’s failed by the school sys­tem; he’s failed by the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem and he’s failed now by Canada.”

Jones says that Abdi’s de­por­ta­tion case has not taken the fail­ures of the fos­ter care sys­tem into proper con­sid­er­a­tion. Black and In­dige­nous youth are vastly over­rep­re­sented in child care, and chil­dren raised in fos­ter care are dis­pro­por­tion­ately in­car­cer­ated.

“Peo­ple use things like the num­ber of con­tacts he’s had with the law to prove that he’s some kind of un­re­pen­tant crim­i­nal with­out look­ing at the fact that a Black kid in care is go­ing to have those con­tacts.”

Now, with the threat of be­ing de­ported to So­ma­lia, a coun­try with a stand­ing travel ad­vi­sory warn­ing, Ab­doul’s fam­ily fears for his life.

“My brother messed up, we all know that,” says Fa­touma. “But now they’re ba­si­cally try­ing to have Ab­doul in a death penalty sen­tence. My brother Ab­doul does not know [So­ma­lian] cul­ture, he does not know the lan­guage. He’s been here since the age of six.”

Abdi’s fam­ily and other or­ga­niz­ers are en­cour­ag­ing con­cerned in­di­vid­u­als to lobby their MPs, and the min­is­ters of im­mi­gra­tion and pub­lic safety.

“I just hope that they lis­ten,” says Fa­touma, “and who­ever has the power to stop this, stops it.”


Justin Trudeau “lis­tens” at SHS on Tues­day.

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