Vancouver Sun

Hardened here in state-run homes

Ottawa abandons bid to deport a young criminal


How wonderful it is that Abdoul Abdi, who was so spectacula­rly let down by just about every person and agency in his young life, is not going to be deported from Canada.

The happy news came late Tuesday night in the most modern way, with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tweeting that Ottawa will not pursue Abdi’s deportatio­n to Somalia in the wake of a Federal Court of Canada decision last week.

The young man is the perfectly predictabl­e product of bad luck, inadequate caregivers and an appalling child welfare system.

Born in Saudi Arabia almost 25 years ago to a Saudi father he never knew and a Somali mother, he lived as a toddler in Saudi and then spent four years with his mom, two aunts and a sister in a United Nations refugee camp in the tiny African country of Djibouti.

There in the camp his mother died.

As Federal Court Judge Ann Marie McDonald said in her July 13 decision, Abdi has never lived in Somalia. He doesn’t speak the language or know the customs or culture of either Somalia or Saudi. He has no family in either country.

In August of 2000, Abdi, then six, arrived in Canada with his aunts and sister as sponsored refugees. They went first to Cape Breton, and later to Halifax.

Within a year, he was apprehende­d by the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services (DCS), the province’s child welfare agency. Just two years later, DCS was granted permanent custody of the little boy.

In the merciless arms of the state, he was moved about from foster home to foster home, 31 in all. He got no further in school than Grade 6.

As surely as if it had been engineered, Abdi began getting into trouble with the law and graduated to group homes in various cities.

At one point, one of the aunts attempted to apply for citizenshi­p for him. “However,” as the judge wrote, “the DCS intervened on the basis that as a ward of the state, only DCS could apply for citizenshi­p.”

Three years later, the aunt tried again, unsuccessf­ully trying to vary the permanent custody order, presumably so she could apply for Abdi’s citizenshi­p.

DCS, the judge said, attempted to “regularize” Abdi’s status, but was advised his youth criminal record could block him from getting citizenshi­p.

In July of 2014, Abdi entered guilty pleas to charges of aggravated assault, theft of a car, dangerous driving and assault of a police officer with a vehicle.

According to a story at the time in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, the plea was to avoid a trial on a longer list of charges that included attempted murder.

This incident, described by the trial judge as “a vicious attack on an unarmed man,” happened in a hotel parking lot in the early morning hours of Dec. 23.

A man named Alexander Muravyov had given Abdi and three friends a lift, and after ferrying them to Dartmouth and back, demanded the group pay him $50.

Harsh words were exchanged, and enraged, Abdi proceeded to beat Muravyov about the head with the handle of a .357 Magnum handgun, telling him, “You’re going to die. I’m going to shoot you.” As Muravyov ran away, he heard three gunshots ring out behind him. He needed 14 staples to close his wounds.

Later in the day, RCMP spotted the stolen car, Abdi behind the wheel; he refused to stop and led the officers on a chase, striking two police cars in the process.

He was sentenced to four and a half years in prison.

It’s these offences that made him ineligible for citizenshi­p and led to what are called admissibil­ity proceeding­s. If he had got his citizenshi­p in 2014, Abdi simply would have served his sentence and tried to put his life back together as a Canadian.

Instead, he was referred for an admissibil­ity hearing.

That decision was overturned first in October of last year, by Federal Court Judge Richard Southcott.

There was another decision in January this year, and again Abdi was referred to immigratio­n for an admissibil­ity hearing.

It’s that decision McDonald overturned, and which the government now has decided to leave alone. It will not seek a third kick at the can.

The young man, now 24, is no prize, though he belatedly straighten­ed himself out to the point that he was moved to a medium-security prison, and has taken some high school and anger management courses.

In an interview published last year in the Chronicle-Herald, Abdi sounded thoughtful, even wistful.

“There’s a lot of nights I sit in my cell and I regret a lot of things, the biggest being this crime,” he told the paper.

“On our dying beds, everybody, we’re going to wish we had one more minute, one more hour of life … It really makes me look at the bigger picture in life, and how you just need to be kind to the person next to you.”

Whoever he becomes, that kind person he says he wants to be or someone else, is up to him, and he’ll have a real chance here, where he would not in Somalia.

But whatever else, he’s ours, formed and hardened in state-run Canadian homes under the less than watchful eye of the state.

As Judge Southcott noted in his decision, Abdi’s lawyer, Benjamin Perryman, “submits it is unreasonab­le that (no one in authority) asked the question how it is that a child who has spent almost his entire childhood in the care of the state can lack a basic education, a system of social support and the protection­s afforded by citizenshi­p.”

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