Mother of 2 running out of time to stay in Canada
A woman from Uganda who has been living in Ottawa for the past six years is pleading with the Canadian government to reconsider its deportation order that would separate the 34-year-old from her two sons and her partner.
Betty Naggayi says she arrived in Canada in 2016 as a victim of domestic abuse. She then applied for refugee status on that basis but was denied multiple times, with the final rejection coming in 2020.
During that period she also met her common-law partner, Bakar Mansaray, in the capital and gave birth to two boys.
"I'm requesting the Government of Canada to give me a chance to stay and raise my children," said Naggayi. "It's my only hope and they are Canadians."
She's still breastfeeding her 18-month-old son, Jibril, and says her other son, Cedek, is nearly three and nonverbal. Naggayi says his developmental delays are signs of autism.
"If you're a mother and you have kids you know the connection that you have with your children," Naggayi said.
With her other options exhausted, Naggayi applied for permanent residency under humanitarian and compassionate grounds in August — emphasizing what the loss of a mother will mean to her two children.
Her partner tried to sponsor her, but was deemed ineligible due to financial reasons.
Through her job as a cleaner, she said she contributes equally to the household's bills, but that didn't help the sponsorship application.
"My husband is having health issues. He can't have two kids with him," Naggayi said. "I can't take them back to Uganda because they will not get the medical attention that Cedek needs."
Deportation order for April 1
About a dozen friends and supporters organized a rally for the mother, who worked at The Ottawa Hospital as a cleaner through the pandemic, outside the office of MP Mona Fortier. The crowd included neighbours and family who held signs calling her a pandemic hero.
Naggayi hasn't received an update from government officials about her file outside of an acknowledgement it's been received, she said.
She has until April 1 to leave the country under the deportation order.
If you're a mother and you have kids you know the connection that you have with your children - Betty Naggayi
Earlier this week Naggayi submitted a deferral of removal request to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), hoping it will grant her enough time.
Her lawyer Melissa Eberly said the family depends on the mother's income and without it Cedek will no longer attend daycare where his developmental delays are being addressed.
"It's going to be very disruptive to [Cedek's] home environment," Eberly said. "He's not going to understand why his mother is suddenly not present in his life."
Options 'really limited'
Immigration lawyer Jacqueline Bonisteel says there are few options for those who face deportation orders, calling them "the most difficult types of cases."
"When you're at the stage of facing deportation, that's the end of the line," she said.
"That's a really tough place to be when you've been denied at all levels. And the options at that stage are really limited."
After hearing details of Naggayi's case, Bonisteel said there are some grounds for approval of the permanent residency, especially given her two children.
She did say the success rate on these types of applications is "less than 50 per cent."
"It's not an automatic stay of removal having one of those applications in process," Bonisteel said. "And the processing time is upwards of three years to get even the initial approval."
Bonisteel added that once a person is no longer in Canada, their chances of being granted permanent residency lessen even though the application continues to work its way through the system.
In an emailed statement, the CBSA said while having a Canadian-born child doesn't ensure a parent can stay, it always considers the children's best interests.
"Once individuals have exhausted all legal avenues of appeal and due process, they are expected to respect our laws and leave Canada or be removed," wrote CBSA spokesperson Jacqueline Roby, adding these decisions aren't made lightly.
Naggayi's common-law partner, a Canadian citizen, tried to sponsor her in 2020 but he was deemed ineligible. He had already sponsored a son from a previous relationship who went on social assistance when Mansaray was still financially responsible for him.
The father is still paying that money back, a factor that worked against his application to sponsor Naggayi.
The next step will be to ask the Federal Court to stay the deportation, Naggayi's lawyer said.