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Halifax press conference pressures Province, Feds to allow Abdoul Abdi to stay in Canada

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A press conference at the Legislature in downtown Halifax served as a reminder that the clock is ticking for Abdoul Abdi. Abdi is a Somali refugee who came to Nova Scotia when only six years old. As a teenager he got involved in crime, and as a consequence of these youthful mistakes he is now facing deportation, even while he has found a job and, as people close to him assure us, has turned his life around altogether.

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Deportation would never have been an option if Nova Scotia’s department of Community Services had applied for Canadian citizenship on Abdoul’s behalf after he became a permanent ward of the state at the age of seven, said Robert Wright, an independent social worker and activist.

And the department was negligent in other ways as well, Wright argued.

While in our province’s care he lost his language, developed behavioural and emotional problems which were not adequately treated, experienced the foster care drift that is all too common, as he was shifted between 31 different foster placements, Wright said.

“When Abdoul Abdi came to Canada, and particularly when he came into the care of the child welfare authority, he became our child,” said Wright. “And if the circumstances are not ameliorated, we will have failed our children.”

Fatuma Abdi, Abdoul’s sister, made a similar heartfelt appeal.

“Abdoul had no guidance in his life, he had nothing. He had no education, no therapy, no supports behind him. He went through more foster homes than I could count. We both suffered mental and physical abuse while in care,” said Fatuma. “But now they don’t say we screwed up, they say we are going to deport you to a country where he has never been to, where he has no language, where we don’t even know how to say hi.”

Poet, educator and activist El Jones reminded people in attendance that anti-Black (and anti-Indigenous racism) are very much at the root of cases such as Abdi’s and too many others. Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotian children are disproportionately over-represented in the child protection system.   

Jones and Tiffany Trudel, a Mi’kmaq poet, both read poems that referenced the hurt and trauma that these cold and bureaucratic systems often cause.

“This is an emotional issue. We talk about law and process, but Abdoul is a human being, with a sister and a nephew, with people who love him all across the country each and every day, because we believe Abdul deserves a chance. We love Abdul, we know him as a person, he is one of us. He is our friend, our brother and comrade, and we cannot just speak of him as a case, or as a box to be ticked,” said Jones.

The coalition that supports Abdi demands that Kelly Regan, the minister of Community Services acknowledge that the department’s failures are at the root of Abdi’s problems, and that she advocates with the Feds to avoid his deportation. As well, the minister must implement policies to ensure that immigrant children in its care obtain Canadian citizenship.

Furthermore, the group wants Abdi’s deportation hearing stopped so that he does not lose his permanent resident status. They also want  changes to the federal Citizenship Act so that youths “in care”, especially racialized youth, who have contact with the criminal justice system no longer are ineligible for citizenship.

NDP MLA Susan Leblanc, who hosted the press conference at the Legislature, announced that the provincial NDP will introduce legislation tomorrow that will require the province to apply and advocate for citizenship for all children in care who aren’t citizens.

Similar events took place in Ottawa and Toronto. After the Halifax press conference many attendants visited the constituency office of Member of Parliament Andy Fillmore, to remind him of the demands to free Abdoul Abdi. Fillmore wasn’t around.

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Contact Ralp Goodale, Minister of Public Safety

email : Hon.Ralph.Goodale@Canada.ca
Phone: 613-944-4875 or 1-800-830-3118
Fax: 613-954-5186

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