July 12th, 2024

Gay Ugandan in Edmonton facing deportation gets temporary permit to stay in Canada

By Jamin Mike, The Canadian Press on December 15, 2023.

Ugandan refugee "Sue," who faces deportation from Canada, is pictured in Edmonton, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON – A man in Edmonton who was set to be deported to Uganda, where he feared prison or death for being gay, can stay in Canada for now.

On Friday, the 25-year-old was granted a seven-month temporary resident permit.

“I’m extremely grateful and relieved that this has been cancelled and I’m able to stay safe,” the man told The Canadian Press.

Heasked not to be identified for his safety, as he could still be sent to his home country in the future. He sometimes goes by the name Sue.

Sue had been packing up his apartment and trying to sell belongings on Facebook since the Canada Border Services Agency ordered him to report Monday for a flight to Uganda.

Homosexuality has long been illegal in the east African country. Earlier this year, it passed one of the harshest anti-homosexuality laws in the world. It could impose the death penalty as punishment for “aggravated homosexuality.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called on Uganda to repeal the legislation.

Sue said he had a good childhood and grew up like most Ugandans. He went to school, played soccer and volunteered. He later studied to become a nurse.

He moved to Canada in 2018 on a student visa, which was set to expire this past summer. He transferred his nursing credits and earned his licensed practical nursing credentials, then got a part-time health-care job while working toward a bachelor’s degree in science.

Sue said he also found support in Edmonton’s LGBTQ community.

Then he came out to his family, who live in Uganda.

“That’s when everything turned the other way,” he said. His parents cut off his tuition, and without funds he dropped out of university.

He said he knew returning to Uganda after coming out would put him in danger, so he sought advice from Newcomers Edmonton, which advised that filing for a refugee claim would be his best option.

Sue said he filed a claim on the grounds he would be persecuted as gay if he returns to Uganda.

The federal government rejected Sue’s refugee claim in July 2022, a decision upheld on appeal in early 2023.

Toronto lawyer Michael Battista then applied for a deferral of Sue’s deportation. It was rejected earlier this week.

Battista said Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board rejected the refugee bid even though Frank Mugisha, director of Sexualized Minorities Uganda, said he knew Sue for seven years in Uganda and witnessed him with a boyfriend.

Battista said the board did not find the sum of evidence compelling enough to overturn the deportation order.

However, Battista said the federal government did the right thing on Friday. He credited Immigration Minister Marc Miller and Edmonton member of Parliament Randy Boissonnault for stepping in.

Sue will be eligible to apply next year for permanent resident status, Battista said.

A Canada Border Services Agency spokesperson said in an email that it does not comment on individual cases. The Immigration and Refugee Board also did not provide comment.

Mugisha said Sue’s deportation would have been the first he’s heard of in the last decade involving a gay man being sent to Uganda.

He said Sue’s family is Muslim and they believe that Canada made him gay. They have the resources to track him down and have him put in jail due to embarrassment if he returns to Uganda, Mugisha added.

Rainbow Railroad, a global non-profit that helps LGBTQ people, said it has received 1,500 requests for help from Ugandans so far this year, with 90 per cent asking after the country’s draconian homosexuality law was passed.

The group’s CEO, Kimahli Powell, said in an email that Ugandan citizens are required to report on one another or face punishment.

Doug Kerr of Dignity Network Canada, a group of civil society organizations, said Canada’s decision to deport a gay person to Uganda had been disappointing.

Kerr said a challenge of the homosexuality law was filed Monday in Ugandan court, and he hopes Canada makes an official effort to support affected Ugandans.

Jason Kung, with Global Affairs Canada, said the federal government strongly condemns Uganda’s law and is assessing further response.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 15, 2023.

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