Ihuoma Amadi (left) and Victoria Ordu wait in the church, silently watching their story develop in the outside world.
It has been four-and-a-half months since Victoria Ordu and Ihuoma Amadi have set foot outside.
Ordu and Amadi, both University of Regina students, have been seeking sanctuary in a Regina church since June 19 when they each received a deportation order after they violated their student visas. The students worked at a Regina Walmart for two weeks in spring of 2011 without proper social insurance numbers or work permits.
They are now facing deportation back to Nigeria and risk having their full scholarships revoked by the Nigerian government.
Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews have said in public statements to CBC and in the House of Commons that the women are no longer students and have no reason to stay in the country.
Further reports from Minister Kenney conclude that the women had fair hearings from the Canada Border Services Agency during winter of 2011-12 after they received orders to leave in November of 2011. Both women admitted to taking time off school, which he said can eliminate their status as students.
Kay Adebogun, the Regina-based immigration consultant who represents the women, said that as the pressure on the government and on the ministers involved increases, the story has been getting distorted.
“I’m not surprised with all these excuses,” Adebogun said. “They’re just looking for a way to distort the story. If you are caught in a corner, that’s what it looks like.”
Adebogun said that the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act does not mandate that an international student consistently be enrolled in courses, but only that they not overstay their study permit.
“As of today, the most important thing is that you must have a valid study permit,” Adebogun said. “In [Ordu and Amadi’s] case, they have been in school, they are students at the University of Regina, they have been taking classes and they’re fine.”
After having seen Amadi and Ordu’s transcripts, Adebogun affirms that the women were indeed enrolled as students at the U of R from 2009 to 2012, and were registered for their final year when they went into hiding.
Rallies to prevent the women’s deportation have been held in Regina and in Ottawa and there have been petitions circulating through the province in opposition to the deportation of Amadi and Ordu.
With support coming in from across the the country, Adebogun does not see the women being deported anytime soon.
“We’re going to continue the pressure, mount the pressure until such a time as they will say, ‘Yes, let it be,’ ” Adebogun said.
University of Saskatchewan student Dan LeBlanc said that the same unrelenting support is coming from the Saskatoon-based Facebook group “Students in Solidarity with Victoria and Ihuoma.”
“We need to push very hard at the moment to get a definite stay so that they legally can no longer [proceed with the case],” LeBlanc, a member of the group, said.
“We won’t allow them to just wait us out. We will push and make a stance.”
“Students in Solidarity” has collected over 700 signatures during two rounds of petitioning. The pledge asks Kenney and Toews to reconsider the deportation and its consequences. At the end of September, the first round of petitions had collected 450 signatures after they were circulated around Saskatoon and campus. The second round gathered over 250 signatures in less than a week of tabling in the Arts Tunnel in mid-October.
The group is looking into holding a second letter writing session, following the first session in October, and possibly a rally in the Bowl.
Beyond the matter of whether the deportation of Amadi and Ordu is fair and just, LeBlanc said that the issue is an opportunity for students to learn to help each other to create safe places and universities that protect students that may be marginalized.
“It is very important for students to stand up for students,” LeBlanc said.
He sees the crackdown on the international students as symptomatic of the Conservative Party’s tough-on-crime agenda that is overriding what seems to be what the majority of the Canadian public wants.
“The Conservative government is over generalizing from the fact that they were elected while running on these particular social and ideological issues,” LeBlanc said. “They are over generalizing in thinking that all Canadians want these things.”
With pressure coming from the Saskatchewan government, both universities in the province and the general Canadian public, it is becoming harder for Kenney and Toews to be tough-on-crime and maintain positive public images. LeBlanc said that the deportation affair has become more politically costly for the ministers since Regina-Wascana MP Ralph Goodale and Saskatchewan Party MLA Bill Boyd have openly voiced their opposition to the women’s deportation.
Photo: Troy Fleece/Regina Leader-Post