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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mom fights to stay in Canada


A Toronto resident says she'll be killed and her two young daughters forced to undergo painful female genital mutilation if they're deported on Thursday to their native Nigeria.

Single mom Roseline Ijiola Awolope, 35, with daughters Blessing, 8, Grace, 6, and sons, Joseph, 10, and Canadian-born John, 1, are scheduled to be deported, following the rejection of her refugee claim by an immigration and refugee board.

The family and lawyer appeared in a federal court on Queen St. W. yesterday, calling on a judge to kill the deportation order on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Mr. Justice Frederick Gibson will deliver his ruling before Thursday.

Awolope, who has undergone female mutilation and face marking, said she fled Nigeria after refusing to have the tribal custom performed on her daughters. Her ex-husband's family was forcing her to have it done to the children.

"They threatened to kill me if I refused it for my daughters," she sobbed yesterday. "I had to run away from my country with the children." Awolope said she almost died from pain when the circumcision and face marking were performed on her as a child. Her face was cut with a hot knife and the mark signifies her tribe.

"I became infected and almost died when it was done to me," she recalled, weeping uncontrollably. "I don't want my daughters to go through this."

Her lawyer, George Kubes, said all the children will be subject to face markings in Nigeria.

Kubes said Awolope arrived in Canada in March 2005 and filed a claim alleging her daughters would be at risk of genital mutilation because they belong to the Yoruba tribe in Ondo state, where 98% of the members undergo the procedure.

"There will be severe emotional harm not only to the mother but to the children as well," Kubes said. "There's no doubt, she will be killed if sent back to Nigeria."

Dr. Samuel Ogunboye, a minister at Celestial Church of Christ, where the family attends, said Awolope sings in the choir and teaches Sunday school.

"They are a very nice family and they deserve a chance in life," Ogunboye said. "These are good people who will make a contribution to this country."

Patrizia Giolti, of the Canada Border Services Agency, couldn't discuss specifics of the case but said the family's claim was the subject of a hearing and appeal -- and they must now leave Canada.

"Everyone under a removal order from Canada is entitled to due process before the law," Giolti said yesterday. "Once individuals have exhausted all avenues they are expected to leave."

She refused to discuss the family's deportation arrangements, citing security reasons.