Duo accuse stepfathers of abuse to avoid Canadian expulsion

Guyanese cousins, scheduled to be booted out of Canada after entering on fake passports, were granted a temporary reprieve in the form of an order that their cases be heard by a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) officer, after claiming they were being abused by their stepfathers in Guyana.

In his ruling Judge Francois Lemieux noted that while the two stories, of the girl being sexually abused by her stepfather and the male being physically abused by his stepfather, “may be completely fabricated,” he was not in a position to assess their credibility, which is the task of the PRRA officer. “In the circumstances, the balance of convenience favours the applicants,” the judge ruled in May, days after the siblings were sent back.

According to the judge, the female and male, 18 and 25 respectively, arrived in Canada on May 9 on false St Lucian passports provided by a smuggler. While an entry visa into Canada was not necessary with a passport from St Lucia, one is required for a person using a Guyanese passport.

Each cousin saw different customs officers who referred them for questioning by an immigration officer and after lying about the authenticity of their passports and about knowing each other, they admitted their passports were false and they were from Guyana.

At that point, the female said she was scared to return to Guyana and when asked why and she did not answer, explaining that she “felt ashamed and embarrassed to say to the hearing of everyone in the interview room that my stepfather was sexually abusing me.” In her affidavit she said her stepfather is “rich and powerful.”

Her male cousin in his affidavit in support of a stay said that the officer asked him if he was claiming “Refugee Protection” and he said “no” because he did not understand the term refugee to be synonymous with “asylum.” He said he was under threat from his “rich and influential stepfather, who eventually pulled a gun on him when he tried to intervene when his stepfather was abusing his mother.”

The two were then ordered removed from the country but their attorneys filed for a stay of the decision and they argued that the two should have been seen by a PRRA officer before the removal was enforced.

The judge, in his ruling, said that there was no evidence before him that the cousins were offered the opportunity to make a PRRA application, which is a different process than making a refugee claim. He found the case to be in breach of Sections 160 and 166 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR).  Also, the judge said that irreparable harm was done and it flowed from the fact that the applicants did not have their risk of return assessed.

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