Published: Thursday, March 22, 2007
The First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa is providing sanctuary to another refugee claimant.
Shree Kumar Rai, 44, a Nepalese citizen in Canada since 1996, was introduced at a news conference at the west-end Ottawa church Thursday morning. He has been in the church since Feb. 27.
Members of the congregation, led by former Ontario NDP leader Michael Cassidy, believe Rai risks torture and police oppression if deported to his homeland.
Initially a teacher and activist in Nepal, Rai was arrested and detained in 1985 for protesting Nepal's dictatorship. Between 1993 and 1995, he was arrested and tortured twice.
He came to Canada in June 1996, working in Montreal as a sushi chef while waiting to be accepted as a refugee. He was ordered deported last April, and his final avenue of appeal — an application to the Federal Court of Appeal for judicial review — was rejected in January of this year.
In July 2003, Samsu Mia, then 50, entered the church for protection. A citizen of Bangladesh, he stayed in the church for 17 months before gaining his freedom with special ministerial intervention in December, 2005.
Asylum-seekers in churches have no legal protection but police and immigration authorities generally will not enter places of worship to make arrests.