Saturday, June 9, 2007

Deportation revoked for woman, daughter

MONTREAL -- A woman who feared her Canadian daughter would be subjected to genital mutilation if she were deported to her West African homeland won the right yesterday to remain in Canada.

A beaming Oumou Touré, who publicized her case this week in a last-ditch bid to avoid removal, extended thanks to Canada for shielding her and her daughter, two-year-old Fanta.

"Now I know Canada will protect me," she said in an interview after a press conference in a United Church in downtown Montreal.

Ms. Touré's appeal, backed by Amnesty International and the Quebec Federation of Women, gained extensive publicity.

The 24-year-old single mother was scheduled to be deported early next month to her native Guinea, where female circumcision is practised on virtually every woman.

MS. Touré says she underwent the painful procedure herself at 19 and wanted her daughter to be spared the same fate.

Only two hours after supporters held a press conference Tuesday to spotlight the case, Ms. Touré was granted an interview with Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials in Montreal.

The case was expedited after Immigration Minister Diane Finley intervened, supporters said. Ms. Touré was granted permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

"We thank the minister for stepping in and settling the matter in a timely and humanitarian manner," said Rick Goldman, Ms. Touré's lawyer. He said female circumcision on Fanta would be worse than torture.

"It's the amputation of part of her humanity," he said.

Although practices vary from country to country, the procedure, widespread throughout Africa, is generally performed on girls under 10. Complications include hemorrhage, infections, bleeding and excruciating pain.

"The Canadian public does not tolerate the idea of subjecting a young child to this kind of horrific persecution," Mr. Goldman said.

Female genital mutilation has been grounds for obtaining refugee status in Canada, but Ms. Touré was childless when she first pleaded her case before the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2004.

Ms. Touré said she now looks forward to enrolling her daughter in daycare and raising her in safety in Canada.