Mom fearful. Bids to stave off deportation order
JASMIN LEGATOS, The GazettePublished: Wednesday, June 06, 2007
At 19, Oumou Toure's stepmother pulled her out of school, tried to marry her off to a much older man and "traumatized" the young woman by subjecting her to female circumcision.
Oumou Toure, mother of 2-year-old Fanta, is comforted by a social worker (left) as she listens from a distance to a press conference at St. James United Church yesterday. Toure is worried her daughter could be subjected to female circumcision if she and her children are deported to Guinea.
ALLEN MCINNIS, THE GAZETTE
Toure, now 24, fled her native Guinea and came to Canada in 2003, using falsified documents. She is slated for deportation in the first week of July, barring an intervention from federal Immigration Minister Diane Finley.
Toure's psychologist, Sylvie Laurion, says her patient is scared.
If Toure returns to the West African country, there is a serious risk her 21/2-year old Canadian-born daughter, Fanta, could share her mother's fate, says her lawyer, Rick Goldman.
According to statistics from UNICEF and the U.S. State Department, as many as 99 per cent of Guinean women have been subjected to genital mutilation.
Although the practice is illegal in that country, Human Rights Watch confirms that Guinea is not among the countries where mutilation crimes have been prosecuted. And a 2004 report from the International Society for Human Rights says the practice is often carried out despite parents' objections.
Female genital mutilation, or circumcision, is a cultural and religious practice in which all or part of the external female genitalia is removed. Complications from the procedure range from severe pain and bleeding to infections causing death.
As Toure stood at the back of the meeting room at the St. James United Church yesterday, while a panel of human rights activists pleaded her case to the media, the worry in her eyes was palpable.
If appeals to Finley by groups fighting on behalf of Toure go unanswered, Toure faces an impossible situation, Goldman says.
She must either leave Fanta and her 9-month old brother in Canada or risk Fanta's health by bringing her back to Guinea, he added. The fathers of Toure's children are not in the picture, Laurion says.
Toure first applied for refugee status in 2004, but the Immigration and Refugee Board rejected her claim two weeks before she gave birth to Fanta.
Toure then applied for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds but failed to provide enough documentary evidence of the risk to her daughter; her application was rejected in August 2006.
Working with the Montreal-based Committee to Aid Refugees, Toure submitted a second application to stay in Canada, which is now in the hands of the Montreal office of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Goldman says.
However, immigration officials refuse to accelerate her dossier despite Toure's looming deportation deadline.
Toure's situation is not unique and there is precedent for allowing her to stay in Canada, Goldman said.
According to Amnesty International, an Alberta woman from Tanzania and her family were granted permanent residency based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds last fall when she argued her family could face persecution back home because they opposed mutilation.