Saturday, June 9, 2007

Woman facing deportation gets to stay here

Jasmin Legatos, The Gazette

Published: Friday, June 08, 2007

On Tuesday morning Oumou Toure, a 24-year old native of Guinea in West Africa, was afraid she would not be allowed to remain in Canada long enough to see the end of the summer.

But by Friday afternoon, Canadian immigration officials, quelled her fear by granting her permanent residency based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

The quick decision came as a pleasant surprise to Toure's lawyer, Rick Goldman.

"We have come a long way since Tuesday morning," he told reporters this afternoon at a news conference to announce the positive decision in Toure's case.

Earlier in the week, Goldman and groups like the Montreal City Mission, which have been pleading Toure's case with Citizenship and Immigration Canada since last fall, convened a news conference to put some pressure on officials to fast-track her application before she was scheduled for deportation in the first week of July.

Although Goldman admits that many women find themselves in Toure's position, he also said her case is quite unusual.

When Toure first came to Canada in 2003, she applied to remain in the country as a refugee but her application was refused. At the time she was about to give birth to her now 2 1/2 year old daughter Fanta. She then submitted a first application for permanent residency based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, but that too was rejected.

In her final application Toure made the case that if she were returned to Guinea, her daughter would be at serious risk of genital mutilation, a common practice in Guinea even though it is illegal there.

However immigration officials had initially refused to speed up the process of her application and Toure would have been deported before they had a chance to take into account the risk to Fanta.

But yesterday, immigration officials agreed to review her case and promised to render a decision within a week.

Toure who had, earlier in the week, appeared worried, scared and unable to express herself, cracked a smile of relief as people came up to congratulate her on the news.

"Thank you, thank you, you saved my life, thank you," she said.