Last Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2007 | 11:06 AM ET
An Ethiopian man who has been hiding in an Ottawa church for more than a year and a half after his refugee claim was rejected can stay in Canada, the government has decided.
Moti Nano strolled beside a busy Ottawa highway Tuesday enjoying his new liberty, days after Citizenship and Immigration Canada revoked the order to deport him to his home country, where he said he would be tortured or killed.
"I just enjoyed the nature. Even looking at these cars, I just started to sense what to live in freedom looks like," he said after stepping out the door of All Saints Lutheran Church near the Queensway, where he has lived in a cramped Sunday school classroom for the past 21 months.
Nano's lawyer Mike Bell learned Friday of the decision, which was made on compassionate and humanitarian grounds.
It means Nano will be allowed to work and can apply to be a landed immigrant.
Nano sought refuge at the church in January 2006 after a refugee board adjudicator turned down his claim, saying that it was not credible.
Bell said it's very difficult to have decisions based on credibility overturned by a federal court.
He also handled the similar cases of Samsu Mia and Maoua Diomande, two other refugees who sought sanctuary in Ottawa churches after being ordered deported by the same adjudicator, who has now retired, and were eventually allowed to stay in Canada.
He thinks there should be a formal appeal process for refugees, as do members of the church's sanctuary committee.
The committee got Nano in touch with Bell and members such as Paul Merkley lobbied hard to have the deportation order lifted.
"Parliament has passed legislation asking for an appeal procedure. And the government has never seen fit to implement that," Merkley said. "So we're hoping that the government will learn from these cases."
Nano said he isn't angry with the Canadian government, but hopes no one else will have to go what he went through.
"I think this reminds me of the experience of a woman at the time when she is going to give birth," he said. "It is painful, but once she gives birth … she gets happy and excited and she forgets about all things."