A Courtenay resident who had been facing deportation Monday to her native Zimbabwe has received an 11th hour reprieve from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
Grace Mukadzambo, 38, who arrived in Canada four years ago and has been in Courtenay since June 2021, holds down four jobs in the social services sector. Among other things, she has been working in a recovery house for women, and providing residential support for individuals with disabilities. She has been sending about two-thirds of her earnings to support her brother and mother in Zimbabwe.
Mukadzambo had been awaiting a decision on an application for permanent residency, but was then told she was scheduled to be deported from Edmonton this week. The community and elected officials rallied behind her by appealing to federal agencies and raising money to help pay legal fees.
Friday in Edmonton, Mukadzambo was told to drop off her luggage at the Canada Border Services Agency. While there, she received a phone call from an officer who told her the deportation order had been cancelled.
“She was unsure of the reason,” Mukadzambo said Monday, Jan. 30 from Edmonton. She noted a letter from the Immigration Ministry said pressure from community members was a factor in the decision. “So they did respond to it, and they looked into it, and that’s how they responded to it, by cancelling it.”
By Monday, fundraising efforts had reached $7,000, and a Change.org petition had garnered 9,500 signatures, says her co-worker Paul Bozenich.
Last week, Courtenay council unanimously approved a resolution from Wendy Morin to urge Immigration Minister Sean Fraser and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino to stay the deportation and allow time for Mukadzambo’s permanent residency process to be completed.
“Grace did share with me sensitive information regarding her basis of claim. It is disturbing to say the least,” Morin said, noting she faces violence if she is returned to Zimbabwe. “She states that she fears death, rape and torture.”
Mukadzambo heard Monday she could apply for temporary residency, which will provide a pathway to a permanent residency application.
“That decision, according to my lawyer, has been granted by the federal Minister of Immigration,” Mukadzambo said. “It’s amazing. I did not expect to have that much support. I’m beyond words as to what I can say to the community, because legal fees can be a lot. I had come to that place where I couldn’t pay for it, and I was getting to the end of my opportunities and my chances, and then the community came along to help me fight, financially, and be vocal about the work I am doing to the powers that be. I’m very grateful for that support. I still can’t believe all those people were behind me. I really thought I was in this fight by myself, in the beginning. To have that army right up front of the fight, is unimaginable.”
She gives a special thanks to Bozenich for mobilizing the community, to Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns for “putting in the work” and responding to her cry for help, to media outlets, to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser and his team, and to Morin and Courtenay council.
Johns, whose office had been pleading her case since November, commended his staff for working overtime in their bid to keep Mukadzambo in Canada.
“It’s tremendous to see the camaraderie and the solidarity in support of her request,” Johns said.
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