A Calgary family is facing deportation back to Sri Lanka even though two of their children were born in Canada.
The family’s eldest son, nine-year-old Maneth Fernando, penned a letter to Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Marco Mendicino, in a last ditch effort to have Ottawa intervene.
“Canada is a safe place with lots of good schools and my friends are here,” Maneth told CTV News. “If I go back, the kids in the Sri Lankan schools will laugh at me because I can only speak English.”
The letter, which appears below, indicates the boy is worried “something bad will happen” to his parents and younger siblings if they’re sent back to Sri Lanka — the country where he and his parents were born.
The couple, Nishan Fernando and wife Sulakshana Hewage, have two Canadian-born children aged four years and 15 months.
The Canada Border Service Agency has arranged to have the family fly to Colombo, Sri Lanka March 3 following years of court proceedings.
“There are two Canadian born kids here and the only options that my clients were given is to put the Canadian-born into foster care and go back to Sri Lanka, which is completely unacceptable,” said Udani Perera, the family’s lawyer.
The couple and their first born son came to Canada in 2012 after fleeing Sri Lanka. Fernando told Canadian immigration officials that his uncle had criminal ties and he feared for his family’s safety.
“We were seeking a safe place for my kids and family,” Fernando told CTV News.
According to documents filed in Federal Court, the uncle was a “political fixer”, “contract killer” and a “loan shark” who had ties to influential politicians.
The uncle, who raised Fernando, has since been murdered.
Fernando retained status as a worker in Canada until 2016. An application for permanent residency under humanitarian and compassionate grounds was refused in May 2016. Ottawa said there wasn’t enough evidence of a safety risk in Sri Lanka.
The claim was further rejected in 2018.
That decision was appealed at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada’s refugee appeals division and litigated at the Federal Court and the decision was maintained, according to a statement from an Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) spokesperson.
The Federal Court said there wasn’t enough evidence of a risk to Fernando’s family even though they claimed two previous attacks on them.
The family has submitted a second application under humanitarian and compassionate grounds five months ago which is currently still in queue and does not prevent a removal order from being enforced.
“If applicants have to leave the country, their application for permanent residence will continue to be processed,” indicated the IRCC statement.
Still, there are concerns for the family’s safety if Fernando is sent back to Sri Lanka.
“There are serious threats to their lives,” said Perera.