UPDATE: Nanziri granted stay of deportation

'I can't go back to my country; I'll be killed' says lesbian refugee claimant

Aug 2, 1pm: After considering her case, Justice Robert Barnes has granted Leatitia Nanziri a stay of deportation. It means Nanziri and her two children will be able to remain in Canada and bring forth an appeal of the original decision.

“The circumstances facing these children in Uganda are dire,” Barnes wrote. “The balance of convenience clearly favours the applicant. She has been in Canada seven years. She is gainfully employed. There are no significant problems with her immigration history or with her personal conduct in Canada.”

“I’m so excited,” Nanziri says. “This was the most difficult part here. I’m hoping during the [hearing and review process] we’ll do well.

“The children, they’re so happy,” she says. “My son is so excited, he’s jumping, he’s screaming . . . I’m just so happy.”

— Katie Toth

Aug 2, 10am: Following an Aug 1 hearing, Leatitia Nanziri is now waiting to hear if a judge will stay a deportation order, allowing her to remain in Canada to appeal her case.
Justice Robert Barnes said he wants to set aside the question of Nanziri’s sexuality and instead focus on the safety and comparative well-being of her children, who Barnes said may be at risk of violence if they are sent back to Uganda.

The counsel for the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration said that the claim Nanziri’s previous lawyer submitted was insufficient. She also suggested that it is unfair for Nanziri to receive preferential treatment over refugees who do not have children.

But Nanziri’s new lawyer, Asiya Hirji, says Canadian jurisprudence is clear that an assessment of the children’s best interests “must be done.”

“In these circumstances, two children are going back to Uganda,” Hirji says. “A proper consideration has to be made.”

Ministry counsel also suggested that Nanziri neglected to attend a pre-removal risk assessment hearing and instead started living underground. But Nanziri says she did not receive notification that she was being asked to leave the country. She had been carrying on with her life as usual. “I was working, I was driving, everything.”

Nanziri says that notification for the hearing was sent to her former address and she discovered there was a warrant for her arrest only when she tried to renew her health card.

If the deportation is stayed, Nanziri will have the opportunity to appeal her case. Then, if her appeal is successful, she will have an opportunity for a new hearing. Or, if the appeal is not successful, she will most likely be deported.

Nanziri was hopeful following the hearing. “For some reason, I’m feeling like maybe we’re going to get a positive answer.”


— Katie Toth

July 31 — A Toronto-area lesbian could be back in her home country as soon as the second week of August unless a federal courts stops her deportation.

Leatitia Nanziri has been fighting to stay in Canada since she arrived here from Uganda in 2004. She escaped to Toronto after years of abuse, torture, threats and rape. Nanziri has had claim after claim denied, ending with her most recent rejection letter last month. The letter informed her that the Refugee Board officer working on her case does not believe she is telling the truth about her sexual orientation. It set her deportation date for Aug 4.

“I can’t go back to my country; I’ll be killed,” Nanziri told Xtra.

Nanziri – and her two young children – face almost certain discrimination or worse in Uganda, which was dubbed in one documentary as “the worst place in the world to be gay.”

Nanziri’s children, one 19 months and the other eight years old, were born in Canada and are citizens. While they would be entitled to stay if their mother is deported, that is not a likely option. Nanziri has no family here and nowhere to leave her young children. She had put herself through school in Toronto, and now works two jobs to feed them.

Her last chance to remain is Aug 1, when she has a hearing to temporarily suspend her deportation.

Asiya Hirji, Nanziri’s lawyer, says that her application to stay in Canada is entirely legitimate. The officer of the Refugee Board, it seems, disagrees. Nanziri stood before the board in 2005 and it rejected her refugee application.

“The board found that she was not gay,” Hirji says, despite Nanziri providing statements of support from friends from Uganda affirming she is a lesbian. She also provided pictures of a former partner from here in Canada. The officer, however, found more compelling evidence to suggest that she is lying. As for what that evidence was, “he didn’t say,” Hirji says.

One of the main factors the court did not take into account, Hirji is prepared to argue, is the well being of Nanziri’s children.

Recently, a federal court decided that the immigration system must take a more comprehensive approach to dealing with matters of sexuality. In that case, Judge James Russell ruled that the immigration system ruled inappropriately in its attempts to determine the sexuality of a Nigerian man, as it ignored much of the evidence in front of it and instead relied on stereotypes in its decision. He now faces a new hearing.

“That’s what I’m praying for,” Nanziri says of her upcoming hearing. “Let us stay in the country.”

If her deportation is stayed this week, she will be allowed to remain in Canada until her appeal to the federal court is completed. From there, the judge can either determine that the Immigration and Refugee Board erred in their judgement — and a new hearing can be arrange — or they can maintain the IRB’s ruling, making her deportation all but certain.

If Nanziri is sent back to Uganda this weekend, she has the option of filing for a reassessment from abroad. Hirji hesitantly says that they will “consider” it.

“If she goes back, she’s going to need more than just an agency assessment,” Hirji says.

As for Nanziri’s chances on Aug 1? Nirgi says it all depends on the judge.

“The battle is certainly not over.”

An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed responsibility for claims of Humanitarian and Compassionate status and the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment to the Immigration and Refugee Board. In fact, they are the responsibility of the Citizenship and Immigration Ministry.

Freelance journalist covering current affairs and politics for Xtra.

Katie Toth is a freelance journalist. She received a tuition scholarship to complete a two-week summer course on media freedom at Central European University in Budapest in July 2017.

Keep Reading

Job discrimination against trans and non-binary people is alive and well

OPINION: A study reveals that we have a long way to go to reach workplace equality for trans and non-binary people

The new generation of gay Conservative sellouts

OPINION: Melissa Lantsman’s and Eric Duncan’s refusals to call out their party’s transphobia is a betrayal of the LGBTQ2S+ community

Over 300 anti-LGBTQ2S+ bills have been introduced this year. This doesn’t mean we should panic

OPINION: While it’s important to watch out for threats, not all threats are created equally. Some of these bills will die a natural death

Xtra’s top LGBTQ2S+ stories of the year

The best and brightest—even most bewildering—stories from a back catalogue brimming with insight