Canada to deport pregnant woman Friday despite doctors warning it's unsafe for her to travel
TORONTO -- A Toronto woman, in her last stage of pregnancy and suffering from cardiac issues, is scheduled to be deported to Bangladesh Friday, despite doctors warning it’s unsafe for her to travel.
The Canada Border Services Agency ordered Farhana Sultana to leave the country after her permanent residency application on humanitarian and compassionate grounds was rejected in November.
Sultana, who lives in Scarborough, said she begged the federal agency to at least let her stay until she gives birth to her baby girl, who is due on March 1, to ensure no harm is caused to her child or herself.
But the CBSA finalized their decision earlier this week after its medical experts examined the letters and documents sent in by Sultana last month.
"Only my or my baby’s death certificate would be strong enough document for them," the 30-year-old woman told CTV News Toronto Thursday. “On a plane, there is no doctor; there is no one to help if something happens … I just want to stay until my baby is here.”
She said she just learned about the CBSA’s final decision Monday and was still trying to pack everything inside their Scarborough home into their suitcases.
With her other children away at school, she spent her Thursday afternoon hurriedly continuing to pack as she spoke to CTV News Toronto via phone.
She said her anxiety over her baby’s safety gnawed at her stomach. She said that any kind of stress makes her breathing becomes more difficult, and her heart palpitations worsen.
A spokesperson for CBSA told CTV News Toronto Thursday evening that it is unable to comment on specific cases due to privacy concerns.
"What we can tell you is that in cases where there are medical concerns, CBSA officials consult with medical professionals and rely on their expertise to determine if a person is fit to travel," CBSA spokesperson Judith Gadbois-St-Cyr said. "The decision to remove someone from Canada is not taken lightly."
A doctor with the CBSA wrote in a decision sent to the family, based on the documents provided, that Sultana was medically fit for travel.
"Strictly from the medical fitness for air travel perspective and based on the medical documentation available for review … Ms. Sultana is deemed medically fit to be repatriated her country of origin," the doctor stated in the decision.
Sultana said the decision was made despite the fact that the doctor never saw her in person, never carried out any sort of examination and did not wait for the results of her 48-hour holter monitor test, which tracked her heart rhythm.
A doctor, who specializes in high risk pregnancies, wrote to the CBSA that Sultana is under her care for investigation of cardiac issues in pregnancy.
"Given the late gestation and the severity of her symptoms, travel would not be advisable," Dr. Stacy Costa wrote in a letter dated Nov. 7. "I do not think she is safe for travel and I do not recommend any long distance travel at this time."
The Government of Canada website itself recommends that the safest time for travel for pregnant woman is between 18 and 24 weeks, and asks them to consult their own health care provider if they decide to travel later.
Sultana said she is 32 weeks pregnant and in her third trimester of pregnancy.
"Most common obstetric emergencies occur in the first and third trimesters," the Government of Canada website states. "The decision to travel should be made in consultation with your health care provider. Discuss the … underlying medical and/or pregnancy related complications."
Sultana’s family doctor, her midwife, and her specialist Dr. Costa all wrote letters to CBSA warning that their patient was not medically fit for travel due to her heart condition.
She said that she was told by CBSA that if she refuses to comply with the deportation on Friday, she and her husband could face imprisonment.
Sultana said she and her husband left Bangladesh and moved to Canada in 2014 seeking a better life. She said they were looking for better living standards and jobs and for better services and healthcare for their son who has autism, she said.
The couple's daughters, who are three years old and fifteen months old, were both born in Canada.
On Oct. 4, the immigration officer looking over their case denied their permanent residency application on humanitarian and compassionate grounds saying that with some struggle the family could reintegrate in Bangladesh and eventually find jobs and services for their son.
Sultana's husband said he is employed with the Fred Victor Centre in an accounting analyst position. The organization, which supports homeless and low-income residents in Toronto, wrote a letter to the immigration minister advocating for the family’s stay.
More than 12.000 people have signed an online petition asking for the family to remain in Canada.
Sultana’s flight will depart from Toronto Pearson International Airport at around 11:35 a.m. Friday.