Pregnant woman warned not to travel by doctors hospitalized, misses deportation flight
TORONTO -- A pregnant woman facing deportation to Bangladesh missed her flight Friday as she was taken to a Toronto hospital with ongoing cardiac issues hours before takeoff.
Despite doctors warning Farhana Sultana that it is unsafe for her to travel given her ongoing medical issue, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) ordered her to leave the country after her permanent residency application on humanitarian and compassionate grounds was rejected back in November.
Sultana, who is living in Scarborough with her husband and three children, has been pushing for her family to stay in Canada until she is able to give birth to their baby girl, who is due on March 1, to ensure no harm is caused to the child or herself.
After letters and documents sent to medical experts by Sultana last month were reviewed, the CBSA finalized their decision. Sultana said she was informed of the decision on Monday.
A doctor with the CBSA wrote in the decision that, based on the documents provided, Sultana was medically fit for travel.
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."
Sultana and her family were scheduled to board an 11:55 a.m. flight to Bangladesh on Friday out of Toronto Pearson International Airport.
On Friday morning, Sultana’s husband, Firoj Shah, told CTV News Toronto that his wife had to be taken to hospital by emergency run as she was experiencing chest pain and lower abdominal pain.
Shah spoke further with CTV News Toronto at their Scarborough apartment on Friday morning before heading to the airport. He said his children are being cared for by a neighbour and would not be accompanying him to the airport.
When Shah arrived at the airport he said the CBSA told him he would not be boarding Friday’s flight due to the circumstances. Instead, Shah said he is required to report back to officials on Monday regarding his family's situation. He said he was told to bring medical documentation pertaining to his wife's hospital admission to the meeting on Monday.
Sultana previously 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.
The couple’s daughters, who are three years old and fifteen months old, were both born in Canada.
The immigration officer overseeing the case denied a permanent residency application from the couple on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, saying that with some struggle the family could reintegrate in Bangladesh and eventually be able to 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.
A spokesperson with CBSA confirmed in an email to CTV News Toronto Friday that Sultana’s removal will no longer take place today, and added that she is unable to comment further due to privacy concerns.
"Once individuals have exhausted all legal avenues of appeal/due process, they are expected to respect our laws and leave Canada or be removed," spokesperson Rebecca Purdy said.
"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 before scheduling (or rescheduling) a removal."
She added that the decision to remove someone from the country is “not taken lightly.”