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'So many hearts are broken': Kenyan asylum-seeker who died after waiting hours outside Mississauga shelter mourned

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Delphina Ngigi came to Canada from Kenya with big hopes for a better future.

Sadly, those dreams will never be realized.

On Feb. 18, Ngigi, an asylum-seeker, died at the Dundas Shelter, a Region of the Peel-run facility at 1767 Dundas St. E.

Community members said during a news conference late last week that the 46-year-old mother of four had waited outside the shelter for seven hours in the freezing cold before being allowed inside the building’s lobby.

Ngigi experienced a “medical emergency” and died less than 24 hours later at the hospital, the Region of Peel confirmed in a statement provided to CTV News Toronto late last week.

It also said that prior to her death, Ngigi had arrived at the shelter on the Family Day weekend needing a place to stay.

Faith Wairiym, the woman’s sister, told CTV News Toronto on Monday afternoon that Delphina, who was a widow, had come to Canada just days earlier in search of safety and protection.

“There was so much hope and now there is a lot of despair in the community, at home, there are so many hearts that are broken,” she told videojournalist Beth Macdonell.

Wairiymu remembered her oldest sibling as a faithful, courageous and outgoing woman who loved people. She was someone who was “full of life” and had a contagious laugh, she said.

She shared that her sister had quit her job last year to care for her dying father and that she was a wonderful mother to her four sons. Her nickname was the “Mother of Boys,” Wairiymu said.

“She was a mother to all of our kids,” her sister said.

“How can it be that someone who sacrificed so much for others, Delphina didn’t have to know you to be kind to you.”

At this time, Wairiymu said she’s working to secure a visa so that she can come to Canada as soon as possible and hold a memorial for her sister, sort out her affairs, and find out exactly why and how she died. Her sister said that she'd been dealing with some blood clots and may have experienced a pulmonary embolism.

“It could be a combination of things, because our body is a system. … It could be the long travel, it could be the cold and I have a millions things going on it my mind, I’ve had this conversation with my family, is there something we could have done better?,” Wairiymu said.

 

Ngigi is the second refugee to die at the Dundas Shelter in recent months. Just three months ago, another asylum-seeker from Nigeria passed away there.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown recently met with Marc Miller, the federal minister responsible for immigration and refugees, and said that he worries that there will be more refugee deaths if more isn’t done to better support them.

“What I’ve been told from our shelter staff is that they will use every space we have but demand as surged is much that 75 per cent of individuals who need shelter will be turned away,” he said.

“What I heard from the minister is that they will rent hotel rooms until they sort this out. I’m just not sure they appreciate the magnitude of the numbers we’re seeing.”

In a statement provided to CTV News Toronto, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said that it is “deeply saddened to hear news about the death of an individual at a shelter in Mississauga.”

“Our hearts go out to the family,” spokesperson Julie Lafortune wrote, noting due to privacy laws, further details about this case cannot be provided.

Lafortune went on to say that the federal government has given $10 million to the Region of Peel as an installment for its final 2023 Interim Housing Assistance Program (IHAP) claim in response to “current pressures on the shelter systems and to demonstrate our ongoing support for municipalities.”

This funding is made available to provincial and municipal governments to address extraordinary interim housing pressures resulting from increased volumes of asylum claimants.

“The federal government has also committed to supporting to open a new reception centre that will provide temporary shelter and more streamlined services and supports to asylum claimants,” she added.

Last month, Miller announced an additional $362.4 million for IHAP on top of the $212 million that was announced last summer, the IRCC spokesperson noted.

“Responding to the needs of asylum claimants requires all orders of government, and the Government of Canada remains committed to working with its partners to determine how we can best and most efficiently support them,” said Lafortune.

crowdfunding page has been created to help cover the expense associated with returning Ngigi’s body back to Kenya, to pay for her funeral, and to take care of the her children.

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Beth Macdonell and CP24’s Codi Wilson.

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