U of T students fight deportation order
Published Monday, February 9, 2009 5:38PM EST
Two University of Toronto students are fighting to stay in Canada after they received deportation orders last month, ordering them back home to Guyana.
The students, Steve and Trisha Sherman, have been living in the Toronto area for the past seven years. Their application seeking refugee status and subsequent appeals have been working their way through the system since 2002.
The siblings applied for refugee status because of racial tensions in Guyana, Steve Sherman told ctvtoronto.ca.
"We've never experienced anything personally but there are influences in our neighbourhood and it makes you feel like you're at risk," he said in a telephone interview Monday.
On Jan. 21, the siblings received notice that Immigration Canada did not grant them asylum under the Immigration and Refugee Board Act.
They were told they have to leave the country by Feb. 11, 2009.
Trisha Sherman, 24, is just a few months away from graduating while her brother is in his third year at UofT. Both of them attend the school's Scarborough campus.
Steve Sherman said they are looking to migrate to other countries where they can continue their studies.
Sherman said when he and his sister first considered moving out of Guyana, they thought Canada would be the country most likely to accept them as residents. The students' grandparents live in the Toronto area and have been their legal guardians.
"We've always heard about the multicultural society here," he said. "We though Canada would probably open their doors to us."
He said it would take his sister an extra year to graduate, even though she's just two credits short of getting her Bachelor of Arts in political science. He will have to stay in school for an extra two or three years to graduate his environmental studies program, he estimates.
"Our family has never been able to educate themselves," he said. "We thought we'd be the foundation of our family."
The siblings received another blow this week when they received a letter rejecting a request to defer their deportation order until graduation.
Immigration Canada rejected their application on the basis that the siblings attended university illegally because they did not come to Canada on a student visa.
The Shermans attended high school in Canada and applied to the university at the same time as the rest of their graduating classmates.
"We had no idea that was the case," he said. "We applied through our high school and we were accepted."
Friends of the siblings started an online petition and Facebook group to try to pressure Canadian politicians to review the case.
The petition has collected more than 500 signatures and the Facebook group had more than 1,000 people sign up in support.
The Shermans are attending another appeal hearing on Tuesday afternoon in one final effort to have their deportation order deferred.
However, hope is fading fast.
"I'm packing. I've pretty much given up," Sherman said. "We tried very hard and did everything we could do.
"Our parents are also ready to accept the worst-case scenario and have told us it's not the end of our lives," he continued. "I've just built my life here. I love it. We planned on getting our Masters degree and contributing to this society."