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Gay man set to be deported from Edmonton to Uganda: ‘I’m in a nightmare’

A 25-year-old gay man who has been living and working in Edmonton since 2018 is concerned for his safety because he’s being deported back to Uganda.

The man, who Global News is not identifying and calling “Sue” to protect him, is being forced to fly out on Tuesday.

He came to Canada as an international student and has been working as a nurse, but his work visa expired. When he applied for refugee status, his application — and subsequent appeals — were rejected.

In May 2023, Uganda criminalized same-sex behaviour. The new law received widespread international criticism and has been described as “draconian” by LGBTQ advocates. Under Ugandan law, a death sentence is possible for someone convicted of “aggravated homosexuality.”

“I have nowhere to go,” Sue told Global News on Thursday. “I’m stranded and even the place I thought would comfort me is forcing me out.

“It’s hard to explain the feeling, but right now I feel like I have nowhere to go.”

Sue and his lawyer say his refugee application and appeals were denied because they couldn’t verify his sexual orientation.

“I don’t know how to prove… How am I supposed to prove that I’m a gay man? I just told you I am a gay man.”

Sue’s lawyer Michael Battista, with Battista Migration Law Group based in Toronto, said Sue talked about his experiences in Uganda, shared evidence of his participation in the LGBTQ community in Edmonton and presented a sworn affidavit from a well-known Ugandan LGBTQ activist to verify his sexual orientation.

“Decision-makers have so far not considered it,” Battista said.

Sue says the whole process, which started in April 2022, has drained him emotionally and financially.

“I’m quite overwhelmed,” he said.

“I thought it would be the other way around, that I’d be comfortable, fine as who I am, in Canada. The fact that I have to prove my sexuality beyond reasonable doubt is quite ridiculous to me.”

“This whole thing is a horror. I feel like I’m in a nightmare and I really want to wake up, but I cannot,” he added. “I’m just praying and hoping that the government can intervene.”

The Canadian Border Services Agency says Ugandan nationals who have had their applications rejected prior to May 2023 can re-apply under a pre-approval risk assessment, but Sue’s lawyer says his client’s case was not resolved until July 2023, disqualifying him.

“Uganda has probably some of the harshest laws internationally that criminalize same-sex activity,” said Battista. “The human rights situation there for the LGBTQ community is deteriorating quite dramatically.”

Battista says Canada has moratoriums that block the deportation of members of other communities around the world to places where they’d be in danger.

“I’m not sure why Canada hasn’t put a moratorium in place for the deportation of LGBTQ Ugandans, but given the deterioration of the human rights situation in that country, it would be, I think, a very good policy move on the part of the government of Canada.”

A spokesperson said the CBSA cannot provide comment or details on specific individual cases for privacy and protection reasons.

“The decision to remove someone from Canada is not taken lightly,” Rebecca Purdy said in a statement to Global News. “All individuals who are subject to removal have access to due process and procedural fairness. They may seek redress through various processes at the IRB (appeals), the Federal Court of Canada (judicial review) and if eligible, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (Pre-removal risk assessment if they feel they may be subject to persecution in their country of origin, and Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications for Permanent Residence).”

The ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said the country is “deeply troubled by the proposed anti-LGBTQI+ legislation in Uganda. As Prime Minister Trudeau has stated in response to this legislation, no one, nowhere, should have to live in fear because of who they are or whom they love,” Isabelle Dubois wrote.

She referenced the exemption for Ugandan nationals previously barred from applying for a pre-removal risk assessment. But again, stated that only applies for decisions made in the 12 months prior to May 2023. Sue’s rejection came July 2023.

“In making decisions, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) takes into account whether an individual has a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group, including 2SLGBTQI+.

“Canada is monitoring the situation in Uganda and remains committed to offer refugee protection to those who need it, including individuals who have been persecuted on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, and sex characteristics,” the statement said.

Battista is trying to get action on Sue’s case in the next few days from the Immigration Appeal Board but Sue is left in a frightening limbo.

“Everything right now is a mess,” Sue said. “I’ve sold most of my things. Mentally, I’ve been struggling because Canada is like home to me.”

He says he’s made Edmonton his home, joining sports teams and volunteering.

Having to leave Canada and move back to Uganda is daunting. He’s worried about his safety and about being criminalized for being himself.

“My whole family abandoned me so even if I reach the airport, I don’t know where I’m going to stay. I don’t know where I’m going to go. I’ve run out of options.

“I’ll be tortured and taken to jail,” he said.

“There is a very high chance that I’ll be arrested, tortured, just for identifying as a gay man. This is really something very, very disheartening that a fellow human being can treat someone harshly.”

Sue said he’s also written to Liberal MP Randy Boissoneault, whose office told Global News it is aware of the situation and working with immigration officials on the matter.


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