In Canada for 7 years, family fights deportation to Nigeria

Adepeju Makinde said her husband's detention as they await removal from Canada has been traumatizing. (Nick Persaud/CBC - image credit)
Adepeju Makinde said her husband's detention as they await removal from Canada has been traumatizing. (Nick Persaud/CBC - image credit)

After six years living in Ottawa, a father with Canadian-born children is waiting in jail as he, his wife and one daughter face deportation to Nigeria.

Dapo Makinde was detained on June 25, two days before his family was required to report for deportation, and is now being held at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre.

The African Canadian Association of Ottawa is fighting for the Makinde family to stay. It says removing them would uproot a family with deep ties to Canada formed while waiting for applications to inch through the bureaucracy.

Hector Addison, the association's head, said jailing Dapo Makinde is "completely unacceptable."

"I think it's too harsh to be putting people who have been in this country for seven years or more, contributing to the economy of this country, in jail simply because they felt they have not been preparing themselves to leave," he said.

Bid for refugee status rejected

The Makindes first came to Canada with their Nigerian-born one-year-old daughter in 2017, crossing over from the United States over Roxham Road in Quebec. They moved to Ottawa in 2018.

Adepeju Makinde said the family fled Nigeria to escape pressure from her husband's relatives to perform a genital cutting procedure on their young daughter. Upon arriving in Canada, she said their bid for refugee status was rejected after a hearing.

According to Adepeju, officials said they had alternatives to coming to Canada, since they could have moved to another part of Nigeria.

After their appeals were also rejected, the family submitted an application to stay in Canada as permanent residents under humanitarian and compassionate considerations, Adepeju said. They've been waiting almost three years, since October 2021, for a response.

'He's not a criminal'

She said they have received no written response to date, though officials verbally told her husband in jail that the application was also rejected.

The family's removal from Canada was scheduled in May, and they were required to report for deportation on June 27.

Adepeju said the couple met with officials on June 25 and said Dapo was asked to remain. She said they detained him while she sat waiting in the car.

Adepeju said officials cited the family's lack of preparation to leave Canada. Addison explained that they hadn't yet secured passports for their youngest children or sold their house.

"It's been a very terrible situation," she said. "I just hope they can at least please release him. He's not a criminal."

Dapo had a medical episode on June 27 as he was to fly out, said Adepeju and Addison. He remains at the OCDC and the family remains in Ottawa awaiting a new removal date, though the removal order remains in place.

Ontario had previously announced that it's ending its agreement with the Canadian Border Services Agency to allow immigration detentions in provincial jails, but it later extended it until at least the end of this month.

Application wait times called 'troubling'

Addison is pushing for the immigration minister to intervene. He said he should take into account the roots the Makinde family has put down in Canada. Both are employed and own a house in Barrhaven. They volunteer. Their two younger children, aged 2 and 5, were born in Canada.

"Having been here since 2017, they never thought they would be going back home in 2024, especially after building a life here and contributing so much to the economy and the community," he said.

He said the family didn't let the long timelines for immigration procedures stop them from integrating into their new community.

"It's been delayed, and when you have somebody in the country, who's waited this very long time before they get to know the results of their case, that is troubling," he said.

Hector Addison of the African Canadian Association of Ottawa calls Dapo Makinde's detention "completely unacceptable."
Hector Addison of the African Canadian Association of Ottawa calls Dapo Makinde's detention "completely unacceptable."

Hector Addison of the African Canadian Association of Ottawa calls Dapo Makinde's detention 'completely unacceptable.' (Nick Persaud/CBC)

The two younger children are not required to leave Canada, but Adepeju cannot bear the prospect of leaving them behind or of bringing them to a country they've never known, and where she sees few prospects. In her view, it's an impossible choice.

"Going back is not an option. You can imagine being in a country for over seven years," she said. "You've invested seven years of your life in a country and then the country just turns their back on you and tells you, we don't want you anymore, you have to go."

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) would not comment on the specifics of the family's case. IRCC estimates average wait times for applications under humanitarian and compassionate grounds at 24 months.

Uprooting families 'heartbreaking,' says lawyer

Immigration lawyer Anne-Cécile Khouri-Raphael said those timelines can vary drastically from case to case.

"I've had cases granted in over four years. I've had cases granted in less than a month," she said.

"It's not always possible to understand why a case gets stuck and a case doesn't. But three years is absolutely not atypical."

In her view, those timelines are "incredibly long" for those left waiting in limbo. She said it leaves families in distress and called it "heartbreaking."

"It means that it's incredibly complex for the whole family," she said. "They've been separated from their country of origin for a longer period of time. They often don't have connections there anymore. So the longer you wait, the longer you hope, and the longer you detach from your country of origin."

Detention is last resort, CBSA says

Jeffrey Macdonald, a communications advisor with IRCC, said processing times vary depending on complexity, security screening, how easily information can be verified and other factors.

He said officials look at how settled a person is in Canada and the best interest of children involved when assessing applications under humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

In an email statement, CBSA said it has a legal obligation to remove all foreign nationals inadmissible to Canada who have a removal order in force.

It says there are "multiple steps built into the process to ensure procedural fairness" and that it only takes action once all legal avenues have been exhausted.

It says detention is a measure of last resort, but declined to comment on the specifics of Dapo Makinde's case for privacy reasons.

"The decision to detain a person is not taken lightly and is subject to a review," it said.