Episcopal Commission Denounces Deportation of Rwandan Refugee Family

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Archbishop Brendan M. O'Brien (right) discusses with two members of the Standing Committee, Andrew Telegdi (left), Liberal MP, and, Norman Doyle, Chair of the Committee and Conservative MP (in the middle)
(CCCB – Ottawa)…  Archbishops Roger Ébacher (Gatineau, Qc) and Brendan M. O’Brien (St. John’s, Nfld) have denounced the deportation of a Rwandan refugee family as illustrating the Government of Canada’s ongoing violation of international law. Appearing before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, they were representing the Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Jean-Bosco Rwiyamirira, a widower with two children, was returned to Rwanda with his children – Angela (aged 14) and Patrick (aged 10), on 3 October 2006 after eight years in Canada. An official stationed at the Rwandan Embassy during the genocide against Tutsis, Mr. Rwiyamirira, a Tutsi, secured refugee status in Canada. He quickly made an active contribution to cultural life in Gatineau, for which he received an honour from Premier Jean Charest.

As part of the terms of his refugee status, Mr. Rwiyamirira presented himself on a regular basis to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. In September 2006 the federal department announced he would be deported immediately with his children. There was no right of appeal,

“The duty not to return a refugee to a country where there is risk of persecution or danger is a cornerstone of international law,” said Archbishop O’Brien. “The Jean Bosco case illustrates the necessity of ensuring Canada’s refugee system is strengthened to protect refugee families against violations of Canada’s obligations under international law.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on torture has condemned the Government of Canada for its violation of the principle of non-refoulement, removing refugees to places where they are likely to face persecution, which is absolutely prohibited in international law.

“This is a family from my diocese,” said Archbishop Ébacher. “It has caused a great deal of pain for many of us to see this tragedy unfold. As feared, Mr. Rwiyamirira is now imprisoned in Rwanda for the crime of desertion, his children are in the care of distant relatives, and they have left behind any semblance of the lives they have known. As a country, we must find better ways to protect the human dignity of refugees.”

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Last Updated on Tuesday, October 20 2009  
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Canada’s oldest diocese, the Archdiocese of Quebec, was established in 1674. Most Reverend François de Laval was its first Bishop.