Supporters rally to stop the federal government from forcing a six-year-old Canadian citizen and her mother to leave the country on July 8.
Evangeline Kayanan is about to be deported to the Philippines and her young daughter McKenna has no choice but to go with her as she has no other family in Canada.
Family friends, the community and a growing number of online petition signers are pleading with officials to intervene and allow the mother and daughter to stay, citing concerns about McKenna’s ability to access health care.
“I don’t want to beg, I just want to fight for her rights. McKenna deserves everything, as do other Canadian children here in Canada,” Kaianan said, speaking through tears at a news conference in Edmonton hosted by the foreign workers’ advocacy organization. Alberta Migrant on Thursday.
Loss of work permit
Kayanan arrived in Canada in 2010 as a temporary foreign worker. She worked for a year in Ontario before moving to Alberta.
Kayanan said that while working, she resisted and reported harassment and discrimination from her two employers.
According to federal court documents and her lawyer, she claims that one of her employers accused her of stealing in retaliation. Kayanan was charged with one count of theft of more than $5,000 in 2014, but prosecutors suspended the case in 2015, according to court records. Her lawyer said she was not even in the country at the time of the alleged theft.
Kayanan lost her work permit and was unable to apply for refugee status. She became unregistered in 2015, the same year that her daughter McKenna was born.
Because her daughter was born in Canada, she has Canadian citizenship, which she does not.
With no family in Canada, Kayanan raised McKenna on her own and also tried to find a way to stay in the country and resume work.
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The single mother has also taken up activism, fighting for access to medical services for the children of undocumented parents. In 2018, she received the John Humphrey Center for Peace and Human Rights Award for her work.
She also volunteers at Migrante Alberta to support migrant workers.
Daughter needs health support
McKenna has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other health conditions that require special attention and support, which her mother fears she will not be able to get in the Philippines.
Kayanan said her daughter was also unfamiliar with the language and culture of her home country and would have a hard time, a concern echoed by McKenna’s social worker Susan Otto.
“Starting over in an unfamiliar environment where you don’t have the friends you had, you don’t have adults who know you, you don’t speak the language, you don’t understand the language. It can be devastating for any child,” Otto said.
“To be honest, this is an overkill for a child who has any kind of social or emotional problems.”
In 2016 and 2019, Kayanan submitted requests to be allowed to stay on compassionate and humanitarian grounds, both of which were rejected. Before being threatened with deportation, she also filed a preliminary risk assessment, arguing that it would not be safe and that she and her daughter could face persecution in the Philippines.
According to court records, Kayanan cited her activism and public criticism of the Philippine government, as well as concerns about the levels of poverty and crime in the community where her family lives, among other things.
In 2021, an official from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IIRC) found that there was not enough evidence to support the grounds Kayanan relied on.
On Thursday, Kayanan’s lawyer Manraj Sidhu noted that Kayanan filed all three applications on her own before he started working with her and that he planned to file a new application, citing humanitarian and compassionate concerns.
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Friends of Kaianan and Migrante Alberta also hope that public pressure on officials will lead to intervention. More than 2,000 people have already signed a petition calling on Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser to stop the deportation and grant permanent resident status to mother and daughter.
IRCC did not respond to a request for comment.