Singh Supporters Granted Extra Week For Appeal

Singh supporters granted extra week for appeal

Special to The Globe and Mail
March 4, 2008

Supporters of paralyzed refugee claimant Laibar Singh say they have been granted an extra week to launch a last-minute appeal to immigration officials to allow him to remain in Canada for a year.

Mr. Singh was due to be deported to India yesterday or his supporters would forfeit a $50,000 bond. After failing in his attempts to remain in Canada, the 49-year-old labourer is living at Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Surrey. The bond is now due to expire on March 10, supporters say.

Balwant Singh Gill, president of the temple, said Mr. Singh needs the extra year in this country to help him recover further from a crippling aneurysm he suffered in 2006.

Faith St. John, spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency, said that she could not confirm the week's extension of the bond, but added the deportation order remained in effect.

A widower with two children still in India, Mr. Singh came to Canada in 2003, claiming refugee status because of alleged persecution at the hands of state police in India. Canadian immigration rejected the claim several times.

Mr. Singh was originally ordered deported in Ontario in June, 2006. He disappeared, only to resurface in hospital in British Columbia two months later after suffering the aneurysm, which left him unable to walk or feed himself.

Mr. Gill said yesterday that he planned to read Mr. Singh the letter of appeal before sending it to border services.

He called upon immigration officials to back off from deporting Mr. Singh until the man had recovered enough to be able to move himself into a wheelchair unaided.

“We've applied for an extension to give him time to get better before he goes back,” Mr. Gill said. “He is slowly getting better. A lot of people still want him to stay, but all legal avenues have been tried and failed.”

Mr. Gill said 40 supporters met over the weekend to hammer out the letter and hoped they would be able to give Mr. Singh the $50,000 bond money to help him cover his medical costs in India. He said that if Mr. Singh is forced to leave, there would be no repeat of chaotic scenes at Vancouver International Airport on Dec. 10, when 1,000 people successfully stopped his deportation.

Mr. Singh's lawyer, Zool Suleman, is out of the country until later this week.

Vivian Zanocco of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority pegged the cost to date for Mr. Singh's treatment at the spinal unit of the Vancouver General Hospital at $408,000 and at George Pearson Centre, a home for adults with severe disabilities, at $71,000.

Ms. Zanocco said about $50,000 of the $479,000 owed to VCH had been paid by the Interim Federal Health Program, which normally provides temporary health insurance to refugees. The program, she added, would not be making further payments, and the VCH has been in discussions with the Canada Border Services Agency and Immigration Canada in an attempt to recoup the remaining $429,000 from them.

“At the time the deportation order had been issued, he became the responsibility of the Canadian Border Services Agency, and when he fled Ontario and ended up in B.C. he still was legally their charge, so to speak. And that is why we will be pursuing the cost incurred by Vancouver Coastal Health from the CBSA,” Ms. Zanocco said.

She described the case as very unusual.

“We never refuse care to anyone, but if someone comes in who is not insured, we do try to seek repayment. What we are doing with Mr. Singh is just an extension of that,” she said.