Hurricane Katrina Victim Denied Canadian Citizenship

Hurricane Katrina victim denied Canadian citizenship
Children Born Here

Matthew Coutts,
National Post
Published: Saturday, February 06, 2010

A New Orleans-born former pro basketball player who settled in Toronto after Hurricane Katrina has been denied Canadian citizenship, despite having two Canadian children who may have to move south with him if he is forced from the country.

Daniel Johnson, 40, applied for Canadian citizenship on humanitarian grounds after years of fighting to stay in the country, claiming he could not return to his Louisiana hometown, where two family homes have been destroyed by hurricanes.

Mr. Johnson, a black Jew who tried out for the Toronto Raptors in 1995 before spending years playing professionally in Israel, Estonia and Ireland, currently coaches disabled and disadvantaged youths through several community groups

Federal Court Judge Russell Zinn has upheld a dismissal of Mr. Johnson's citizenship request, declaring that despite a long history of volunteerism, he did not qualify for Canadian citizenship on humanitarian grounds. “The applicant has an extensive and commendable voluntary record. However, voluntary service is but one factor in assessing establishment in Canada,” Judge Zinn wrote in his ruling.

Mr. Johnson holds both American and Israeli citizenship and first moved to Toronto in the early 1990s. He tried out for the Toronto Raptors in 1995, before leaving to play overseas.

He returned to Toronto to care for his two Canadian-born children, Don, aged 16 and Wendy, aged 12, after his ex-wife gave up custody. He was set to return to New Orleans in 2005, before Hurricane Katrina destroyed his family home.

Since then, Mr. Johnson has been coaching through community groups such as the Cabbagetown Youth Centre and JCC Chai Sports. His Facebook page says he is currently an athletic consultant with UJA Federation Canada, for individuals with mental disabilities.

A letter attached to his application described his work as a mentor through the Cabbagetown Youth Centre as irreplaceable. “His absence would be a huge loss to not only the program but to the many youth who have benefited and those who stand to benefit from working with him,” it reads.

As part of his request for citizenship, Mr. Johnson claimed it was unfair for his children to be forced to leave their native country and settle in the United States. He also claimed he had no home or job prospects to return to there.

In an email interview, Mr. Johnson said it was his life's ambition to use basketball to bring communities together. He said as a black Jew, he felt compelled to focus his attention on the Middle East, once he had accomplished something in Canada. But his efforts in Canada have been frustrated by his battle for citizenship.

“For now, Canada is where I dwell. It has been a task, but I enjoy its sovereignty, and the importance of citizenship and getting involved with the community,” he said.

According to court records, Mr. Johnson is embroiled in a custody battle that could block his ability to removed the children from Canada should he be ordered to leave.

Mr. Johnson originally filed for refugee status following the destruction of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. When it was dismissed, he launched a request for permanent citizenship on humanitarian grounds. It was officially rejected in 2008, a decision upheld by Judge Zinn on Feb. 1.

As recently as last year, it appeared that Mr. Johnson's quest to stay in Canada had been successful. A Toronto newspaper reported Immigration Minister Jason Kennedy had approved Mr. Johnson's citizenship in April.


Related Topics :

Danny Johnson (Hockey)

Russell Zinn

National Basketball Association

NBA Atlantic Division