Gift Daniel, 32 year-old Nigerian woman is now facing deportation from Canada after an Ottawa court overturned a decision to grant her a refugee status because of a misspelling of her name in a government birth document from Lagos.
What was unusual with the government’s appeal is immigration officials did not challenge Daniel’s claim that she was a victim of female genital mutilation and domestic abuse, but contested her credibility on the grounds that she is not who she claims to be.
“I have never seen or heard of a positive decision overturned completely by the refugee appeal division, where the pressing concern was on the identity and not on the merits of the decision,” said Daniel’s lawyer, Richard Wazana.
“They did not question the forced marriage, abuse and violence.”
“Gife” while her licence spelled it “Gift” — setting off questions by Canadian officials over her identity. She was detained at the Rexdale immigration holding centre for three months until her release on May 13, 2015, when she was granted refugee status.
“Identity is clearly an important fact, so important, that if not established, there is no need to further analyze the evidence and the claim must fail,” the government said in its appeal.
“Absent a properly established identity, a matter of utmost importance to refugee determination, the claimant cannot be considered to be a credible witness on the material aspects of her claim for refugee protection.”
“The RAD finds that the forged document was obtained improperly outside of the normal issuing process and cannot be relied upon for the truth of its content,” wrote adjudicator Leonard Favreau.
“Regardless, even if the respondent’s friend was able to bypass the process required to obtain a driver’s licence, it is clear that the licence cannot be relied upon for the truth of its content, and as such, cannot be relied upon as reliable evidence of the respondent’s identity.”
“Fraudulent documents from Nigeria are available in and outside of Nigeria . . . any printed document can be forged. Genuine official documents such as birth, marriage, divorce, death certificates, ID cards, driving licences and passports can be obtained,” Favreau noted in his decision to rescind Daniel’s asylum.
“In traveling to Canada in possession of a false passport and other false identity documents, the respondent has demonstrated that she has the ability to obtain and the willingness to use fraudulent documents.”
“The RAD was not unreasonable in rejecting (Daniel’s) evidence and explanations for the irregular manner in which she obtained the licences. Therefore, the RAD was not unreasonable in concluding that the applicant’s identity had not been established,” Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald said in her ruling last month.
“I was so happy when my (refugee) claim was granted. I was ready to move on and start a new life,” said Daniel, sobbing.
“It all started with the typo. Tell me if you never make any error in life, in typing and speaking. This is a huge price for me to pay.”
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