11 February 2021 Posted By : Kate McGillivray

Family facing deportation from Canada say return to Portugal puts 'our lives at risk'

A family in Milton, Ont., is racing against the clock to be able to stay in Canada, saying that being deported to Portugal will put their health in jeopardy.

"Sending us back to Portugal now, in the middle of this pandemic, it's like they are sending us into war," said Eva Ferreira, who, along with her husband and 15-year-old son, has been living in Canada for eight years.

Their push to stay is particularly desperate given that Portugal was recently found to have the world's worst rate of new daily COVID-19 cases and deaths per 100,000 people — and Ferreira's husband, Armando Goncalves, is diabetic.

Diabetes puts people at greater risk for developing a severe illness from COVID-19 and is also a common comorbidity in deaths related to COVID-19.

"The way things are in Portugal, I feel like we're going to put our lives at risk," Ferreira said.

The family first arrived in Canada in 2012 after struggling to find steady employment in Europe. The parents obtained valid Canadian work permits while working as truck drivers.

According to their lawyer, their status then lapsed without their knowledge two years later, primarily as a result of inept legal counsel.

On Thursday, the family got the news they were dreading: Their application to defer their deportation was rejected by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). They were ordered to leave by Feb.11, giving them exactly one week to make a last-ditch appeal in Federal Court.

"We love Canada, we're hopeful that we can stay. But we are running out of time," Ferreira said. 

'Significant and obvious' health risk

The family's Toronto lawyer, Jacqueline Swaisland, is now scrambling to prepare the documentation necessary to file for a stay in Federal Court this week to put off the family's departure.

"There's such a significant and obvious health and safety risk here that I really was quite surprised that the CBSA would decide to continue the removal," she told CBC News.

Swaisland has also submitted a humanitarian and compassionate application on their behalf that would put them on the path to permanent residency, but no decision has yet been made.

"If the family is deported, it is highly unlikely that this application will be granted, as it hardly ever is for people not in Canada," she said.  

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