Wed, July 28, 2004

Assault victim almost expelled

A GRENADA woman -- who was on the verge of being deported after reporting a rape -- has been allowed to stay in the country and testify against her alleged attacker. The 19-year-old woman, who was in the country illegally, reported the rape in February and was promptly arrested by immigration officials. Her deportation was scheduled to take place today, the same day her accused attacker was scheduled to appear in court.

But, yesterday, an immigration panel gave the woman protected status, allowing her to stay in the country and apply for permanent Canadian residency. She'll also be able to attend the trial of her accused rapist.

"Women in Canada, regardless of what their status is, are entitled to the full protection of the law," her lawyer, Amina Sherazee, told the media outside the Federal Court Building on University Ave. yesterday. "We're really happy with the result today."

The woman arrived in Toronto as a visitor in 2001 and since then she's been living with an aunt in Toronto and attending high school.

"What this case brings to light is the issue that there may be a practice, we don't know how pervasive it is, where Immigration is just not consulting the attorney general," Sherazee said. "Where the right hand is just not talking to the left hand to see whether or not victims of crime are getting their fair share of time in court. And to be able to testify if they are victims of crime and without status."

The woman said she was overjoyed with the decision. "It's like a weight lifted off my shoulders because, for so many weeks, I've been hoping that something good would come out of this," she told CFTO.

Marilyn Olavimeji, representing the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, said it was outrageous that "immigrant women, refugee women and those without status" are not safe to come forward and may be victimized again because of their non-Canadian status.