Deported after life in Canada, father sues Ottawa

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

Every day for the past 18 months, Tavis Lamprell has woken up, sat on a twin bed thousands of kilometres from his own, and wondered when he'll be able to go home.

Home. Even though Canada evicted him, he still calls it that.

Mr. Lamprell, 37, had been a permanent resident of Canada since arriving from Australia as a nine-month-old with his Canadian mother and Australian father in 1971.

That's why news two years ago that he was being deported to his country of birth because of a government agency's relatively minor procedural error - not verifying his status in Canada after a few brushes with the Canadian legal system - came as a surprise.

That error has left Mr. Lamprell struggling to find work in a country where he knows no one and is thousands of kilometres from his daughter.

Permanent residents, according to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, cannot automatically be deported as a result of a conviction in Canada. They are eligible for a hearing in front of an immigration judge and are to be informed of their right to appeal.

Mr. Lamprell's lawyer, Lorne Waldman, alleges in a $2.5-million lawsuit filed last week against the government that his client was wrongly deported.

"They issued the deportation order under provisions that apply to foreign nationals, not permanent residents. They used the wrong section and the wrong procedure [under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act]."

What's more, the crimes Mr. Lamprell is convicted of - including theft under $5,000, breach of a recognizance order and an assault in which he threw a half-empty Tim Hortons coffee cup at a wall during an argument with his girlfriend - aren't considered grounds for deporting a permanent resident, Mr. Waldman said.

The suit also alleges officials did not consider the interests of Mr. Lamprell's daughter.

Derek Mellon, a spokesman for the Canada Border Services Agency, said he could not discuss the case because of privacy issues.

"What we can say is that any person subject to a removal order can appeal or judicially review his or her removal decision."

A judicial review of the deportation order has been set for Jan. 17, when the Federal Court will consider setting it aside and giving Mr. Lamprell his permanent resident status back.

Mr. Lamprell, a contract roofer, grew up in Ottawa, Kingston and Toronto. He got married and his daughter Natasha was born in 1994.

His marriage ended, but Mr. Lamprell won full custody of Natasha in 2002. They moved in with his girlfriend, Robyn Armstrong, in Ajax, Ont.

He was starting a contracting company, with jobs and employees already lined up.

In October of 2005, the CBSA asked him to report for an interview.

"The officer ... left the room and then comes back in, telling me he's issuing me this deportation order because I'm a foreign national and I've had a criminal conviction," Mr. Lamprell recalled from Carlton, Australia.

"I freaked out and was like, 'What are you talking about? I'm a permanent resident.' I had my original passport - the one I travelled on in 1971 because I never had another one since then - and inside it's stamped 'Landed Immigrant.' I tried to show it to him, but he said, 'I don't want to see it. It's an old passport.' "

He said that without a lawyer present, he had to sign the deportation order and terms of agreement, which included a condition that he could not work in Canada.

Mr. Lamprell was deported to Australia in April, 2006. He had to give temporary custody of his daughter to his girlfriend, because he cannot take her out of the country without her mother's permission.

"I had nobody [in Australia]. I knew nobody," he said.

He now works three days a week as a furniture remover.

In December, 2006, he received an e-mail from Canada's consul of immigration, Allan Martin, admitting that he was a permanent resident and had the right to return to Canada, and promising to look into how that could be done.

More than eight months later, another letter informed him that because he was deported, his permanent resident status was no longer valid. To get it back, he would have to apply for a temporary resident permit and then seek authorization to return to Canada. Once he had both of those, the government would pay for his flight back, where he could apply for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

The whole process could take two years. But, if the judicial review set for January goes in his favour, he'll have his status back immediately.

Even then, he said, that won't help him get back everything he's lost.

"Losing my daughter hurts the most. Being separated from my child, it's just been devastating. I can't even put it into words. It's not like she's died, but...," he trailed off.