A Courtenay woman set to be deported to Zimbabwe next week has received a last-minute reprieve allowing her to remain in Canada, at least for now.
Grace Mukadzambo was scheduled to be deported from Edmonton to Zimbabwe on Monday, said her co-worker Paul Bozenich, who started an online fundraising page to raise money for her legal fees.
The community has rallied to prevent Mukadzambo, who has applied to become a permanent resident, from being deported. Co-workers, Courtenay city council, Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns, local faith groups and other social organizations are all backing her.
Mukadzambo holds down four jobs with non-profit social agencies in Courtenay, working 80 to 100 hours a week, said Bozenich.
She works in a supportive housing program for people who were previously unhoused, is a staff member at a shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children, and is a relief worker for a program supporting people trying to overcome addictions and also for another program for youth with disabilities.
She is employed under a work permit.
Mukadzambo was in Edmonton on Friday, reporting to Canada Border Services Agency, when she was told she would not have to leave immediately after all, Bozenich said. A relieved Mukadzambo relayed the news to Bozenich after the meeting.
He said she may have to go before a judge as the process unfolds, but is still waiting for details on what comes next.
But “she’s got a reprieve, which is great,” said Bozenich, who said he believes the government is questioning whether Mukadzambo’s fears about returning to Zimbabwe meet the standard for claiming refugee status.
The GoFundMe page had raised $5,049 through 63 donations by late afternoon Friday, including a $1,000 donation.
Mukadzambo has been living and working in Courtenay, but lived first in Edmonton when she arrived in Canada as a refugee four years ago and has to report to federal officials there regularly.
Mukadzambo could not be reached Friday by the Times Colonist.
The stay in deportation is “great news,” Courtenay Coun. Wendy Morin said Friday. Morin told city council on Wednesday that Mukadzambo fears violence if she’s forced to return to her home country.
At Morin’s urging, city council unanimously supported making an urgent request to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser that Mukadzambo’s deportation be stayed.
Letters were sent to the federal government Thursday morning, said Morin, adding Mukadzambo “has proven herself valuable to the Comox Valley, working four different jobs in the social services sector with our most vulnerable citizens.”
Morin said she spoke with one of Mukadzambo’s employers who said that without her, they may have to close their program. “Grace is needed in this community.”
Although the federal government said it’s aiming to streamline and expedite immigration processes, it’s not happening fast enough, especially for people like Mukadzambo, Morin said.
Johns said his office has been working for a few months on Mukadzambo’s behalf, contacting both the immigration minister and the minister of public safety, who is responsible for the Canada Border Service Agency.
His office has flagged Mukadzambo’s “incredible service” in the community, where she works with some of the city’s most vulnerable people, Johns said.
The office has also pointed out the safety risks she would face if forced to return to Zimbabwe.
Before hearing of the reprieve, he said he was seeking a solution that would allow Mukadzambo to remain in the Comox Valley for the long haul, so she would not have to face ongoing uncertainty.
The decision means that Mukadzambo will be returning to the Comox Valley shortly, Morin said.