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UPDATE: Augustas Dennie's sliver of hope

UPDATE: Augustas Dennie's sliver of hope

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Coalition forming to help refugee claimant stay in Canada
UPDATE: Fri, Oct 12 -- Augustas Dennie is a week away from his exit interview.
 
Dennie, who came before a Canada Border Services Agency official Oct 11, has until Oct 19 to produce some medical records. After he hands them over, he will be fingerprinted and given a plane ticket. An official will conduct an interview with Dennie, and his removal will be all but a fait accompli.
 
But there is still one sliver of hope.
 
Craig Cromwell, LGBT settlement coordinator at the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention, accompanied Dennie to the Oct 11 hearing. He says that once Dennie's departure date is finalized, they can begin the process to postpone his deportation. Dennie's lawyer will submit the request, along with letters from Dennie's friends, service providers and support workers to bolster the claim. If approved, Dennie will be allowed to stay until the judicial review of his pre-removal risk assesment is complete.
 
If that effort fails, Dennie will be deported. The date is tentatively set for Nov 8.
 
But Dennie has friends in his corner. Along with Cromwell, his friend Ranjith Kulatilake -- who serves as equity coordinator of the Rainbow Health Network -- has vowed to launch a campaign to keep Dennie here. The two are planning to cobble together a coalition of activists and support workers to pressure the government to step in and keep Dennie in Canada.
 
Xtra is following this story. 
 

Wed, Oct 10 -- Augustas Dennie used to be a dancer.
 
Now, he has trouble speaking.
 
Dennie says he was the victim of a brutal gaybashing in his native St Vincent and the Grenadines. It left him helpless, unable to work and scarred.
 
He fled to Canada in 2010, seeking safety from his attackers — who he says have threatened to finish the job. Yet government officials here are looking to deport Dennie because they do not believe he is gay – an increasingly common story in the Conservative government’s immigration regime.
 
Dennie says he was attacked by a man outside a St Vincent restaurant in 2009. He was beaten with a bottle of Hennessy cognac – so severely it fractured his skull, leaving him with a piece of bone lodged in his brain. His attacker shouted anti-gay slurs such as “faggot” and “bulla-man” and stood over Dennie’s semi-conscious body with a large rock before he was stopped by some bystanders.
 
Dennie now suffers memory loss, seizures, verbal ticks and has limited function in his right hand. He also has a massive scar on his head.
 
After a month in hospital, one thing became apparent to Dennie — he had to get out.
 
St Vincent
 
When the attack happened, Dennie was already trying to leave St Vincent. He was living in Florida with another gay man, but he soon married a woman to get his green card. Dennie eventually came out of the closet and began fighting with his wife. It culminated in her pressing assault charges against Dennie, and he spent a short time in jail before being given two years' probation. Dennie says the two had a tussle. They are now separated and he says aspects of his ex-wife’s account are untrue.
 
Ranjth Kulatilake, a gay Sri Lankan immigrant who became friends with Dennie, says the marriage was “stormy,” and the couple fought because of Dennie’s sexual orientation. Kulatilake says he's met many gay men who have “hidden behind straight marriages for the sake of their lives” despite being deeply unhappy. “Internalized homophobia at its best,” he says.
 
While Dennie was serving his probation, he received word that his mother had died, and a judge gave him temporary leave to go bury her.
 
The problem is that when Dennie tried to return to the United States he was refused entry. Officials say he violated the terms of his parole.
 
The near-fatal beating occurred five years later.
 
Dennie says that following the assault he consulted with an American diplomat, who urged him to get out of the country as soon as possible. A friend mentioned Canada’s generous refugee system, so Dennie quickly sold many of his clothes and possessions and purchased a ticket for an Air Canada flight to Toronto. He arrived in the airport and, still operating with reduced motor functions, applied for refugee status.
 
A refugee in Canada
 
But the promise of refugee status was short-lived. Officers working under Canada's immigration system, which has no formal guidelines for dealing with queer refugees, ordered him deported on Aug 30.
 
This, despite recent promises from Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, by way of an email targeted to homosexuals in Canada, that “Canada should always be a place of refuge for those who truly need our protection. That is why we continue to welcome those fleeing persecution, which oftentimes includes certain death, including on the basis of sexual orientation.”
 
But Dennie is scheduled to be deported on Oct 17.
 
"I can't sleep at night," he tells Xtra.
 
On top of this, Dennie was involved with the opposition New Democratic Party in St Vincent (no relation to the Canadian NDP), which he says also puts him at risk of violence. Several of his family members have been murdered in what appear to be politically motivated crimes.
 
But Dennie’s immigration official concluded that Dennie “would not be subject to risk of torture, risk to life or risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment if returned.”
 
Credibility issues?
 
The immigration judge stated that Dennie's testimony was not credible for several reasons. He pointed to the fact that Dennie moved back into his old neighbourhood and went back to working as a dancer — arguing that if he were afraid of persecution, he would have moved somewhere safer and taken a less gay job. Dennie, for his part, says he had little money and was forced to move back to his mother’s house and take the job.
 
That official did recognize the "impressive" amount of evidence supporting Dennie's claims that he is a homosexual yet found it unmoving, as he ruled Dennie was not "a credible historian of his own personal background."
 
Citing one example, the official says that Dennie's testimony contradicts itself — he claims to have had homosexual experiences in his youth, yet later he says he wasn't gay until after marrying his wife. Dennie, speaking with Xtra, made clear that he had homosexual experiences while in St Vincent but did not come out of the closet fully until he was in Florida.
 
Kulatilake, Dennie's friend, is incredulous. “What do these people know about credibility? Can the 'Canadian standards' of 'credibility' be applied wholesale in such cases as Augustas's?”
 
The official states that even if he were to accept Dennie's orientation, there is no proof that he faces danger at home.
 
This despite multiple letters that — on top of confirming that he is, indeed, gay — tell the board that Dennie faces imminent danger if he is returned. One letter from a St Vincent friend reports that word in the community is that Dennie "wouldn't even last a week" if he returned. Another, from a human rights association, says police botched the investigation of Dennie's attacker, who is still "on the run."
 
Dennie is now pleading with the government of Canada to let him stay.
 
"Please reconsider this. Give me a chance to live," he says through a choked voice and heavy stuttering.
 
"I live in real fear of my life because I know what my people are able to do.”
 
While the sparse documentation on persecution of gays in St Vincent may not have compelled the board, Dennie says there's a reason for that — gays who face abuse don't risk outing themselves. "Everything was hush-hush," he says.
 
But here in Canada, he says, it couldn't be more different. "It's very lovely," he says, noting he’s adjusted into Toronto's gay community. He doesn't want to leave.
 
If forced to return to St Vincent, Dennie promises to be defiant. He won't go back to living in the closet, he says. "I know who I am."
 
Yet rather than face his attackers again, he says he'd rather take his own life.
 
"It's going to lead me to committing suicide."
 
Dennie's last chance is on Oct 11. He will need to convince a federal judge that there’s merit for an appeal on his case. If the judge agrees, he will be granted a stay of deportation until he concludes his appeal. If he wins that, he will still have to go through an entire new application for refugee status. The process could last years.
 
Kulatilake reports that the stress is beginning to get to Dennie. He collapsed Oct 9 and was taken to a Scarborough hospital.
 
Earlier this year, Xtra reported on the similar case of Leatitia Nanziri, whose deportation order was suspended because she faces imminent danger in her home country.
  

Comments

This is funny because...
There is a gay guy who does nails here in St. Vincent...and another one who drives a taxi....and they walk the road freely. There may be instances of physical abuse against them but how is that different from anywhere else? Everyone that visits here say the same thing.. "The people here are so friendly" and its unfair that Dennie is going to make a whole island seem bad because of a few people. If this is true then i am sorry that it happened but its not right for him to make the entire country look bad because of it. i do NOT agree with the lifestyle but i do not verbally or physically abuse any of them...and there are many people in St. Vincent just like me.
That's not what we do in SVG
These claims are absolutely ridiculous and are the one reason Visas were imposed on St. Vincent on September 11th. Never in my years growing up in SVG, going to school in SVG(an all boys school at that) have I ever heard of any of the type of nonsense Dennie's claiming. Verbal abuse, yes I'll give him that. But guess what? If you were skinny, you got picked on(myself). If you were fat, you got picked on. If you had a bald head, you would get picked on. And after all of that, you'd then go and play a game of cricket together. To claim that there's some sort of culture of homophobic violence in St. Vincent is slanderous and is rejected by Vincentians of all political stripes across the entire diaspora. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon, spending some time getting to know what actually happens in St. Vincent would be helpful to all. Stop draggin the name of my beautiful country through the mud.
O.M.G
Any where that you go in this world you ill run into issues of sort. St.Vincent and the Grenadines is not perfect I am not going to try to covey thatci am a born Vincentian but the animals that Augustas are making us out to be it is not so. I dont know his experiences in life and I am not going to call him a liar. But they are other gay men living among us here in St. Vincent. Yes the stigma is still high but many Vincentians are small minded and havent traveled to know what life out side of St.Vincent is. St.vincent is builded on firm religous believes and many persons are aware oblivious to the fact that homosexuality is wrong and they just wont accept it. All the other gay men living here are surviving and carrying on with life. Augustas cud 2
truth
i am a gay man from Kitts and i knew Augustas a few month and a great guy is he and i also know the Caribbean and what most homosexuals face there and we can never go to the police because they wont help us in any way
Shame
C'est une honte pour le Canada pourtant perçu comme un régime ouvert. Faites augmenter la pression pour qu'Augustas soit reconnu asylant pour cause de différence sexuelle et faites circuler cette pétitio!!! dj
THIS STROY IS ALL TRUE
I am from ST Vincent and I now Augustas Dennie as we grow up in the same town and can say to those of you who don’t know him it may sound like lies, rubbish but he is telling the truth it is a miracle that he is alive today to tell the tale, of his experience as he was batten a left to die and he don’t even know who had done it. I will not go into details but I wish him all the best I do hope he get though. As I know that out of all I have read this on is genuine. And I must say if I did not know him and what had happen I would of being thing like others .
False refugee claims
Ontario can't afford to let even more poor, unskilled people come here by falsely claiming to be refugees and jumping the immigration line over more desirable immigrants who play by the rules. For example, page 290 of the report delivered on February 15, 2012 to the Ontario government by economist Don Drummond notes that: (1) Ontario’s refugee population must also be considered in the context of Ontario’s overall immigration levels and the skills required to support economic and labour-market growth. In 2010, Ontario received 56.3 per cent of all refugees accepted into Canada. (2) The incidence of social assistance attachment for refugees is substantial, at a considerable cost for society and the provincial treasury. Studies have shown that refugees experience much higher rates of unemployment, part-time employment and temporary employment than do Canadian-born individuals. Refugees are also less likely to have their credentials recognized in Canada. Refugees have complex needs and typically require more supports than other classes of immigrants. Although they receive initial federal support, provincial social services are unavoidably required. (3) Moreover, refugee claimants — those who request asylum upon landing in Canada — are not eligible for such federally funded services as language instruction and information and referral services, and thus rely directly on provincial supports until their immigration status is settled. In 2010, Ontario received 65 per cent of refugee claimants who arrived in Canada. A copy of the report is at http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/reformcommission/index.html
compassion for quality of life
we as Canadians are all guests of this country seeking a better life and the ability to love who we chose.I myself a gay man from Guyana growing up in Canada ,understanding my rights as a gay Canadian.Understanding the beliefs,the actions,corruption,treatment of homosexuality in the Caribbean to be less than compassionate.Are we now questioning his fear for his life or are we questioning his sexuality or his right to a quality of life most of us so take for granted.this man applies for compassion from us and our government we turn him back to a quality of life that will end in his demise.Compassion and activism I feel should be what we as a community ,as individuals should come together to keep this mans life safe and with us his gay community,our gay community.
Augustas Story is True
Yes St. Vincent is homophobic, and yes Augustas Dennie is as gay as they come. While I was in high school in St. Vincent, I spent most of my daily breaks at the back of the school so that I would not be harassed or fight with other students. I had former students come on to the campus to beat me, and the teacher; who is now a member of one of the leading political party turned a blind eye. When I was in the 10/11 grade I was called into the vice principal's office, and he offered to transfer me to another school, because according to him there were rumors that I was gay. Growing up as a sexually ambivalent young man, as many young people are; was HELL. Because of my experience in St. Vincent, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many gay/bisexual men from the Caribbean get married to women, even when they know they would rather be with a man, and even when they are no longer in that environment. I know for sure that Augustas is gay. Augustas was one of the first men I had sex with. When I moved to Miami in 1990-1991, he introduced me to the gay scene in Miami. He also reindroduced me to the scene when I returned to Miami in 1998. During my only visit back to St. Vincent in 2011, his brother told me the details about what happened to him. The story his brother told me served as a cautionary tale to me. It reminded me of why I may not be able to live in my homeland again. Augustas' experience buttress the stories about countless number of people I grew up with who had been killed in St. Vincent, and YES because of their sexuality. Homosexuality in St. Vincent is a complex issue. The New York Village Voice did a piece either in the late 1990's or early 2000's, that captures the Caribbean gay experience like nothing I have ever seen. They researched and explained the effects of growing up gay or questioning in the Caribbean.
Jim: IRB Adjudicators
Jim.... 95% of the Immigration Refugee adjudicators have been appointed by Conservative Party of Canada. One only has to look at their record of allowing refugees into Canada... 2011 Refugee Claim Data and IRB Member Recognition Rates... Its easy to see the liberal party appointees are allowing refugess in, the conservative appointees are not: http://ccrweb.ca/en/2011-refugee-claim-data

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