Relatives of Francisco Javier Romero Astorga seek answers in his death

Family seeks answers in immigration detainee’s death



TORONTO – A Chilean man’s family is pleading with the Canadian government to explain why the father of four died in jail as an immigration detainee earlier this month.

Relatives of Francisco Javier Romero Astorga, who was found dead in his cell at Milton’s Maplehurst Correctional Complex on March 13, spoke with the media in Toronto from their home in Chile on Wednesday.

The family, represented by Astorga’s brother, Esteban, says nobody from the federal government has contacted them to explain how Astorga died, or why he was taken into custody in the first place.

“We are utterly in the dark,” Esteban said.

Since the family doesn’t know the cause of death, he said, they can’t collect Astorga’s Chilean-government “pension” for his kids.

The Chilean Consulate contacted the family about Astorga’s death, he said.

Esteban said his brother, who came to Canada to “rebuild” his life, had been detained twice by the Canada Border Services Agency — once at the airport after arriving in Canada in October 2015, and again in January.

He remained in jail until his death in March.

Esteban said the only time CBSA contacted the family was after the first detainment. Relatives were asked about Astorga’s health, and if he was on any medication.


DEPORTATION ORDER LIFTED: Honduras-born Dany Villanueva can stay in Canada

Dany Villanueva’s deportation order lifted

Honduras-born Dany Villanueva can stay in Canada after all but immigration officials warned he must keep on the straight and narrow to avoid deportation.

The brother of Fredy Villanueva, who died after he was shot by police in a Montreal North park in 2008, had been ordered deported in 2010 for a 2006 armed robbery conviction.

But Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) gave him a reprieve last September by accepting his request for a pre-removal risk assessment, which suspended his deportation. Last month, the department concluded Villanueva’s life could be in danger if he were returned to Honduras.

“Despite the risk he poses (in Canada), I believe the danger he faces in Honduras is much greater,” a Jan. 26 decision by CIC reads. “Mr. Villanueva could face a threat to his life or cruel and unusual punishment if he is returned to Honduras.”

Stéphane Handfield, Villanueva’s lawyer, says there’s a serious risk of torture by the military or criminal groups in the Central American country. The fact that his case is such a high profile one, that he once had alleged ties to a street gang and that he is covered in tattoos make him especially vulnerable to Honduras’ notorious gangs, Handfield argued during CIC hearings.

Though Handfield and the Villanueva family welcome the government’s decision, his residence in Canada is far from unconditional. Though his parents have refugee status in Canada, Villanueva is not a permanent resident.

“The (Immigration) Minister can, at any moment, review this decision,” said Handfield. “So if Dany Villanueva re-offends, if he were to commit a criminal infraction and be found guilty, the minister would decide, at that moment, to end that decision and the order to send him back would take effect.”

If the violence in Honduras were to subside, that might also cause the CIC to rescind its decision but Handfield believes that’s an unlikely scenario.

“I don’t see that happening in the coming days,” he said. “But if the situation in Honduras were to somehow change 180 degrees, (Villanueva) could be deported.”


Mexican Gabriela Villa fighting deportation

Mexican woman fighting deportation in Montreal fears for autistic son

Gabriela Villa has been in Montreal since 2007 and was denied permanent residence in 2012

CBC News Posted: Feb 25, 2016 8:40 PM ET Last Updated: Feb 25, 2016 9:30 PM ET

7-year-old Nathan was born in Montreal and is a Canadian citizen. But his mother, Gabriela Villa, isn't.

7-year-old Nathan was born in Montreal and is a Canadian citizen. But his mother, Gabriela Villa, isn’t. (Antoni Nerestant/CBC)

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A Mexican single mother fighting deportation is worried for her autistic son’s safety in her homeland.

Gabriela Villa has been in Montreal since 2007. Her request for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds was denied in 2012.

That was before her seven-year-old son Nathan, who was born here, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Winners of Lilian To Bursary Award for immigrants announced

Colombian activist Luis Alberto Mata won bid for permanent residence after 12-year delay

Torstar News Service
Human rights advocate Luis Alberto Mata, centre, with wife Diana and son Jacobo, was delighted to learn Friday that his 12-year struggle to attain permanent residence in Canada is finally coming to an end.

After a 12-year delay, an accepted refugee from Colombia has won a bittersweet battle against Ottawa to gain permanent resident status.

Luis Alberto Mata, who was granted asylum in Canada in 2003, was notified Friday by the federal justice department that he will receive his permanent resident visa by the end of the month.

“I’m really happy and grateful that the Department of Justice did something that I’d deserved for many years,” said the Toronto man, who has lived in limbo as a “protected person” because immigration officials would not render a decision on his permanent residence application all these years.

“I was sad and didn’t see any hope in my life. Now I can finally get the security that I need to establish myself in Canada and move forward.”

Mata and his supporters had been kept in the dark about what caused the inaction by immigration officials, but believed it was a result of the human rights activist being mislabeled as a “guerrilla sympathizer and collaborator” in propaganda by previous Colombia authorities.

Ecuadorian frustrated with Yukon Nominee Program

‘There’s no way to find out who’s hiring and who’s not,’ says Juan Carlos Escobar Hernandez

By Karen McColl, CBC News Posted: Apr 27, 2015 8:24 AM CT Last Updated: Apr 27, 2015 12:54 PM CT

Juan Carlos Escobar Hernandez flew to Whitehorse from Edmonton earlier this month with the hope of being hired into the Yukon Nominee Program, but he says so far he hasn't had much success.Juan Carlos Escobar Hernandez flew to Whitehorse from Edmonton earlier this month with the hope of being hired into the Yukon Nominee Program, but he says so far he hasn’t had much success. (Karen McColl)


An Ecuadorian man who came to the Yukon in a final attempt to attain permanent residency — and whose work permit is about to run out — says he’s frustrated by a lack of information available to foreign workers.

Juan Carlos Escobar Hernandez, 30, flew to Whitehorse from Edmonton earlier this month with the hope of being hired into the Yukon Nominee Program, which offers a pathway to citizenship. So far, he says, he hasn’t had much success.

“I think I applied to 90 per cent of the hotels in Whitehorse. I’ve applied to a few restaurants, a few stores,” he said 10 days after his arrival.

He said one company offered to hire him but didn’t want to have to go through the nominee program.

Escobar Hernandez, who has a diploma in tourism from Ontario’s Fanshawe College, said it’s frustrating not knowing what businesses are part of the nominee program.

“You hear from other foreigners to go to Canadian Tire or to go to different hotels, but it’s not advertised. There’s no way to find out who’s hiring and who’s not. Especially for the nominee program.”