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Student supporters say the punishment doesn't fit the crime

by Patricia W. Elliott

Supporter Muna Di Ciman holds up one of many Twitter messages sent in the past week.
Supporter Muna Di Ciman holds up one of many Twitter messages sent in the past week.

When it comes to the fate of two Nigerian students facing deportation, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

This was the message at a rally held at the University of Regina today in support of Victoria Sharon Ordu and Ihuoma Favour Peace Amadi. The pair, who took temporary jobs at a Regina Walmart in violation of their student visas, have taken sanctuary in a church under threat of deportation.

While immigration authorities accepted that Walmart had made an honest mistake in their hiring practices, the same leniency wasn’t granted to the students.

“Walmart was given the benefit of the doubt, while the students weren’t,” said event organizer Michelle Stewart.

Ordu and Amadi say they didn’t realize they weren’t allowed to take work off campus until it was too late. Both worked for the company for two weeks.

“The most common response to this type of infraction is a fine of $320,” said Stewart.

But in Regina – a city with relatively little legal experience in immigration matters – authorities threw the book at the U of R students, who were in the final year of their studies. 

For the past week, U of R students and faculty coordinated a global Twitter campaign in which people tweeted their honest mistakes to immigration minister Jason Kenney and public safety minister Vic Toews.

The point is to show that the honest mistakes people make every day deserve some leniency and compassion.

While a small group headed out into the hallways of the U of R to gather petition signatures, a rally was already underway on Parliament Hill, organized by the Nigerian Canadian Association of Ottawa.

The case has received national attention in the past weeks, with Liberal MP Ralph Goodale questioning Kenney in the House about the case. Goodale was scheduled to address the Ottawa rally.

In Saskatchewan, opposition MLA Cam Broten said the Saskatchewan New Democrats will raise the issue provincially, adding that he is “hoping common sense will prevail.”

At the end of the Regina rally, supporters agreed to hold their next action in front of the Walmart store that hired the students. Protestors will gather at the university next Monday, Nov. 5, at noon to make signs, and will head to Walmart in the late afternoon.


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