Blind Algerian man allowed to stay

MONTREAL — A blind Algerian man who was made to feel like a “loser” when he was rejected from Canada because he had no family or job says he’s a “winner” and he’ll prove it now that he’s been allowed to stay in the country.

Abdelkader Belaouni in his room in the ministers house next to St. Gabriels Church

MONTREAL — A blind Algerian man who was made to feel like a “loser” when he was rejected from Canada because he had no family or job says he’s a “winner” and he’ll prove it now that he’s been allowed to stay in the country.

That moment of triumph came after he spent almost four years holed up in a Catholic church.

Abdelkader Belaouni won the right to stay in Canada on humanitarian grounds after taking sanctuary in the Montreal church, which allowed him to evade a deportation since Jan. 1, 2006.

He’s used the time to make music and write.

Now that he’s free to leave Saint-Gabriel church he plans to work at an immigration centre, launch his second album, and publish two books.

“I’m happy. I’m so happy. It’s like I’m born again,” he said Monday.

Belaouni has lived in a cramped upstairs room in a century-old church building in the city’s Pointe-St-Charles neighbourhood.

The Algerian man, who lost his vision 16 years ago and suffers from diabetes, fled to New York City in 1996 after civil war erupted in his homeland.

After 9-11 he said he was placed on a special registration list because he came from a Muslim country and his passport was confiscated. He feared he might soon be imprisoned and deported so he came to Canada in March 2003.

He worked as a volunteer for several community groups, but was denied refugee status by Citizenship and Immigration Canada because he was unemployed and had no family in the country.

His lawyer Jared Will refused to discuss details of the case but attributes his client’s victory, at least in part, to the widespread public support he received.

Over the years, about 250 organizations in Quebec and MPs from each of the four major political parties have thrown their support behind Belaouni.

A committee was established to fight for his cause and thousands of people have signed petitions, taken part in demonstrations and sent postcards to the immigration department on his behalf.

“For three years, nine months and 22 days, Mr. Belaouni and his supporters steadfastly insisted that justice could only be done if he were granted permanent residence in Canada, as this was the only way that he could regain the dignity and autonomy that he achieved in Canada before being forced in sanctuary,” Will said in an e-mail.

“His victory is a victory for all those who strive for justice and dignity for migrants and refugees.”

The federal government moved to discourage other asylum-seekers from following Belaouni’s example.

A spokeswoman for the immigration department said it “does not condone individuals hiding in places of worship to avoid removal from Canada.”

Jacqueline Roby also said that each situation is dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Officials carefully weighed all factors in the Belaouni case before reaching a fair decision that maintains the integrity of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, she added.

After learning he was finally free last Thursday, Belaouni gathered for dinner with about 40 people at a friend’s house.

Just Posted

2019 Women of Excellence Awards nominees announced

The nominees were announced in Red Deer Thursday

City watching speed limit debate

Blackfalds, Calgary and Edmonton the latest to consider reduced residential speed limits

Movie shot in Red Deer and Lacombe is nominated for Alberta film award

‘Cor Values’ is up for a Best Feature Rosie

Red Deer developer ordered to replant some of the levelled College Park trees

Some residents don’t believe restoration plans go far enough

Red Deer election forum set for April 11

Presented by Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce

Local Sports: Queen’s Avery Lajeunesse not afraid to get physical

A year ago Avery Lajeunesse made a commitment to join the RDC… Continue reading

Seniors: Exposing the hype surrounding supplements

Do we need dietary supplements as we age? Do these supplements actually… Continue reading

Eight warning signs you won’t finish college

Forty per cent of students who enrol in a four-year college don’t… Continue reading

Photos: Deer spotted in Red Deer

Spring has sprung. One Advocate reader has been seeing a herd of… Continue reading

Ken Johnston competes in Sheraton Celebrity Dance Off

Sheraton Celebrity Dance Off will be held April 13

Oil field worker to show off his moves on the dance floor

Sheraton Celebrity Dance Off will be held April 13

Radio show host is Sheraton Celebrity dancer in Red Deer

VINNIE TAYLOR You may have heard Vinnie Taylor on the radio in… Continue reading

Dancing dentist of Innisfail

Sheraton Celebrity Dance Off will be held April 13

Most Read