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

Sunny weather improves farmers’ prospects

A harvester kicking up dust. It’s a picture that will bring a… Continue reading

Rural transit pilot project being considered

Penhold, Innisfail and Red Deer County councils to decide whether to go ahead with project

Red Deer fire station up for sale

Home sweet home at Fire Station 4

Most surveyed Innisfail residents give urban chickens the thumbs up

Town of Innisfail will discuss whether to allow backyard chickens on Monday

‘Mom I’m in trouble:’ Canadian, Brit face 10 years in jail for alleged graffiti

GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. — The mother of a Canadian who was arrested… Continue reading

Coyote on the prowl near Penhold

This coyote was out on the prowl in a field just west… Continue reading

Sky’s the limit as Calgary opens testing area for drones and new technologies

CALGARY — The sky’s the limit as the city of Calgary opens… Continue reading

Hi Mickey, ‘Bye Mickey: 6 Disney parks on 2 coasts in 1 day

ORLANDO, Fla. — Heather and Clark Ensminger breathed sighs of relief when… Continue reading

Court weighs ‘Apprentice’ hopeful’s suit versus Trump

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump’s lawyers hope to persuade an appeals… Continue reading

StarKist admits fixing tuna prices, faces $100 million fine

SAN FRANCISCO — StarKist Co. agreed to plead guilty to a felony… Continue reading

Annual pace of inflation slows to 2.2 per cent in September: Statistics Canada

OTTAWA — The annual pace of inflation slowed more than expected in… Continue reading

Jury finds Calgary couple guilty in 2013 death of toddler son

CALGARY — A jury has convicted a Calgary couple in the death… Continue reading

Most Read