Court grants another chance to immigrant in sanctuary

A Russian-speaking man from Latvia who has spent more than a decade in Canada, including nearly three years in sanctuary in a Newfoundland church, will get another chance to become a permanent resident, a federal judge has ruled.

Justice Douglas R. Campbell ruled Feb. 7 that 51-year-old Aleksejs Vitaly Kolosovs will get another hearing before a different visa officer to determine whether he should be allowed to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

In court documents, Kolosovs argues that to send him back to Latvia would be an emotional and financial hardship to his four Canada-born grandchildren, one of whom has diabetes. Kolosovs also claims it would be difficult for him to find a job in Latvia because he does not speak Latvian and is not a citizen.

Kolosovs, who was born in Russia, came to Canada in 1997 working aboard a fishing boat. When the boat’s owners went bankrupt, he stayed in St. John’s, the provincial capital of Newfoundland and Labrador. With valid work permits, he found employment in the area, but several applications to stay in Canada were denied. Kolosovs was scheduled to be deported in April 2005, but sought sanctuary in West End Baptist Church in St. John’s, where he has lived since.

In his ruling, Campbell wrote that the visa officer who reviewed Kolosovs’ application lacked sensitivity to the needs of the grandchildren and breached due process by not giving Kolosovs an opportunity to respond to evidence used in denying permanent residency.

Kolosovs’ son, the father of the four children, was deported to Latvia in 2005. Since then, the elder Kolosovs has been the children’s father figure and has provided financial support for them.

Although acknowledging that deporting Kolosovs would be difficult on his grandchildren, the visa officer wrote that “family separation is within the normal consequences of the removal of someone who has no recognized status to remain in Canada,” according to court documents. The officer also noted that Kolosovs has a daughter and son in Latvia.

The visa officer also challenged Kolosovs’ claim regarding Latvia’s lanuage law and the difficulty ethnic Russians have in finding work.

“I could find nothing in my research that would allow me to conclude that they are denied employment as a general rule,” the visa officer concluded, according to the court documents.

Kolosovs’ case has garnered coverage from Canadian media including the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and the St. John’s-based newspaper The Independent.

His case also has earned support from the Refugee Immigrant Advisory Board of St. John’s.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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