A Nigerian who says she could get stoned to death as a bisexual if forced to return to her country has won a temporary reprieve from immigration officials.
Jane Okojie was to be deported today but learned of the postponement yesterday from her lawyer. Instead, Okojie is to appear before immigration officials today. Her lawyer, Kingsley Jesuorobo, is hoping to stay the deportation proceedings while he asks the Federal Court to review her refugee claim.
Okojie came to Canada in 2003. She has two children, Samuel, 12, and Marvisd, 18 months. She fled her homeland with her son after being beaten and tortured because of her sexuality, she says. Immigration officers have rejected her bid to stay in Canada because they don't believe she is bisexual, she says.
But the 37-year-old says she genuinely fears what will happen if she returns to Nigeria. Under its civil code, homosexuality is a crime punishable by 14 years in prison. Its Muslim courts impose the penalty of death by stoning, a fate that Okojie, a Christian, fears could still happen in her community.
Being in Canada means a lot to Okojie. "It feels like home," she said. "I'm proud to be here. I feel welcome here. In Canada, you can raise up your head and be a free person" compared to the intolerances and harsh laws in her homeland.
On Tuesday about 25 supporters rallied outside Toronto's Immigration and Citizenship offices to contest her deportation.
The supporters – carrying signs that proclaimed: "Homosexuality is a societal taboo in Nigeria. Punishable by Death or Imprisonment" – urged the government to allow her to stay, at the least until the Federal Court hears arguments on her case.
Her children also are in danger if she is forced to take them to Nigeria, Okojie said, because they were born out of wedlock.
Her daughter, she said, faces the possibility of genital circumcision, which is routinely practised in her homeland.
Okojie's case is just one example of how our immigration system regularly fails people with alternative orientations, said Macdonald Scott, an immigration consultant.
"Homosexuality is a crime in Nigeria and taboo," said Okojie's pastor, Joseph Akomen of the Scarborough Spoken Word Christian Fellowship.
"If she is sent to Nigeria, she will be prosecuted, jailed and even possibly stoned to death. Who will look after her children? "We're pleading with all Canadians to rally around Jane ... Don't send this woman home. Don't deport her