HALIFAX — The lawyer for former Somali child refugee Abdoul Abdi says his client was relieved — and in disbelief — after Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced in a tweet that Ottawa would not pursue his deportation.
Benjamin Perryman said Wednesday that Abdi told him he nearly fainted when he saw the tweet late Tuesday night from Goodale that said the government "respects the decision filed on July 13 by the Federal Court concerning Abdoul Abdi."
"His initial response was one of disbelief," said Perryman in an interview. "In my view, it should not have taken this long for the government to see the injustice in pursuing deportation against Mr. Abdi, but better late than never."
Last week, a Federal Court judge set aside a decision to refer Abdi's case to a deportation hearing, finding Ottawa did not take his charter rights into consideration.
Perryman said learning the news about Abdi from a tweet was "unorthodox," and he has not yet received official confirmation from the public safety minister's office.
But, he believes it means the federal government is dropping deportation proceedings altogether, something he called "a fantastic result for Mr. Abdi and a just decision."
"Lawyers like to see things signed on the dotted line and a tweet from the top of government is great, but we want to confirm exactly the details of what that means for Mr. Abdi," he said.
The Canada Border Services Agency detained Abdi, who was never granted Canadian citizenship while growing up in foster care in Nova Scotia, after he served about five years in prison for multiple offences, including aggravated assault.
Abdi, who has never lived in Somalia and has no ties to the country, had sought a judicial review of the federal government's decision to refer his case to a deportation hearing. Perryman argued in Federal Court in Halifax that the decision was unreasonable, unfair and contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and international law.
In the July 13 decision, Justice Ann Marie McDonald said a delegate of the public safety minister failed to consider the charter in arriving at her decision to refer Abdi's case to a deportation hearing, despite being statutorily mandated to render a decision consistent with the charter.
McDonald noted the delegate was also required to weigh the statutory objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act with the values of the charter, and that her decision was unreasonable and not "justified, transparent and intelligible.''
Abdi, who was born in Saudi Arabia in 1993, lost his mother in a refugee camp when he was four and came to Canada with his sister and aunts two years later.
He was taken into provincial care shortly after arriving in Canada, moving between foster homes 31 times.
He lost his native language and developed behavioural problems that advocates say were not adequately treated. Those issues led to problems with the justice system, and his non-citizenship put him at risk of deportation.
Abdi's case prompted supporters to call on the Nova Scotia government to intervene on his behalf, and sparked protests at events with federal leaders including a town hall earlier this year with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Lower Sackville, N.S.
Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press