On Aug 8, 2014 The Winnipeg Free Press reported: The fate of a lesbian from Nigeria who has applied for refugee protection in Canada rests in the hands of an appointed adjudicator.
The 32-year-old woman, who asked to be identified only as U.O., fears persecution in her home country, where homosexuality is a crime punishable by up to 14 years in prison. She’s been in Winnipeg for three months, arriving here for a conference and abandoning her plans to return to Nigeria after finding out her girlfriend was jailed and police were looking for U.O.
She went before the refugee protection division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada Thursday to plead her case, giving written consent for a Free Press reporter to observe the hearing while several supporters from Winnipeg’s LGBTQ community waited outside.
Those supporters are the only family U.O. has now, she said before the hearing. Her family in Nigeria has turned its back on her because of her sexuality, she said.
“Nobody there wants me. They want me dead,” she said, saying she’ll be lynched if she returns to her family.
“So, I don’t think they deserve me,” she added, saying she would be happy to start a new life here “and find a new love.”
Despite U.O.’s signed consent form and her verbal assurance (in English, the language she preferred to use during the proceedings) that she wanted a reporter to be present, Refugee Protection Division board adjudicator Michal Fox wouldn’t allow the Free Press to observe the hearing, arguing confidentiality of the hearing must be maintained even if the claimant waives that confidentiality.
Fox cited a section of the federal Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that gives board adjudicators — who are appointed by the federal government and are not judges of law — power to do anything they consider “necessary to ensure the confidentiality of the proceedings.” The same section of the act also gives the board authority to conduct private refugee protection hearings in public “or take any other measure that it considers necessary to ensure the appropriate access to the proceedings.”
The adjudicator decided she needed more time to hear U.O.’s case. The hearing is set to continue Aug. 22.