Posts Tagged ‘Raza family’

By Rev. Barb Janes, Crescent-Ft. Rouge United Church, Winnipeg

It takes a village . . .

Raza Family in 2006. Photo: CBC

Crescent Fort Rouge United Church is tickled to announce that the Raza family, who lived in sanctuary in the church from August 3, 2006 to February 29, 2008, has been granted Permanent Resident status in Canada. Our deep gratitude to legal counsel, Ken Zaifman (Zaifman Immigration Lawyers), Canadian Border Service Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Manitoba Department of Labor and Immigration for finding a solution that balanced the circumstances of the Raza family and the requirements of the Immigration Act.

It has been an amazing journey for both the congregation and this family of eight – our thank you list is a long one. The members of Crescent Fort Rouge United worked diligently and persistently, as did many community members. Neighbouring churches and congregations across Canada offered financial, spiritual and moral support. Volunteers of many religions and of no religion generously stepped up to support the Raza family. Terry Borys of the Louis Riel School Division and then Minister of Education, Citizenship and Youth, the Hon. Peter Bjornson ensured that the school-aged children could return to classes at St. George School. Our then Member of Parliament, Anita Neville, visited the family numerous times, and kept the matter before the public, as did our MLA, Jennifer Howard. Deborah Gray, a Winnipegger with a big heart, made a wonderful contribution to publicize the cause. During the time the Razas were in the church, we were honoured with visits from and even a prayer service with members of Winnipeg’s Muslim community. Local musicians generously gave of their talents for a fund-raising rally.

The family sought sanctuary to avoid deportation under fear of sectarian violence in Pakistan, and for 18 challenging months the church was their benevolent prison. Parents Hassan and Kausar and the four oldest children – Rubab, Mohsin, Zain and Farva – faced potential deportation if they left the church property. (The two youngest, Mahssam and Seema, are Candian citizens.) The church’s boardroom was given over to the family as their living quarters, the second-floor kitchen became Kausar’s domain, and the Upper Hall and Nursery became make-shift classroom spaces until the children were granted permission to return to St. George School. Volunteers served as teachers, grocery-shoppers, nurses, lobbyists, security guards, language teachers, media-liaisons, fun-raisers and fund-raisers. After the family achieved Temporary Resident status and Kausar was accepted into Manitoba’s Provincial Nominee Program (thanks to Albert El Tassi of Peerless Garments), the family secured housing and began the transition back into the community. Many volunteers have continued to be in contact with the Razas, some as family friends, others running a homework club for the children.

The day the Raza family made their frightened way to Crescent Fort Rouge United Church, the baby of the family, Seema, had her first birthday. Today, she is a chatty member of her kindergarten class in the public school system. Kausar and Hassan both have jobs. Life is returning to normal, both for the family and for the congregation.

It has been an amazing journey of faith, hope, and persistence, and we at Crescent Fort Rouge United again offer our thanks to the “village” that worked so hard and gave so generously.


Previous articles

Urgent: Action needed to help Raza Family remain in Canada
Update: Raza family to remain in Canada

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Raza family in 2006. Photo: CBC

Good news, for a change. After 18 months of sanctuary in a Winnipeg church, the Raza family is no longer in imminent threat of deportation.

A year has passed since I wrote about their situation in this space. Over that period, countless numbers of people have expressed their support and solidarity with the family in many ways.

The news release, issued by Reverend Barb Janes of Crescent Fort Rouge United Church follows. She and her congregation merit the admiration and respect of all Canadians. They have shown that citizens can stand up for justice and win.

On August 3, 2006, Crescent Fort Rouge United Church made a decision to offer sanctuary to the Raza family. We did this quickly, but not lightly, believing the well-being of the six Raza children would be in jeopardy should they be deported to Pakistan. Today, February 29, 2008, we are delighted to announce that the Raza family has been granted Temporary Resident Status, and their time of sanctuary is ended. This is the first step in a process that should see the Raza family obtain their Permanent Resident Status under the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program.

We are deeply thankful to the family’s lawyer, Kenneth Zaifman, for his work on this case. Our lawyer worked with the Immigration Canada and Canadian Border Services Agency to find a solution that balanced the circumstances that the Razas found themselves in and the requirements of the Immigration Act.

The family will continue to live with us while appropriate housing is found, and as we navigate a time of transition, both for the Razas and for the many volunteers who have been working with them. For 18 months, Crescent Fort Rouge United has been both home and prison to the family, and the change for the Raza family and for us in the church will be enormous. We have formed deep bonds, and we look forward to continuing to support the family as they return to our community, and begin a new life among us.

It has been an amazing journey, and there are many, many people to thank, both within the walls of this church and beyond. A public celebration is in the planning stages, but for now, we simply offer our thanks, and share with the Razas relief and joy.

Hassan Raza, his wife Sarfraz Kausar, and their children Rubab, 13, Mohsin, 12, Zain, 7, Ume Farve 6, Hassan, 4, and one-year-old Seema, took sanctuary in the Crescentwood-Ft. Rouge United Church in Winnipeg on Aug. 3, 2006 when they were threatened with deportation to their native Pakistan. The Shia-Sunni Muslim family fears they will face persecution if they are sent back. Given the sectarian strife between Shia and Sunni, this is a credible and reasonable fear.

The Razas wish to make Canada their home. The middle two children were born in the United States after the Razas left Pakistan in 1998 and sought asylum in the United States. They moved to Montreal in 2002 and came to Winnipeg in 2004 in search of better job opportunities and more affordable housing. The two youngest children are Canadians. It is only fair and compassionate that they be allowed to remain in Canada.

Many people in the Crescent-Ft. Rouge congregation (and others who are not involved in the church) have rallied to their side. Broader support is needed, and that is where you come in.

The family faces a deportation hearing in Winnipeg this Friday, Mar. 2 and is requesting letters of support from Canadians, urging the federal government to allow them to remain in Canada. I urge you to write an email indicating your support, and send it to the Raza family at raza@shaw.ca. Your letter will be presented along with many others at this hearing. Please do so without delay.

Much has been written about the Raza family and their struggle. A good source of information is at the Crescent-Ft. Rouge United Church web site.
The United Church, which has been supporting the family, advises letters be drafted with the following in mind:

  • maintain a polite and respectful tone always
  • ask the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration to make a compassionate intervention in the case of the Raza family to allow them to remain in Canada
  • ask the Minister of Public Safety to grant a “stay of removal” and allow them to leave sanctuary without fear of being apprehended
  • emphasize that there are six children – the two youngest (ages three and one) are Canadian-born citizens
  • note that the family has been in Canada for four years, the father, Hassan Raza was employed and has a job awaiting his freedom and that the children of school age have been in school
  • copy the letters to your own MP and to Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the House of Commons (you can get their contact information here).

In addition to sending a letter of support to the Raza family that can be presented at their hearing, letters to government ministers would be helpful as well.

Write to:

The Hon. Diane Finley,
Minister of Citizenship & Immigration,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6 Phone 613-996-4974
Finley.D@parl.gc.ca

A copy may be sent to Ms Finlay’s Constituency Address: 70 Queensway West, Simcoe, ON, N3Y 2M6.

The Hon. Stockwell Day,
Minister of Public Safety,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6 Phone 613-995-1702
Day.S@parl.gc.ca

A copy may be sent to Mr. Day’s Constituency Address: 202-301 Main Street, Penticton, BC V2A 5B7.

I’ve spent a bit of time with Hassan over the past few weeks, helping him with his English and I’ve met his family. They are good and gentle people. I like them. I’m pleased and proud that they want to live here. With our support, perhaps they can. Please take some time to write your letters today.