By Carol Sanders, Winnipeg Free Press December 14, 2011
WINNIPEG — After waiting 30 years for a reunion with her daughter, having to sit tight for another 30 days or so isn't what a Winnipeg mom wanted to hear in court Tuesday.
Housnia Ibrahim will have to wait to see if her daughter will ever be allowed to come to Canada. An Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator heard her appeal in a Winnipeg court Tuesday but reserved her decision.
Ibrahim, who fled fighting in Ethiopia in 1977, left her four-year-old daughter, Mouluka, with her mother in Djibouti, on the east coast of Africa, to work abroad to support them. She hasn't seen her daughter since then.
The refugee came to Canada in 1990 and has raised her youngest daughter, who's now 17 and in Grade 12 in Winnipeg.
Ibrahim, who works for a child welfare agency, has sent tens of thousands of dollars to support and educate Mouluka. She's spent thousands more on legal fees and DNA testing to bring her to Canada, hitting snags and red tape along the way.
When the Canadian High Commission in London gave her the green light to come five years ago, Mouluka's passport was lost by DHL Courier and her application was rejected.
Mouluka, who lives with her maternal grandma in Yemen, was offered $150 by the courier company but that didn't buy her any sympathy from the Canadian government.
Her mom is now trying to sponsor her through the family class. To be eligible, children older than 22 have to be dependants supported by parents and enrolled in full-time studies.
The federal government says Mouluka, now 34, hasn't been in school full time and is ineligible.
Mouluka's studies have been interrupted several times for good reasons, said the family's lawyer, David Matas. After high school, students in Yemen are required to wait one year before attending further studies and males must perform a year of military service, she testified by phone in Arabic from Yemen, through an interpreter.
Mouluka said she studied civil engineering at the University of Hadramout in Yemen and was sexually harassed by an instructor. She said she was one of three women in the class of 45 and he violated her personal boundaries and propositioned her to have sex. When she refused, she failed his design and drawing course that was mandatory for engineering students. She complained to the dean of engineering and nothing happened. She could no longer attend classes. It was the only public, affordable university in the province she could attend.
Her mom in Winnipeg convinced her and her grandmother to move from Hadramout to the capital city Sanaa where there are more educational opportunities. She passed an entrance exam at a private institute and was starting classes when civil unrest in Yemen made it unsafe for her to go to school.
When Matas asked her what she'd do in Canada, she said she would improve her English then resume studying engineering.
Immigration and Citizenship lawyer Brendan Friesen said she hasn't been enrolled as a full-time student and shouldn't be allowed to come to Canada. He questioned Mouluka's testimony about the sexual harassment.
"She said it's a terrible, shameful thing not to be talked about then went in a group setting to complain about the professor . . . that doesn't jibe," Friesan said.
He questioned how her mom, who was married when she first came to Canada, couldn't afford to sponsor her daughter then but can now as a divorced single parent.
"It's incongruent. It doesn't add up."
Ibrahim and her daughter struggled at times with some of the dates and years she started and finished classes over the last decade, he said.
Matas said Mouluka's intent was to be in school full time; that her mom supported her; and that there have been other cases where family class spondees' education is interrupted.
The federal government is fixated on dates and documents in and from a part of the world that is not, Matas said earlier. Denying her appeal to come to Canada to continue her studies goes against the spirit of the legislation and family class sponsorship, he said.
"If you look at the regulations and their purpose, what's the point of all this? They're still part of the family unit."