Vanessa Mae Rodel and her daughter Keana Kellapatha, 7, are seen after a press conference on the status of the “Snowden Refugees”, Keana’s father and siblings that remain in Hong Kong, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. Rodel, who helped shelter whistleblower Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, and her daughter were granted refugee status and have lived in Montreal since March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Lawyers for ‘Snowden refugees’ demand Trudeau grant asylum before election

The group offered shelter and other help for a few weeks to Snowden in 2013

Vanessa Rodel arrived in Canada with her seven-year-old daughter last winter, granted refugee status in Canada as one of seven people who helped shelter American whistleblower Edward Snowden in Hong Kong.

On Wednesday she was on Parliament Hill with daughter Keana, begging the federal government to give the same refugee status to the other five, including her daughter’s father and two half-siblings, their mother and another man.

The group offered shelter and other help for a few weeks to Snowden in 2013, who is wanted in the United States for leaking classified documents from the National Security Agency that exposed the scope of massive American government surveillance operations.

The lawyers say the remaining five applied for refugee status in Canada in 2017 and have exactly the same case as Rodel and her daughter did.

Rodel made a similar plea in May, two months after arriving, but nothing has changed in the others’ cases since then, the lawyers said.

Robert Tibbo, the Montreal human-rights lawyer who helped arrange for Snowden to stay with the refugee families in Hong Kong, said Wednesday he wants the current government to approve the refugee claims before Monday’s election.

“My daughter needs her whole family here in Montreal,” Rodel said Wednesday. ”She dreams of her father and sister and brothers being with her. Their absence is causing harm to her.”

Rodel is originally from the Philippines. The remaining refugees are from Sri Lanka and face deportation to their home country, where the lawyers say they face persecution. Her daughter, and her daughter’s two half-siblings, are all stateless, born in Hong Kong as refugees. Their asylum claims in Hong Kong were rejected in 2017 when a Hollywood movie led to their outing as the people who sheltered Snowden before fled to Russia.

Tibbo and the other lawyers say the refugee cases were filed during Trudeau’s first term and he has a responsibility to make a decision before the election possibly hands power to a new prime minister.

They argue that Canada’s delay of their case is because the authorities don’t want to risk upsetting the U.S. government, though they had no specific evidence to that end other than the fact Trudeau and his foreign-affairs minister, Chrystia Freeland, have met other high-profile refugees arriving in Canada.

They also said they don’t trust the Conservatives would agree to grant asylum if leader Andrew Scheer becomes prime minister.

However they based that in part on saying incorrectly that in 2015, the Conservatives were in power when Canada rejected the asylum claim of Alan Kurdi’s family. The photo of the child lying dead on a beach in Turkey as his family tried to flee Syria caused a stir in the 2015 campaign, but ultimately it was discovered his parents had not applied to come to Canada, though other relatives had.

READ MORE: ‘Snowden refugee’ living in Montreal calls on Canada to accept others

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

BC Green Party leader visits Wet’suwet’en camps at heart of pipeline conflict

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada and First Nations

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Smithers only taxi company closing down

BV Taxi parking its cars at the end of January

Coastal GasLink repeats desire for meeting with hereditary chiefs

Coastal GasLink says they’re ready to meet with the hereditary chiefs at their convenience

After cashing in on QB gambles, Chiefs and 49ers to clash in Super Bowl

KC beats Tennessee, San Francisco dispatches Green Bay to reach NFL title game

How to beat Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year

Multiple factors can play a role in seasonal depression, says Fraser Health psychiatrist

B.C. VIEWS: Few clouds on Horgan’s horizon

Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along

Victoria family focuses on ‘letting go, enjoying time together’ after dad gets dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

Some experts say this could be worse for forestry than the 2008 financial crisis

UBC, Iranian-Canadian community create memorial scholarship in honour of victims

The Jan. 8 crash killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians

Canucks extend home win streak to 8 with 4-1 triumph over Sharks

Victory lifts Vancouver into top spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

Most Read