By Brett McKay
A Filipina who came to Edmonton as a temporary foreign worker and went on to win a human-rights award for her advocacy work is scheduled to be deported in July, likely bringing her six-year-old Canadian-born daughter with her if she has to go.
Evangeline (Vangie) Cayanan has lived in Edmonton since 2011. It's where she established her life and community, and where she gave birth to her now six-year-old daughter, McKenna Rose. After McKenna was born in 2015, Cayanan's application for another work permit was denied, and she has been living here without status since then.
In 2017, Cayanan and others successfully campaigned to secure health-care access for McKenna Rose and other children of non-status parents in Alberta, for which she was given a Human Rights Award from the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights, using the alias "Lynn" at the time.
Cayanan has pursued and been denied all legal pathways to stay in Canada. Now advocates are pulling out the stops to try to keep her and her daughter here.
"Vangie and McKenna are integral parts of our Edmonton community," Edmonton-Griesbach MP Blake Desjarlais said in a letter to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship. "They deserve permanent status and to remain in Canada. Our immigration policy must remain humane and sensitive to all."
In the House of Commons, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said that his department was aware of the case and would "ensure that the rules were applied fairly but also with a compassionate lens."
While Cayanan has no official status in Canada, her daughter is a citizen by birth. McKenna Rose also has severe ADHD, and advocates worry that without the behavioural therapy she is receiving – and with the stress of being removed to the Philippines – her health will suffer.
"It's very complicated because Immigration would say, yes, the child is Canadian, and that she can stay," explained Marco Luciano, the director of Migrante Alberta. "But for a six-year-old child, going through foster care because the mom is deported is also not in the best interest of the child. Essentially, McKenna is being deported with her mom. The issue is not just about deportation. It's about splitting the family – the mother and daughter – and bigger issues will come up when that happens, particularly for McKenna."
Cayanan's application to be granted residency under a humanitarian and compassionate immigration claim has already been denied, but a legal challenge deferred her original date of removal from May to July, when a final decision on her case is expected to be made.