A Russian woman who fears violent persecution from racist skinheads at home because they mistakenly believe her to be Jewish will present her case to stay in Canada in a Winnipeg courtroom today.
Tatyana Lebedeva, 55, came to Canada on a visitor’s visa in 2008 and soon after made a refugee claim in Winnipeg that was denied.
The federal Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) ruled her persecution claims were unfounded.
Lebedeva is battling to have the ruling overturned and reviewed in federal court on the basis that even if she were to move to another Russian city, word would travel and a false perception she is a Jew would follow her.
“After my husband’s funeral I came back to work and noticed that my colleagues started avoiding me and treating me with hostility, whispering ‘Jewish’ behind my back,” Lebedeva said in her application for refugee status.
Lebedeva says she, her adult children and their families have been subjected to repeated acts of anti-Semitic violence and intimidation, including a group beating by skinheads in black leather jackets and jackboots.
“I am horrified to go back to Russia,” she said. “I know that as soon as I be there I will be attacked again and again and I am terrified to think that those attacks might be successful one day and skinheads might kill me,” Lebedeva said.
The federal government believes she could go back to Russia and safely live in another city, but her lawyer, David Matas, says the IRB made several errors in coming to that conclusion.