TORONTO - More than 30 Toronto supporters of a paralyzed failed refugee claimant whom Canadian officials have twice tried to deport gathered Friday to call on Ottawa to allow Laibar Singh to remain in the country.
The group, which gathered at a federal government office, said Singh should be allowed to stay in Canada on compassionate and humanitarian grounds.
"There is no greater example when humanitarian and compassionate grounds should be exercised when we have an individual who is now, for all intents and purposes, almost completely physically disabled," said Jagneet Singh Dhaliwal of the Sikh Lawyers Association.
Officials have twice attempted to deport Singh to India, only to be thwarted by his supporters.
Dhaliwal said he's "appalled" that government agents tried early Wednesday morning to enter a Sikh temple in suburban Vancouver to remove Singh.
Hundreds of supporters stopped the removal by blocking the entrance to the temple where Singh had been granted sanctuary.
While it may not be a legal issue, there are "serious implications" when government agents try to enter places of worship to remove those seeking sanctuary, Dhaliwal said.
"If the government is willing to invade and threaten and violate someone when they're at their most vulnerable ... it speaks to how far gone the Canadian government has fallen," he said.
Avneet Dhanoa, a 21-year-old university student who attended the protest, called the incident at the temple "frightening."
"It's scary because it makes me wonder ... if it's going to happen at a gurudwara (Sikh temple), what next?" she said.
There may be a valid deportation order for Singh, but officials should consider other aspects of the case and understand that asylum seekers often use false documents to get into the country, Dhanoa said.
"If there's no other basis to seek refugee status, there is that category of humanitarian and compassionate grounds, and he clearly does fulfil that," she said.
Singh, who entered Canada in 2003 on a false passport, has been severely disabled since suffering an aneurysm three years ago.
His refugee claim was denied because the government believed he did not have sufficient ties to Canada, although supporters pledged money to pay the costs of his care.
Singh was initially deported in June, but took sanctuary in a Sikh temple in Abbotsford, about 60 kilometres east of Vancouver.
He was given two extensions to remain while his refugee claim was dealt with. A deportation order was issued in December despite claims that his health would suffer if he was returned to India, where he has family.