Toronto Star

Saturday, July 10, 1999

Jamaican woman's deportation halted

Fate of four children born in Canada ignored by officials

By Valerie Lawton
Toronto Star Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA - A Jamaican-born woman who gave birth to four children while she was in Canada illegally is getting another chance to stay in the country.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled yesterday that the immigration department should have considered the interests of Mavis Baker's children in deciding whether she should be deported.

The Toronto woman's supporters hope the unanimous decision will now help hundreds of other parents and children in the same boat.

Baker, however, remains in limbo.

``It's a mixed victory,'' said her lawyer, Roger Rowe.

That's because Baker must apply all over again to remain in Canada, something that left the 44-year-old single mother in ``complete silence at the other end of her telephone line'' when her lawyer called to relay the news.

Baker has been in Canada since 1981, initially supporting herself as a live-in domestic worker. Eleven years later, the federal government ordered her deported back to Jamaica and the case has been dragging through the courts ever since.

``Miss Baker would like to be able to remain in Canada and be with her Canadian children, Paul, Desmond, Peter and Patricia,'' said Rowe, who thinks it's now likely that will happen. The children range in age from 7 to 13.

``Miss Baker would like to work and go to school here,'' the lawyer said.

The Supreme Court ruled immigration officers must take into account the best interests of Canadian children in considering applications for permanent residency that are based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Children's interests must be given ``substantial weight,'' the court said, noting the principle is reflected in the international Convention of the Rights of the Child, which Canada has signed.

``That is not to say that children's best interests must always outweigh other considerations, or that there will not be other reasons for denying a humanitarian and compassionate claim, even when children's interests are given this consideration,'' wrote Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dubé for the court.

The judges found the officer who handled Baker's case was ``completely dismissive'' of the interests of Baker's children. His written summary of the case, with capital letters for emphasis, shows a clear bias, they said.

Baker ``is a paranoid schizophrenic and on welfare,'' the officer wrote. ``She has no qualifications other than as a domestic.

``She will, of course be a tremendous strain on our social welfare systems for (probably) the rest of her life.

``There are no (humanitarian and compassionate) factors other than her FOUR CANADIAN-BORN CHILDREN,'' the officer wrote using capital letters. ``Do we let her stay because of that? I am of the opinion that Canada can no longer afford this kind of generosity.''

`Miss Baker would like to work and go to school here.'
- Roger Rowe
Lawyer for Mavis Baker

Two of the children live with Baker and two live with their father. All four were removed from her care in 1992, after she suffered from postpartum psychosis and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Eventually, two were returned to her. Baker's children in Jamaica are all grown.

The Supreme Court also said yesterday that the immigration department has a duty to give reasons when it orders someone like Baker deported. Immigration lawyers say this is significant because it will help people fight deportation orders.

Baker's supporters say the court's decision is a big step forward.

``It brings human rights into the immigration process,'' said Barbara Jackman, a lawyer who intervened in the Baker case on behalf of the Canadian Council of Churches.

``. . .Canada was the only country that wasn't looking at the interests of children.''

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