In Canada, even being a criminal and gouging a person's eye out is not enough to get deported.
CBC News - Manitoba - Somali linked to violent gang stays in Canada
Somali linked to violent gang stays in Canada
'He's a changed man,' counsellor testifies
Last Updated: Sunday, February 21, 2010 | 4:40 PM CT Comments110Recommend46
By James Turner, CBC News
A Somali man with a violent criminal past who police believe has ties to a feared Winnipeg street gang will not be deported from Canada, the Immigration and Refugee Board has ruled.
A deportation order against Oboc Peter Amon, 24, has been stayed and may be withdrawn completely if Amon successfully follows a raft of strict conditions for the next five years, IRB member Douglas Cochran ruled in a decision made public on Friday.
Amon had been ordered deported based on recent convictions for aggravated assault and assault with a weapon — offences he served time in jail for.
Amon appealed his deportation on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, claiming he had made great efforts to overcome a three-year-long addiction to crack cocaine that fuelled his criminal behaviour.
'He's a nice guy. Great guy.'—Teen Challenge counsellor Steve SolomonCochran agreed to stay the order, saying Amon's successful completion of a tough faith-based rehabilitation program called Teen Challenge, combined with his efforts to stay in school and hold down a job, sufficed to show he should be allowed conditionally to remain in the country.
From now until early 2015, Amon must meet with a Canada Border Services agent every month, continue to live with his father in Winnipeg's Transcona neighbourhood and not knowingly associate with criminals. Other conditions of the reprieve include that he not use drugs or alcohol, and continue going to school or work.
Amon's deportation order would likely be renewed if he were convicted of a crime carrying a sentence of six months or more, according to Canadian immigration rules
Police claim gang links
At a hearing in January, a former Winnipeg police organized crime detective presented evidence to back up the department's belief that Amon is a member of the African Mafia street gang.
'On the balance of probabilities it has not been proven that [Amon] was a street gang member or associate.'—IRB member Douglas CochranThe gang, which has operated in the West End and downtown areas of the city since 2005, is made up of immigrants from war-torn East African countries. Police say the gang's main interest is to profit from and control the sale of crack cocaine in the city.
The gang was formed as a splinter group of the Mad Cowz street gang after some members believed the leadership of the Mad Cowz group didn't do enough to avenge the gang-related shooting death of Sirak (Shaggy) Rezene — a friend of Amon — in 2004.
Const. William Degroot told Cochran that "several confidential sources" in the street gang underworld pegged Amon as a member of the group, but one who hadn't been seen on the streets for a considerable period of time.
Degroot also testified that Amon had been arrested a number of times in the company of high-ranking African Mafia and Mad Cowz members, and that Amon's admission of membership was recorded on a booking sheet after an arrest.
Degroot added that police believe Amon's assault on a fellow inmate at Manitoba's Headingley Correctional Centre in 2007 — the inmate lost an eye after Amon stabbed him with a pen — was done to elevate his status in the gang and intimidate corrections officers.
Amon disputed this, saying the assault was done out of anger and frustration, not at the behest of a gang. The blinding of the inmate was an accident, Amon said.
'I wasn't aiming'
"I wasn't aiming … [the victim] moved the wrong way, it hit the wrong place," Amon testified at the hearing. He also said he didn't know that many of the people he was hanging out with were gang members or associates.
"There is no evidence before me … that the victim had any gang associations, either rival or otherwise, or that any of [Amon's] actions are more likely gang motivated, as opposed to an irrational lashing out," Cochran concluded.
"On the balance of probabilities it has not been proven that [Amon] was a street gang member or associate," he added.
He did say, however, that he found Amon's testimony suggesting he didn't know the people he was hanging around with were gang members "disingenuous."
"His claimed ignorance is not credible. I conclude [Amon] was attempting to cast the most positive light on his interaction with gang members and knowledge of street gang activity by underplaying his knowledge of street gang activity in Winnipeg.
"While I have not accepted … that [Amon] was a member of the African Mafia street gang, it is clear that he made a home for himself in that milieu. If not an active member, he acquiesced in the drug trafficking activities of gang members and associated himself with these gang members as would benefit someone addicted to crack cocaine," Cochran said.
Rehab program credited
It appears Amon's completion of the Christian faith-based Teen Challenge program weighed heavily in Cochran's decision to stay the deportation. Teen Challenge describes itself as a 12-month residential treatment program for men over 18 that mixes counselling, education, religious study and job training to help clients overcome addictions and lead more productive lives.
"He was a model participant," Cochran said. "[Amon] followed through with the Teen Challenge program, one that is both arduous and focused on making life changes for the better."
At the January hearing, a counsellor gave a glowing review of what Amon had achieved in his year there. According to Steve Solomon, Amon worked his way up to become a program supervisor, and was "pretty much flawless in his acceptance of responsibilities."
"There was no discussion about it," Solomon testified. "He did what he needed to do. He's a nice guy. Great guy," Solomon said.
"He wanted to be all he could be in the program … he was deeply repentant for the life, the choices he made previously," he said.
"There is no question he was living a bad lifestyle," Solomon said. "But the different thing is that Mr. Amon got the opportunity to turn his life around … he's a changed man."