ICYMI: Government called ‘heartless’ for deporting 59-year-old bipolar man who came to Canada as baby

It is. Doesn’t acknowledge that Canada is responsible for him, not the Netherlands:

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen is facing calls to reverse the deportation of a 59-year-old man with bipolar disorder who lived in Canada since he was eight months old.

Len Van Heest of Courtenay, B.C., was deported to the Netherlands this week after a string of criminal convictions for uttering threats, mischief and assault that his lawyer says were linked to his mental illness.

His brother Daniel Van Heest expressed his anger at judges and immigration officials who allowed the deportation to happen. He said his brother is now in the care of family in the Netherlands with the help of the Salvation Army.

“Needless to say his mental faculties have been stressed to the max,” he said. “The system is skewed. Mentally ill people should never be deported. It is wrong.”

Lawyer Peter Golden said Van Heest’s parents didn’t seek citizenship for him. The last time he was in the Netherlands he was in diapers, he doesn’t speak Dutch and doesn’t know his relatives there.

“However kind and well-meaning they are, the stresses of this whole process of removal will be difficult for him. He hasn’t made connections with people very easily in the past.”

Van Heest was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was 16, said Golden. By the time he was old enough to seek citizenship for himself, he had a criminal record and could not apply.

His last conviction was in 2012. He has been ordered removed from Canada in the past but has previously won stays on deportation, Golden said.

In January, a Federal Court judge rejected Van Heest’s challenge of a Canada Border Services Agency officer refusing to defer his removal order. Last week he lost a last-ditch attempt for a stay, and on Monday he was deported to Amsterdam.

“It’s really an example of criminalization of mental illness,” said Golden. “The criminal justice system isn’t designed to deal with people like Len.”

He said Van Heest was ensnared by legislation introduced by the former Conservative government in 2012, which banned non-citizens from appealing deportation after being sentenced to six months in jail. Previously, people could appeal if they were sentenced to less than two years.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada was unable to respond to questions Wednesday.

The man’s 81-year-old mother, Trixie Van Heest, who Golden said has a very close relationship with her son, sounded distraught when reached by phone. She said she could not talk about the matter anymore and hung up.

Source: Government called ‘heartless’ for deporting 59-year-old bipolar man who came to Canada as baby | National Post

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

One Response to ICYMI: Government called ‘heartless’ for deporting 59-year-old bipolar man who came to Canada as baby

  1. Marion Vermeersch says:

    I was appalled (no, absolutely disgusted!) to read of this deportation. Obviously, our government does not believe in treatment and rehabilitation. It seems heartlessly cruel to do this to his mother, at her age, as well as send him back where he does not even know the language. It must have been so frightening for him and could possibly cause his disorder to spin out of control. Thankfully, the Salvation Army is there to help, as our government agencies certainly did not.

    I totally understand about his lack of citizenship. I’m sure his mother thought he was, and it was never questioned in all those years. My family had citizenship all our lives, yet another government came along all of a sudden, some 60 years later,(and many more in my father’s case) and claimed none of us should ever have had it in the first place, that we should not have had the lives we did. Thousands of other immigrants after WWII experienced similar treatment. It came as a great shock to all when they found they were not citizens.

    I am very disappointed in our government, which i thought would have much more compassion, flexibility and care for Canadians. it makes you wonder, if you have people in your family whose citizenship is not “first tier” and rock solid, if they will be next.

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