The Rodriguez-Flores family marks three months in sanctuary

By Geoff Agombar – Local Journalism Initiative
The Rodriguez-Flores family marks three months in sanctuary
(Photo : Shanna Bernier)

Three months ago, the lives of the Rodriguez-Flores family shrank to a few rooms within Sherbrooke’s Plymouth-Trinity United Church.

A 10-foot by 20-foot room serves as a bedroom and private area for three. A couple Sunday-school classes have been converted to an office/workspace and a small gym space. Plus some common rooms, like the church’s kitchen upstairs.
Their message to the community and Canadian government immediately narrowed as well.

“We ask the government of Canada to forgive us for not leaving Canada, because for us returning to Mexico means death. We stayed here to protect our lives,” says Georgina Flores. “I implore the government of Canada and the Minister of Immigration to give us a second chance to stay,” she adds. “I pray every day that we can leave this church soon.”

On Nov. 8, the day they were meant to report to Trudeau Airport to be deported, Flores and husband Manuel Rodriguez and their 18-year-old son Manolo entered the church. They have not left the building since.
Their application was denied without receiving a hearing on the merits. During three months in the church, they have received no concrete responses from the elected officials and government agencies with influence over their situation.

Federal Minister of Immigration Sean Fraser has not engaged. Provincial Minister of Immigration Jean Boulet replied that Quebec’s unique immigration powers do not extend to refugee and asylum claims. Those fall under federal jurisdiction, and a Certificat de sélection du Québec would not guarantee federal approval of their claim.
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