Hundreds of people posed for a photo with the Santos family during a fundraising lunch last week to show their support of the family, who were facing deportation. News came during the lunch that the family would be allowed to stay in Canada.

Family happy to be allowed to stay

June 26, 2017 7:58 am
Kevin Weedmark

Santos family gets word during event held to support them

After a huge groundswell of support from their community, Victor Santos, Lesi Hernandez and their family have been allowed to stay in Canada.

Just as hundreds of people gathered at the Legion Hall in Moosomin Thursday for a fundraising lunch and show of support for the family, Victor received an email saying his work and temporary resident visa will be renewed for two years.

Victor, Lesi, and their older son Victor Junior had been ordered deported from Canada as their refugee application had been denied. They were to be sent to Honduras July 5, where they felt their lives were in danger. Their youngest son Edward is a Canadian citizen and is not subject to the deportation order, but the family felt they would have no option but to take him with them if they had been deported.

The family was asking that the deportation order be stayed in order to allow time for a new application for residency based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds to be heard.

At 11:27 am Thursday, just as the event in Moosomin was getting started, Victor received an email from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada advising him that a new two-year temporary resident permit has been issued for himself and his family, along with work and study visas for the family. That afternoon, the family received confirmation that the deportation order that had been issued for July 5 is now cancelled.

After the decision was announced, the Let Them Stay rally turned into a celebration, with some of the people who came out to support the family literally dancing in the street.

The family fled to Canada from Honduras fearing for their lives, and sought refugee status, which has been denied.

The are now submitting a new application for permanent residency based on humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) grounds. They were asking the government to allow them to stay until that process is complete, a wish that was granted with Thursday’s announcement.

They now have temporary residency for two years, and are pinning their hopes on a successful H&C application.

If that application succeeds, they will become permanent residents of Canada.

“Right now we feel very happy,” Victor said Thursday afternoon. “The article in the Spectator started it, and it just got bigger and bigger and we got more and more support, more stories in the news, and more support again. It was amazing. A lot of people have told me how much they support us, and it feels good.

“To know now that we can stay another two years, I feel more comfortable. I don’t have to worry any more for right now.”

Lesi said it was amazing to see the community support at the event on Thursday. More than 400 people came out to show their support

“When I came and saw the crowd that was there, I just started crying and I said ‘Thank-you, God, thanks for this support, thanks for everybody who organized this, thanks for everybody who worked so hard.’

“There is a friend we have in Toronto (Rev. Helena-Rose Houldcroft, an Anglican priest with the Flemingdon Park multicultural ministry) who came from Saskatchewan.

“She gave us a reference letter when we came here, because we didn’t have jobs here or anything.

“She said you are going to the right place. There are good people in Moosomin. They have big hearts. It’s a nice place and you will find wonderful people there. She was right, people are wonderful here.”

Victor says it felt great to see the support Thursday.

“People were coming up and hugging me, and I feel it was very sincere, it’s amazing,” he said.

“The people who sent messages to the minister, the people who made calls to the minister’s office, it all helps. The minister now knows about me.”

Lesi says now the work continues to try to become permanent residents.

“Now that we have our two year extension, we can continue to update our H&C application. We will be gathering letters, we will be sending in the articles from the Spectator—all of that will help a lot.

“Right now I am preparing a package I have to send as soon as possible with some letters of support and pictures of the lunch that was held for us.”

When Victor Junior’s classmates heard that the family can stay two more years, many of them ran back to the Legion to congratulate him. “A few of my classmates came to congratulate me on this,” he said.

“I’m really glad all this turned out the way it did. I’m really thankful for all of this, honestly.

“I can’t believe this happened. I was getting pretty worried.”

Russell Slugoski says he will continue to help the family as they go through their H&C application.

“I am going to stick with this family until the end,” he said. “It’s a day of celebration to get this extension. Right after this, we’re going to follow up with Dr. Kitchen’s office and keep working.

“It’s amazing to see the wonderful support from this community. People keep coming up to me and congratulating me and thanking me. I don’t think this is my story, this is the Santos’s story, but it’s our community who put this together—Moosomin and the surrounding area, and people from far away. I’ve had support, encouragement, letters, emails that have been sent in, all advocating for this family’s right to stay in Canada.

“It makes me proud of being part of this community.

“I’ve lived here for 35 years now and nowhere have I seen such a sincere and grateful expression of people when they come together to help people in need.

“It’s an inspiration. This family has given us a gift, because through them we gained this gift of charity and compassion. That’s one of the most wonderful things about being in Canada. We can show our support and not have to fear intimidation or anything that would harm or hurt us.”

Victor says while he was happy with his extension, he feels for families who are not so fortunate.

“We have always tried to stay positive,” he said. “In the morning I felt very bad because I heard that another family was returned. They didn’t have any help. To me, I want to speak for them to say let them stay, because people are being sent there and are scared for their lives.

“For me, I want to be a voice for them, for people who need help and are being send back. It’s not only Honduras, it’s Guatemala and Central America. There are a lot of troubles there.”

Victor believes that the community support in Moosomin made all the difference for his family.

“The community support is important,” he said. “If you live in a big city you’re all alone. It’s not like here, where the whole community is going to support you. That was my concern, too, when we lived in Toronto. I said, I feel alone here, I feel like nobody can help us.

“I want to say thank you to the minister, I’m happy he was able to help me, I hope he can help other families as well.”

Lesi said Friday the family slept well Thursday night for the first time in a long time.