Vanessa Mae Rodel and her daughter Keana Kellapatha, 7, are seen after a press conference on the status of the “Snowden Refugees”, Keana’s father and siblings that remain in Hong Kong, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. Rodel, who helped shelter whistleblower Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, and her daughter were granted refugee status and have lived in Montreal since March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Lawyers for ‘Snowden refugees’ demand Trudeau grant asylum before election

The group offered shelter and other help for a few weeks to Snowden in 2013

Vanessa Rodel arrived in Canada with her seven-year-old daughter last winter, granted refugee status in Canada as one of seven people who helped shelter American whistleblower Edward Snowden in Hong Kong.

On Wednesday she was on Parliament Hill with daughter Keana, begging the federal government to give the same refugee status to the other five, including her daughter’s father and two half-siblings, their mother and another man.

The group offered shelter and other help for a few weeks to Snowden in 2013, who is wanted in the United States for leaking classified documents from the National Security Agency that exposed the scope of massive American government surveillance operations.

The lawyers say the remaining five applied for refugee status in Canada in 2017 and have exactly the same case as Rodel and her daughter did.

Rodel made a similar plea in May, two months after arriving, but nothing has changed in the others’ cases since then, the lawyers said.

Robert Tibbo, the Montreal human-rights lawyer who helped arrange for Snowden to stay with the refugee families in Hong Kong, said Wednesday he wants the current government to approve the refugee claims before Monday’s election.

“My daughter needs her whole family here in Montreal,” Rodel said Wednesday. ”She dreams of her father and sister and brothers being with her. Their absence is causing harm to her.”

Rodel is originally from the Philippines. The remaining refugees are from Sri Lanka and face deportation to their home country, where the lawyers say they face persecution. Her daughter, and her daughter’s two half-siblings, are all stateless, born in Hong Kong as refugees. Their asylum claims in Hong Kong were rejected in 2017 when a Hollywood movie led to their outing as the people who sheltered Snowden before fled to Russia.

Tibbo and the other lawyers say the refugee cases were filed during Trudeau’s first term and he has a responsibility to make a decision before the election possibly hands power to a new prime minister.

They argue that Canada’s delay of their case is because the authorities don’t want to risk upsetting the U.S. government, though they had no specific evidence to that end other than the fact Trudeau and his foreign-affairs minister, Chrystia Freeland, have met other high-profile refugees arriving in Canada.

They also said they don’t trust the Conservatives would agree to grant asylum if leader Andrew Scheer becomes prime minister.

However they based that in part on saying incorrectly that in 2015, the Conservatives were in power when Canada rejected the asylum claim of Alan Kurdi’s family. The photo of the child lying dead on a beach in Turkey as his family tried to flee Syria caused a stir in the 2015 campaign, but ultimately it was discovered his parents had not applied to come to Canada, though other relatives had.

READ MORE: ‘Snowden refugee’ living in Montreal calls on Canada to accept others

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Possible Kermode Bear spotted near Castlegar

A local resident spotted the white-coloured bear while on an evening trail run on May 27

UPDATE: Cranbrook vet, RCMP cautioning public about suspected dog poisonings

RCMP are unsure whether the substance is man-made or natural

City of Cranbrook starts rain barrel rebate program

100 people will be eligible for a $50 rebate for installing a rain barrel in their yard

Letter to the Editor: A message to the 2020 Mount Baker graduating class

To the Graduating Class of 2020: Graduation is an important milestone, a… Continue reading

It happened this week in 1913

May 24 - 30: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the newspapers at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak ends, 9 new cases in B.C.

New positive test at Port Coquitlam care home

Man who bound, murdered Vancouver Island teen still a risk to public: parole board

Kimberly Proctor’s killer is still ‘mismanaging emotions,’ has had ‘temper tantrums’

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

Getting hitched at historic B.C. gold rush town still on table during COVID-19 pandemic

Micro-weddings, online visits, offered at Barkerville Historic Town and Park

Revelstoke woman finds welcoming letter on her Alberta-registered truck

There have been multiple reports online of vandalism to vehicles with Alberta licence plates

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

B.C. businesses ‘can’t shoulder burden’ of COVID-19 sick pay

Trudeau’s plan should be tied to federal emergency aid

B.C. teacher reprimanded for sharing homophobic and sexist memes, making racist comments

Klaus Hardy Breslauer was accused of making a laundry list of concerning decisions as a science teacher

COVID-19: B.C. too dependent on foreign food production workers

New B.C. job site links unemployed with farm, seafood work

Most Read