After 13 challenging years battling to stay in Canada, Nick Cooper may have finally lost the fight to prove to the government he is a changed man.
Cooper was involved in a white supremacist organization near London, England in the 1990s, but a change of heart by way of a maternity ward conversion flipped his ideas on their head.
When his wife and daughter’s life were saved by a doctor of Indian descent and a nurse who was Afro-Caribbean during an emergency C-section, Cooper suddenly recognized the insanity of his extremist worldview.
All these years in Chilliwack and Cooper now works to feed the homeless, teach love and acceptance, and generally be a positive force for inclusion in the community. He is part of a group of people who have left extremist groups called Life After Hate, he’s involved with Cycling4Diversity, and more locally, a Facebook group called Inclusion Chilliwack.
In August, a Tweet of Cooper’s went viral around the world after he painted over a swastika adorned with racist language under a bridge at Eagle Landing. That Tweet received more than 350,000 likes in just four days.
But despite the father of three saying he is a changed man, despite testimonials from dozens of friends and supporters, on Monday the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) ordered Cooper out of Canada by Nov. 30.
Can you imagine being separated from your kids? All because of mistakes made as an angry, young man? Joining a hate group was a mistake Nick Cooper made. He’s been fighting against hate and for Diversity ever since. #KeepNickCooperinCanada @HonAhmedHussen @JustinTrudeau #LoveWins— @staceywakelin (@staceywakelin) November 7, 2018
“Since I’ve been here I haven’t had so much as a parking ticket,” Cooper says. “This has been going on and on and on, and it’s had such a terrible effect on the family.”
Cooper and his wife have three children who were very young when they arrived in Canada in June 2006. Holly is now 16, Ostara is 14, and his son Tyr is 13.
“My kids are absolutely devastated,” he said. “I suffer terribly from mental health issues. I see them crying and then the floods of tears come out.”
Cooper does have a criminal record in England, although he says it is unrelated to racist activity. And in 2006 the Canadian government said it was OK for him to come to this country.
Two years after being in Chilliwack, he was called in for a four-hour interview with Criminal Intelligence Service Canada. He said he was told they were happy to let him stay, but since then his file has shuffled around at CBSA at the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
Cooper was finally ordered deported and on Monday he had a final pre-risk assessment hearing with CBSA. That hearing was to decide if his life would be in danger if he is deported. His lawyer asked for a 90-day deferral, but was denied. He then pleaded to have until Jan. 1 so he could spend Christmas with his family, but that too was denied.
He said his lawyer told him that officials say CBSA has had pressure from Ottawa to crack down on cases like his so the country is seen to be firm in the eyes of the U.S., where immigration is a hot-button issue right now.
As for his safety back in England, he’s not sure, but he knows there may be some far left groups who will not be happy to see a former right wing extremist back in town. But worse than that, his former friends in those extremist groups certainly won’t appreciate the badmouthing he’s done of their cause over the last decade and a half.
Those who he once hated may think he hasn’t changed, and those he once plotted with might believe he has changed.
“I feel like that’s put me in danger,” he said, adding that he has truly changed despite what some might think.
Of particular concern is an English-based group similar to Life after Hate called Hope not Hate. Cooper said it’s run by Matthew Collins, a man similarly once in a violent extremist group who had a change of heart. But Collins testified via phone at Cooper’s June deportation hearing, and clearly he doesn’t believe he’s changed.
A day after the hearing with CBSA on Monday, Cooper was mentioned on the Hope not Hate site, described as a “convicted thug and football hooligan” who “is expected back on British soil any day now.”
Cooper doesn’t understand how Collins could have known so quickly that he was ordered deported, and he also fears that these public words on an English website could further put him in danger in the UK.
“I’m not entirely sure that is something to look forward to,” the web story says, “but it certainly does strengthen the argument in keeping traveling nazis away from where they are not wanted.”
Asked about the posting and whether Collins or other at Hope not Hate didn’t believe Cooper had changed, no one responded before going to press.
Cooper insists he has changed and he has 13 years of positive work in Canada to show for it.
“I’ve always had the opinion that people can change. I had a friend who was on heroin and he recovered, and I’ve seen him change. I really believe people can change.”
The deadline for Cooper to leave is the end of the month, but his supporters aren’t giving up. A petition has been created to send to Ahmed Hessen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. Cooper met with Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl recently, and Strahl told him he made contact with the ministry about Cooper’s case.
Friends are posting images of themselves on social media with messages such as “I believe in Nick Cooper” and using the hashtag #KeepNickCooperinCanada.
But if all fails, Cooper will likely leave his wife and two daughters behind so they are not torn out of school. His son, Tyr, however, may come with him.
“He and I have always been close, best buddies,” Cooper said, adding that he hopes putting the word out about his case may at least help this from happening to others.
“It was a lifetime ago that we came here, and now we have to go, all connected to allegations from 1991, another lifetime ago,” he said.
“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
This is my friend Nick. Despite being a social justice activist in our community fighting hate every day to make amends for his past life in a hate group, he is being deported this month. Stop this. #KeepNickCooperInCanada @HonAhmedHussen @markstrahl @RalphGoodale @JustinTrudeau pic.twitter.com/R1AcK2rCr7— Mom4Inclusion (@Mom4Inclusion) November 8, 2018