Konaté has felled trees for Hydro-Québec, sorted trash in waste management centres, and, most recently, tended to and cleaned the rooms of COVID-positive patients at three long-term care homes. He caught the disease in late April while doing so.
But even though the province brokered a deal with the federal government to guarantee residency for many of the asylum seekers who laboured in Quebec’s beleaguered long-term care homes, Konaté faces deportation as soon as flights to Ivory Coast are once again allowed.
“It’s really unfair. The UN is trying to get people out of there and [Canada] wants to send me back,” said Konaté, who was recently released from an immigration detention centre on a $7,000 caution and a set of conditions that forbids him from working.
Before that, Konaté had gone underground. His first refugee application was found “inadmissible” because of an obscure section of the Canadian Immigration Act, stating that anyone who participated in the overthrowing of a government cannot seek residency in Canada.
“It’s basically the clause under which we would make Nelson Mandela inadmissible,” said Stewart Istvanffy, the human rights lawyer who’s taken on Konaté’s case.
“Anybody who joins the resistance against the Nazis would be inadmissible to Canada under this clause of our law. It’s a crazy clause. In a democratic country, we shouldn’t have it but it’s there in the law.”
Istvanffy says Konaté, who is 39, was once a member of Les Forces nouvelles de Côte d’Ivoire (FNCI) rebel group — formed in 2002, in the wake of the country’s civil war.