Watch above: A Montreal family is fighting deportation to their native Cameroon because they fear their Canadian-born daughters will be subject to female circumcision. Billy Shields has more.
LASALLE – Hilary Fuh-Cham’s father was known as a “sub-chief” in his native village of Cameroon, a tiny place about 20 km outside the town of Bamenda, in the eastern part of the country.
But when his father died, his world turned upside down, triggering a series of events that left him, his wife and three children in Canada fighting off deportation.
“The only time I said that I could not continue was when they told me my wife and my daughter would have to be circumcised,” he told Global News.
Fuh-Cham converted to Roman Catholicism when he was still quite young, but his father remained wed to indigenous beliefs.
When Fuh-Cham had to take up the role of sub-chief after his father’s death, it meant the women in his family had to undergo circumcisions and other practices they staunchly opposed, he said.
In December 2007, they arrived in Canada with their daughter in an attempt to gain refugee status.
“My main fear was losing my life,” said Yvette Fuh-Cham.
“I remember seeing my sister-in-law circumcised, the pain she had to go through. Just believing that’s going to be done to you, you have to leave, you have to hide.”
Their cause is being taken up by the Saint Jean Brebeuf parish in Lasalle.
“To my mind it’s like persecuted by the government, the federal government,” said Father Gerry Martineau, the pastor of the church.
“A lot of people will be extremely sad, his presence is felt. He’s very integrated into our community.”
The Fuh-Chams say they’ve attempted on three occasions to obtain the right to stay in the country either on refugee or humanitarian grounds, but have yet to get a result that keeps them in Canada – even though two of their children were born in Canada and have never been to Cameroon.
They say they have a little more than a month before they’ll be deported.
The federal government did not answer Global News’ request for a comment.
“I don’t think anyone can go through this as a parent that easily at all,” said Wendy DeSouza, a parishioner at the church.
Other members of the church say that the family’s absence will deeply affect the congregation as a whole.
“People are actually somewhat shocked,” said Laura Whelton, who directs the choir.
“Knowing that the situation when he returns to Cameroon for he and his family.”