HALIFAX – Gravely ill and shackled to a hospital bed, a woman facing deportation to England won a brief reprieve Friday after her lawyer and doctor argued she was too sick to travel and should be allowed to recover in Canada.
Fliss Cramman, 33, moved to Ontario when she was eight years old and only became aware she was not a citizen after a recent drug conviction.
Her physician, Dr. Alex Mitchell, told a deportation hearing at the Dartmouth General Hospital that Cramman has significant addiction and mental health issues, and had surgery for a perforated colon Thursday.
He said it would be “inhumane” to ship Cramman back to a country she has no connection to and no supports to help with the medical care she requires daily.
“It would be a terrible place for someone with mental illness and to show up with nothing and be homeless,” he said after the hearing.
“If she was a Canadian citizen there would be no question – we would not be removing her from this country … and I’m unwilling to participate in a solution that involves just simply dumping our responsibility.”
The Canada Border Services Agency wants to deport her by Nov. 4, but Mitchell said Cramman would require about a year and a half in Canada to properly recover. She has undergone a series of surgeries after being rushed to hospital from a prison facility in Dartmouth on Aug. 12.
After a 45-minute hearing at the hospital, Louis Dube, an adjudicator with the Immigration and Refugee Board, agreed Cramman would not be able to travel for “at least a couple of months.”
The strange case ended up before the board after Cramman was convicted of offering to traffic heroin a couple of years ago. She served two-thirds of her sentence, but was detained by the Canada Border Services Agency after officials began looking into her citizenship.
It was discovered that her family and people who cared for her after she was removed from her parents at age 11 failed to secure her Canadian citizenship. As a result, she was told she would be sent back to England.
Darlene MacEachern, executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society, took on the case and said she was pleased Cramman, who has four young children, appears to have won more time to recover.
Still, she is calling on the federal government to show compassion for a woman who has struggled with abuse, anxiety and chronic pain. She is asking that Cramman be removed from the border agency’s detention list and released into the group’s care. She has submitted a release plan to the board outlining the care Cramman would receive at the group’s halfway house in Sydney, N.S.
“She has children in this country, she pays taxes in this country – for all intents and purposes she’s a Canadian who made one mistake… and will suffer for that and will have to leave everything she knows behind,” she said, adding that the group is hoping Cramman will eventually be given Canadian citizenship.
Mitchell said Cramman was anemic and battling an infection, leaving her unable to make the trip back to England or take care of herself if returned overseas. He added that she was so weak that she could not attend the hearing, which was initially supposed to held in her hospital room but was relocated to another area of the hospital.
He also testified that Cramman should be freed from shackles she is forced to wear in her hospital bed because they impede her movement and could cause fatal blood clots.
Kim Silver, a spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency, confirmed that Cramman had been “deemed inadmissible to Canada for criminality” and that deportations can be postponed because of illness.
Cramman’s case will go before the board again on Oct. 21, when it’s expected a decision will be made about her possible release from the detention list.