Fliss Cramman, facing deportation to Britain will be detained for another 30 days, while advocates work to secure private health care funding they hope will enable her to be free as she fights to stay in the country she has called home since she was eight years old.
“It’s really overwhelming. I just kind of want to go back to my room and cry,” Fliss Cramman said through tears on Friday after her detention review hearing at the Dartmouth General Hospital, where she is recovering from surgery.
The 33-year-old mother of four young daughters, who was born in England but left at the age of eight when her parents moved to Ontario, only became aware that she was not a Canadian citizen following a recent drug conviction and incarceration.
“I hope there’s people out there can see this and can help,” said Cramman, her face red and puffy from crying. “My kids are my world and I’m scared I’ll never see them again.”
The Canada Border Services Agency looked into her status while she was in custody, discovering that her parents and several foster care families that took her in at the age of 11 failed to secure her Canadian citizenship.
As a result, the agency says it wants to deport her as early as Dec. 16.
A doctor for the Canadian Border Services Agency has deemed Cramman fit to travel with a nurse by that date, despite her surgeon’s assertion that she is in fragile health and needs to remain in the country for about 18 months to properly recover from a series of colon surgeries done after she was rushed to hospital from a prison facility in Dartmouth on Aug. 12.
“If she needs a nurse to travel with her to Heathrow, well holy smokes, what happens to her when gets off the plane?” her lawyer John O’Neill said during the hearing, adding that the agency’s physician did not examine Cramman and did not review her medical records.
The Elizabeth Fry Society has asked that Cramman be removed from the border agency’s detention list and released into the group’s care.
It has said it will help Cramman address long-standing mental health issues, and a drug addiction that set in following years of physical and sexual abuse. In the worst instance, Cramman says she was sexually assaulted and tortured for hours on Christmas Day when she was 16.
The society had submitted a release plan to the board outlining the care she would receive at its halfway house in Sydney, N.S., but the hearing heard that the plan was not viable because it didn’t include funding for her health needs.
O’Neill recommended Friday that she remain on the detention list for another 30 days while advocates work to secure private funding, as federal agencies would not pay for her health care should she be released.
Emma Halpern, a regional advocate with the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, estimates Cramman’s health care needs will cost about $1,000 per month. She said Cramman could be released from hospital soon and would go to a jail if she is not released into the care of the Elizabeth Fry Society.
“We’re hoping this is a story that will touch the hearts of Canadians,” said Halpern after the hearing on Friday, pleading for donations. “I think it shows our government that as Canadians… we believe what is happening to her is wrong.”
But Halpern maintains Ottawa should be stepping up to help Cramman.
“I recognize that it’s outside of the box and that it’s outside of the scope of normal day-to-day activity, but it’s something I feel we could figure out as a government,” she said.
Another hearing is set for Nov. 18, and the board said it was willing to convene earlier if the situation warrants.
Cramman was convicted of offering to traffic heroin in 2014 and sentenced to 27 months in prison. She served two-thirds of her sentence and was released on parole, but was detained by the Canada Border Services Agency to start the deportation process.
Cramman, who is guarded 24 hours a day at the hospital by two correctional officers, said she wants to get her life on track and spoke of eventually returning to school to study psychology.
Halpern said her children, who were all born in Ontario, are being cared for in Ontario and Cramman still has regular contact with them.