Oscar Vigil is a loving husband, a caring father, and valued member of the community. He is also a refugee claimant from El Salvador. Fearing for their safety, he fled his country in 2001 with his spouse Carolina, and their three children and came to Canada.They had received death threats as a result of their work as journalists.
Since then, his wife, their son and 2 daughters were granted refugee status, became permanent residents and now they all are Canadian citizens.
Now, Oscar has been denied refugee status and is being threatened with deportation back to El Salvador.
For over a decade Oscar has contributed greatly to Canadian society through his work as a committed father, a journalist and as a valued member and representative of the Hispanic community in Toronto. He has also contributed his fair share financially, paying his taxes every year. Oscar and his family are completely integrated into Canadian society.
Like Oscar, Carolina has been making extraordinary contributions to Canadian society. She works at a local centre for refugees that offers shelter to women and children, and works full time helping people like her family that have fled persecution from around the world.
Just like their parents, Oscar and Carolina’s two daughters and their son have built significant lives in Canada. Their youngest daughter Frida, 17, is in high school, while their 23 year old son Yarince is studying full time in college. Their daughter Larissa, 20, is working and saving to continue her studies at the post-secondary level. All of them are loved by their friends at school, at work and within the community.
For his part, Oscar has not only shown great interest in his children’s education, but that of others as well. He has served as Treasurer of the Parents Council of his children’s school, and on a “Partners in Motion” committee, working to reduce the drop-out rate of Hispanic and Portuguese youth.
In fact, Oscar has been more than just a productive member of Canadian society- he has been a leader. Working as a journalist he has helped shape the media landscape in Toronto. He has worked as a journalist for Toronto based newspapers El Correo Canadiense, El Centro Newspaper, Diario El Popular and also is the founder and publisher of Debate Magazine since 2008. His work has also been published in Our Times and New Voices Magazines.
From 2009 until this past December, 2013 Oscar worked as the Executive Director of the Canadian Hispanic Congress. There he advocated for the rights of immigrants and refugees, and oversaw a mentoring program for new immigrant professionals of Hispanic background. He has also served as the Co-chair of the Toronto Working Group of the Canadian Centre for International Justice. All of these experienced demonstrate a commitment to human rights and social justice that has guided his actions throughout his adult life.
This February, 2014 Oscar also participated in meetings with the Mayor of Toronto and the CEO of the Pan-American Games discussing the representation of the Hispanic community in Canada in the upcoming games. In his work he has met with the current and past Federal Immigration Ministers and other Ministers and Members of Parliament both federally and provincially, as well as municipal leaders to discuss matters of importance to the Hispanic Community and all members of Canadian society.
Why Oscar’s Place in Canada is at Risk
Given his valuable contributions to Canada, why is Oscar at risk of being removed from Canada?
In the late 1980s and 1990s, Oscar worked as a journalist in El Salvador, a country that was ruled by a repressive government that was widely recognized to have been committing gross violations of human rights, including most famously the execution of 6 priests at the Central American University in 1989. According to the United Nations Truth Commission, they were also responsible for the assassination of beloved Archbishop Oscar Romero who had been speaking out against the abuses of the government and its indifference to the poverty of its people. Every 24th of March is marked by Salvadoran civil society to remember Monseñor Romero’s life and the sacrifices he made for his people.
During this period, principled people like Oscar had no outlet to express democratic opposition to the government, nor could they safely work for social justice. As a university student he became involved with university organizations that had links with the “Farabundo Marti National Liberation front” (FMLN). He also used his skills as a journalist to peacefully express dissent and advance the position of this opposition movement- which is now the government of El Salvador.
Oscar fled to Canada after receiving death threats while running his radio station. Many other productive members of Canadian society have been forced to flee to Canada for similar reasons, including from El Salvador
For these non-violent activities- which Oscar disclosed to the government upon his arrival to Canada- he has been excluded from refugee protection. This is despite the fact that in August 2012, Canadian Border Services Officials concluded that there was no evidence that his previous involvements with the FMLN suggested any acts of violence or constituted a danger to the safety and security of Canada.
But despite Oscar’s clear and strong attachment to Canada, his contributions to Canadian society and contrary to the best interests of his children, immigration officials have recently rejected his application to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. However, we believe that Oscar is precisely the kind of generous, hard-working person that makes Canada a great society and that this decision to send Oscar back to El Salvador is a gross injustice and contrary to Canadian values.
Because of this, we are asking the Ministers of both Public Safety and Immigration to intervene in his case to allow him to stay in Canada permanently, since both he and his family have made their homes here and greatly enriched our schools, our civil society, and our overall community. It would be an unnecessary tragedy and loss to Canada to deport him and separate him from his Canadian family and community.
Please help us to ensure that Oscar can stay with his family and community in Canada.