Marie Yvena Senatus-Prince is a Canadian refugee from Haiti. She has made a plea to Canadian authorities to help after her 22-year-old daughter was kidnapped in Haiti.
Photograph by: Jean Levac , Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — A Haitian refugee living in Ottawa is desperate to get her children and grandchildren out of the troubled island nation after one of her daughters was kidnapped and killed two months ago.
Now, Marie Yvena Prince-Senatus, 45, says the federal government is dragging its feet and putting up roadblocks to her application, by asking for documents they should already have.
Prince-Senatus fled Haiti when her brother was kidnapped and killed in 2006. She went first to the United States, despite not having proper identification or a VISA.
She was arrested for providing false documents and put in jail in the U.S. but, after serving her sentence, she came to Canada and was granted refugee status in 2010. She immediately began the process of applying for her husband, children and grandchildren to join her. She says she has repeatedly warned immigration officials that her children in Haiti were in danger.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada says it is waiting for information about Prince-Senatus’ criminal record before granting her request, but her Ottawa lawyer, Joseph-Alphonse André says the government is delaying the application unnecessarily. He says Prince-Senatus has already provided the documents about her arrest and the court decision twice and is now getting them together for a third time.
“These are documents that the Canadian government can easily get,” said André. “When they are prosecuting cases against immigrants, they collect these documents themselves. Why can’t they get them this time?,” he said.
“She was fleeing the country, she couldn’t present herself to the authorities and ask for a passport,” he said. “In Canada, our courts understand that refugees might not have proper documents so it’s not a crime here.”
When Prince-Senatus’ 22-year-old daughter, Emiline, went missing in May in Haiti, André sent a letter to Citizenship and Immigration Canada demanding that immigration officials immediately grant refugee status to the rest of her family.
Soon after, the kidnappers called Prince-Senatus’ husband — who is still living in Haiti — to demand a $200,000 ransom. They assumed that, because his wife was living in Canada, she had money.
Members of Ottawa’s Haitian community banded together to come up with part of the money, and Prince-Senatus added money she had been saving to buy a home. She sent $45,000 to the kidnappers but, two months ago, she received word from Haitian police that her daughter’s body had been found along with four others. The police investigator told Senatus-Prince the case is closed after nine men were arrested, but she has yet to see any proof of either the arrests or the body.
“We have no photographs, they refused to let any siblings view the body … we have nothing to say they’re in jail,” said Darlène Lozis, the president of the Union des Haitians de L’Outaouais, who has been helping Prince-Senatus with her case.
“The only thing we know for a fact is that the justice system is so weak that the government can’t really secure any lives,” said Lozis.
Prince-Senatus’ two sons, other daughter, husband and two toddler grandchildren have gone into hiding in Haiti, moving from house to house under cover of night to avoid being tracked, said Lozis, who has been speaking every day with Prince-Senatus.
She fears her friend may fall apart under the weight of her daughter’s demise and the seemingly endless wait for the rest of her family.
“We want her family to be allowed to come to Canada on a temporary permit while the government investigates. Not to have to wait in Haiti,” said André. “Because of the risk of rape, of kidnapping of girls and young children, they must be accepted.”
Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials were not available for comment on Thursday.