The Star.com , Jul 22, 2009
At age 12, an adoption agency brought Fatima Desrosiers to Toronto from a Brazilian orphanage, with the hope of finding the abused child a home.
She was taken to the Don Mills area, where she met her prospective new mother. Desrosiers recalls a confrontation; the woman yelled at her, but at the time Desrosiers did not understand English. She also remembers the woman holding a knife and ordering her to leave.
Desrosiers ran out into the street, stopping what she thought was a cab. It was, in fact, a police cruiser and officers immediately placed her in the care of children's aid.
That was 1987. For years after, Desrosiers was a Crown ward, bouncing from foster home to group home, under a temporary resident permit.
She was never adopted or sponsored to become a permanent resident, and her numerous criminal convictions over the years – theft, drug trafficking, prostitution, assaults – meant she couldn't get landed status.
Now, 22 years after Desrosiers was brought here for a better future, she has been ordered to return to a country where she has no ties and no longer speaks the language.
"Fatima has never been clean long enough to get landed," lamented her immigration lawyer, Marshall Drukarsh. "This is an extremely rare situation, but she is probably the least to blame. She never chose to come here."
Desrosiers, 34, has vague memories of growing up in a small shack with 11 adults and seven children in Tiete, before she was removed and taken to an orphanage at age 5. She also recalls attending a São Paulo court with a woman to get papers to come to Canada.
"I didn't know any English. I wasn't even aware I was in a different country," said Desrosiers, whose immigration file shows she lived in at least 27 homes in Toronto, Mississauga, Richmond Hill, Hamilton, Waterloo and Dunnville. She was never anywhere long enough to set roots and was always in trouble, which she attributes to behavioural problems caused by childhood abuse in Brazil.
"I have never stayed anywhere for a full year. I never really attended school. I can't read or do math," added Desrosiers, who has three sons and two daughters, none of whom lives with her.
Immigration officials cannot comment on Desrosiers' case, but a rejection letter in May said her application to extend the temporary permit was refused because she has failed to support herself financially as an adult – she lives on government assistance – and because of her lengthy criminal record.
These days, children adopted internationally arrive in Canada as permanent residents or citizens; in the past, children were brought on temporary resident permits while the adoption process was completed in Canada, said Drukarsh.
Desrosiers now lives in Belleville with a boyfriend. She says she is still battling post-traumatic stress disorder from the earlier abuse, but overcame her crack cocaine addiction 10 years ago and has lived a stable life in her one-bedroom apartment for 18 months. She feels she deserves a second chance.
Her last criminal offence was two years ago when she was charged with assaulting a boyfriend.
"I can't speak Portuguese. I don't know anybody or have any family in Brazil," she said. "To send me back is like putting me in an early grave."