Kenyan asylum seeker dies after staying in Peel Region shelter

A community is in mourning after a woman from Kenya died after experiencing a medical emergency. As Faiza Amin reports, asylum advocates continue to call on all levels of government for more support.

A Kenyan asylum seeker died over the weekend after she waited hours in the cold to get into a shelter space.

At a press conference Friday, advocates from the African Canadian community identified the woman as Delphina Ngigi who was a widow and mother of four children who are still in Kenya.

They say she had only just arrived in Canada on Thursday and went to the Dundas Shelter at 1 p.m. on Saturday but was not admitted until 8 p.m.

The Region of Peel confirmed the death and said the woman arrived at the shelter on Dundas Street East needing a place to stay on Saturday night. She slept indoors at the shelter but suffered a medical emergency on Sunday.

The woman was taken to hospital where she passed away. In a statement, Peel Region said the hospital does not feel the death is suspicious and police were not involved.

An autopsy is expected to be completed to determine the cause of death. The community and her family are working on funeral arrangements back in Kenya.

It’s the second death of an asylum seeker in Peel Region. A Nigerian refugee died in November while sleeping in a tent outside the same shelter.

“We, at this point, we have to start asking ourselves, not just as the Black community, not just as leaders and the refugee starving groups and others that are supporting us, we have to ask ourselves as Canadians whether this is who we want to be?” said Kizito Musabimana, founder of the Rwandan Canadian Healing Centre.

He said it’s especially disheartening for this death to have occurred during Black History Month.

“At a time when we’re supposed to be reflecting on the work of Black people throughout history. Instead, we are continuing to see the tragedies that are happening,” added Musabimana.

Musabimana called on all levels of government to do more to support refugees.

“We’re not only talking about just funding. We’re now talking about making sure that there is reform on the policies on the books as we speak. We are making sure that there is core resourcing available, consulting that is available for groups, especially those that are most marginalized.”

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said there were no beds for the woman at the shelter and she was forced to sleep in the lobby. He added Peel Region shelters are currently at 400 per cent capacity.

He said this death highlights why he is so vocal about his requests to deal with the influx of asylum claimants.

“The basic responsibility the current government has is to make sure that someone comes to Canada to pursue that Canadian dream that that they’re not left abandoned to fall in the cracks is seeking asylum in winter. And that’s happening right now. So we need more help.”

Premier Doug Ford said this death shows the need for the federal government to step up when it comes to refugees.

“We need them to step up. They can’t always talk about housing …. You can’t help people, and you can’t not notify us that 800,000 people are showing up in our province. We need them to step up to the plate,” said Ford.

Brown said he is meeting with Immigration Minister Marc Miller on Monday to seek solutions for this humanitarian crisis.

The federal government announced $362 million to help provinces and cities find housing for asylum seekers last month, but many say it does not go far enough.

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