Deportation of Herman Oyagak
November 26, 2021
Herman Oyagak, an Inuk who has been living in Aklavik, Northwest Territories for 3 years, is being deported.
This deportation is an unjustified violation of Inuit inherent rights recognized under the United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) and section 35 of the Constitution Act of Canada.
Herman is an Inuk with a deep connection to his cultural traditions and to the community of Aklavik. Herman is a well-respected and well regarded member of his community. He is respected as a hunter. He is respected as a language speaker. He is respected as a traditional harvester who knows the lands and waters in the area around Aklavik better than many people who have lived in the area for their entire lives.
In Herman’s early life, he faced significant discrimination and family tragedy as a result of the racist, colonial society that he grew up in. As a consequence of this, Herman fell into a cycle of being trapped in the criminal justice system in the United States. These were difficult years for Herman.
At the age of 45, at an Inuit drum dance festival in Barrow, Alaska, Herman met the woman who would become his wife, Carol. Carol and Herman’s relationship helped Herman heal from the traumas of colonization, racism and the criminal justice system. Together, Herman and Carol started a new life. Herman became sober. Herman deepened his connections to his culture and his traditions. Herman became rehabilitated.
When Carol moved back to Canada to be with her family, Herman joined her there, in the community of Aklavik. He is now five years married, three years sober, and three years a respected community member in Aklavik.
The Canadian government is now attempting to deport Herman. This would be incredibly harmful and traumatizing for Herman, for his wife Carol and their family, and for the community of Aklavik. It would be also be harmful to Inupiat, to Inuvialuit, and to Inuit everywhere, because it would be a violation of their inherent rights.
The Inuvialuit of Aklavik and the Inupiat in Alaska have very close cultural ties, social ties, and blood relations. They are both Inuit. Before the land claims process, these were considered to be one people. The land claims process separated them into two different groups, and the border now divides families and friends. For these people, this border is arbitrary, and is an affront to their social and cultural traditions.
Canada’s use of this border as a tool to forcibly separate Inuit families is unjust. It is a violation of Inupiat and Inuvialuit rights under International law to travel to be with their social and familial relations, and it is a violation of Inuvialuit rights under the Constitution of Canada.
Canada has made a mistake trying to deport a man who does not deserve to be deported.
Herman’s deportation order is based on a finding of inadmissibility as a result of a conviction for criminal mischief in the fifth degree, damaging property in the amount of less than $250. This conviction was the result of an incident in March 2015 in which Herman threw a phone to the wall, damaging it. This conviction, from nearly seven years ago, is sole the offence for which Herman is being found inadmissible, and for which he is subsequently under a deportation order.
The notion that Herman, his family, his community, and the Inupiat and Inuvialuit people should have to suffer the harm, indignity, and trauma of their rights being violated and having Herman forcibly removed from Canada, because of a conviction for criminal mischief for damaging property in the amount less than $250, is absolutely unjustifiable and an affront to the Honour of the Crown. Herman is a good person and a rehabilitated person, and a valued and important member of the community of Aklavik. He deserves to stay in his home of Aklavik.
- We are calling on the CBSA to stop the deportation order of Herman Oyagak
- We are calling on Canada to recognize the Jay Treaty
- We are calling on Canada to respect Herman’s inherent rights recognized under United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), and under Canada’s own constitution.
If the CBSA does not stop the deportation order of Herman Oyagak, OKT will be making a filing in Federal Court to have the deportation order stayed.
For more information, contact:
Nick Sowsun, OKT LLP (legal counsel)