Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Deportation of Bipolar Man Who Came to Canada as Baby Called 'Heartless'

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Deportation of Bipolar Man Who Came to Canada as Baby Called 'Heartless'

Article excerpt

Deportation of bipolar man called 'heartless'

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VANCOUVER - Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen is facing calls to reverse the deportation of a 59-year-old man with bipolar disorder who lived in Canada since he was eight months old.

Len Van Heest of Courtenay, B.C., was deported to the Netherlands this week after a string of criminal convictions for uttering threats, mischief and assault that his lawyer says were linked to his mental illness.

His brother Daniel Van Heest expressed his anger at judges and immigration officials who allowed the deportation to happen. He said his brother is now in the care of family in the Netherlands with the help of the Salvation Army.

"Needless to say his mental faculties have been stressed to the max," he said. "The system is skewed. Mentally ill people should never be deported. It is wrong."

Lawyer Peter Golden said Van Heest's parents didn't seek citizenship for him. The last time he was in the Netherlands he was in diapers, he doesn't speak Dutch and doesn't know his relatives there.

"However kind and well-meaning they are, the stresses of this whole process of removal will be difficult for him. He hasn't made connections with people very easily in the past."

Van Heest was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was 16, said Golden. By the time he was old enough to seek citizenship for himself, he had a criminal record and could not apply.

His last conviction was in 2012. He has been ordered removed from Canada in the past but has previously won stays on deportation, Golden said.

In January, a Federal Court judge rejected Van Heest's challenge of a Canada Border Services Agency officer refusing to defer his removal order. Last week he lost a last-ditch attempt for a stay, and on Monday he was deported to Amsterdam.

"It's really an example of criminalization of mental illness," said Golden. "The criminal justice system isn't designed to deal with people like Len."

He said Van Heest was ensnared by legislation introduced by the former Conservative government in 2012, which banned non-citizens from appealing deportation after being sentenced to six months in jail. Previously, people could appeal if they were sentenced to less than two years. …

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