Article: Michael Chmielewski – Editor-in-chief
Before I even knew it, they were gone. I’d honestly never thought it’d end this way.
I got two texts about it simultaneously, which caught me off guard. I was doing some last minute studying when I read, “those Nigerian girls have been deported.” I flew into a rage in the office. It wasn’t supposed to be this way: I was angry with everybody. I almost punched my computer once I looked up the story.
I’d started following the case of Victoria and Favour exactly one year ago, when I first had started contributing to the Carillon. It was the first news story I had done. I felt it was the most important issue at the U of R, and one of the most important in the country.
It’s over now.
Their crime was working at Wal-Mart for two weeks, a violation of their student visas. The usual punishment for this discretion is a fine, or at worst, an academic suspension. Deportation was ordered, so the two took to sanctuary for over a year, almost 500 days.
They decided to give up and left on Oct. 18. The two former U of R students have left hoping that they can reapply and come back. If I were them, I would never come back to Canada.
First and foremost, the government is to blame. They gave these two poor girls the heaviest penalty, and did not waiver after. Of course, ignorance of the law is no excuse, as any anonymous hillbilly commenting on the news about the case will say, but the punishment was overly severe and had no legal precedent.
I had no problems writing the first article. I ran into problems when I tried to write an in-depth feature about the case over the summer to release at the start of this academic year. The point was to restart debate and bring awareness to the case.
The U of R greatly helped my efforts; I got a great interview with Provost Tom Chase right away. It’s apparent that the administration cared a great deal about the two. President Vianne Timmons even saw them off at the airport. It’s a testament to her character.
Wascana MP Ralph Goodale, who took the issue to the House of Commons, and his staff were also very accommodating.
If only everybody was as helpful and level-headed. Since I had all summer to do the piece, I wanted to dig deep and give this issue the coverage it deserves. I started by talking to a professor helping organize the UR Defense Fund. During the recorded interview he said “off-the record” before anything substantial. He pointed me in some right directions, but the interview was a waste of good batteries. I tried to talk to another heavily involved professor. He skipped our interview entirely.
Next, I tried contacting the two girls themselves. This effort was shutdown by their lawyer. At first he told me they had already been interview by other media.
Later, I kept trying to contact them for an interview. No dice: he didn’t ever return my calls.
If I couldn’t talk to them, then I should interview someone the battery-killing professor recommended: a professor in Justice Studies. I was told she was spearheading the movement to help the two.
That didn’t work out either. Over email, I requested an interview on Aug. 26. She replied on Aug. 28 saying that she could “likely make some time available late this afternoon or late tomorrow afternoon.” I asked if she would like to answer the questions over email, to which she said “perhaps.” I told her Sep. 2 and emailed the questions. She told me she’d answer them that afternoon, the 28th. Later she told me that she “can’t answer all of these on email” and that I could call her in the evening. Fine, so I asked for a number. The next day she was asking for my number. I replied later that day with my number.
Finally, she replied on the 30th: “I have to be honest that I believe you need more time to develop this story. If you want to wait and conduct an in-person interview in September we can work on that but I am not prepared to answer your questions via email as they are big questions and you will need to consult with Victoria and Favour and/or their legal counsel.”
I tried that already. Everybody was spinning me around. I felt like I was trying to get a straight answer out of the Conservative Party. I was astounded. I ended up writing the feature with mainly secondary sources.
Well, there’s nothing to be done now. They’re gone. If they so choose, hopefully they come back. Let’s hope nobody is ever unjustly treated like this again.