This PSW’s Nigerian family cannot enter Canada even though his body is in a GTA funeral home

More than eight months after a support worker in a group home in the Toronto area drowned at work, his body remains in a funeral home and his family in Nigeria still cannot enter Canada to say a final goodbye.

Ashiru Sarafa Awoyemi’s sudden death, 50, has left his wife and four children grieving with unanswered questions and no opportunity to enter Canada for another visit, his wife Awanat Oluwatoyin Ashiru said in an email to CBC News.

According to their Islamic beliefs, she said her husband should have been buried shortly after his death, but their inability to come to Canada has prevented that.

“To be [in Canada would] make an impact in our lives because this is where he fought and died in a mysterious and painful way, “she wrote.

Ashiru, 50, worked at New Leaf: Living and Learning Together, a group home for people with intellectual disabilities, developmental delays and mental health issues, located in East Gwillimbury about 56 kilometers north of Toronto. On February 12, he drove a resident to a nearby place to go for a walk in the woods and bathe, an inspector from the Ministry of Labor later wrote in a report from field visits.

Ashiru with his wife Awanat Oluwatoyin Ashiru and youngest son Adamson Ayomide Ashiru. (Posted by Afez Akorede Ashiru)

York region police found his body at the bottom of the pool that afternoon, another labor inspection report said. Despite the home’s policy that a supervisor must be present at all times, he had been alone with the resident and could not swim, his family told CBC News.

Police and the Department of Labor told CBC News that their investigations are continuing. New Leaf, which did not respond to a request from CBC News for comment, was ordered in March to educate its staff about its pool policy and stop using the pool until the investigation is completed.

Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, which oversees homes like the New Leaf. said after a “thorough review” that it determined that the company “meets the province’s expectations and standards and is able to provide expected services.”

‘He does not want others to suffer’

In the weeks following his death, workers at New Leaf and their union, SEIU, pointed to dangerous conditions and a shortage of staff in the home. At his online memorial in March, they described him as always smiling and grinning and a good, selfless leader who greeted residents before COVID-19 with a hug and then with an elbow bulge after the pandemic began.

Ashiru had originally come to Canada three years ago as a refugee and was in the process of obtaining a permanent residence permit not only for himself but also for his wife and children.

“They are very talented children,” his sister Sola Salami said in a Zoom interview from Sagamu, Nigeria. “That’s why he wanted them to have a better life. He loved his family and children.”

She said she had asked Ashiru to take time off during the pandemic, but he insisted on continuing to work so he could support his family. Ashiru incurred and recovered from COVID-19 and then went back to work. She said he died in an attempt to satisfy his superiors’ demands.

“He’s full of compassion,” Salami said. He is the type of person who thinks of others before himself and wants to help. He does not want others to suffer “

Visa applications came to a standstill

But attempts to speed up the family’s applications for permanent residence after Ashiro’s death have been in vain, said Dov Maierovitz, their Toronto immigration lawyer.

He took up their case when he heard about Ashiru’s death, acknowledging that it would be “almost impossible” to navigate Canada’s immigration system on its own, especially during the pandemic, he said.

He helped them apply for visitor visas through Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), which would allow them to briefly enter the country and put Ashiru to rest. The Federal Ministry’s website estimates the processing time to be around 162 days

Eight months later, no progress has been made, said a frustrated Maierovitz.

“[The application] still staying at the visa office, “he said.” There is no further resort. I do not know what to do to try to get this family here. ”

The IRCC sends condolences to the family

IRCC spokeswoman Jelena Jenko told CBC News that she could not comment on the family’s situation specifically, and she did not answer questions about the visitor visa process.

“We are saddened by the tragic event and send our deepest condolences to the family,” she said.

Ashiro’s wife Awant has struggled to take care of their children, she said in a Zoom interview through an interpreter. Without his income, she can no longer pay for them to go to school. And her hopes of giving them a “beautiful” and “peaceful” life in Canada are dead.

“Everything has stopped,” Awant said, crying.

Ashiro’s daughter Zainab Omoseke Ashiru, 21, said without his financial support that she could not continue her master’s degree to become a nurse.

“His whole plan was that we should get over there and that we should continue our education and that everything should be fine,” she said.

“My father is gone, but I do not want my education to be gone either.”

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