To quote the judge, “the circumstances of this case are quite unusual.” In 2005, a Nigerian named Isaiah Oahiminre landed in Toronto and filed a refugee application, claiming his life was in danger back home because of his sexual orientation. He is gay. Or at least he was gay.
At first, Oahiminre told the Immigration and Refugee Board that gay men in Nigeria are considered “abominations,” and that he had no choice but to flee to Canada after his lover was “lynched by an angry mob.” But when the board rejected his claim, and a series of appeals didn’t pan out, Oahiminre tried a new strategy: he went straight.
He “renounced” his homosexual past, began dating a woman from his church, and on July 18 they exchanged wedding vows. His bride—a fellow Nigerian who was granted refugee status just three weeks before the marriage—has since applied to sponsor her new husband to stay in Canada. As their pastor wrote in a recent letter, “Our church was delighted to witness the remarkable progress that Mr. Oahiminre has made in his life.”
Justice Michael Phelan was not nearly as impressed. The Federal Court judge refused to postpone the groom’s scheduled deportation, despite his lawyer’s pleas to wait until the immigration department rules on the sponsorship application—which could take another two years. To put it mildly, Phelan didn’t believe that Oahiminre was telling the truth. “The Court is faced with this incredible and unexplained conversion of sexual orientation,” he wrote in his two-page ruling. “Judges are not blind to the realities of life nor are they so naïve. This story, combined with the convenient timing of the spousal sponsorship, lacks any air of reality upon which to exercise equitable jurisdiction.”
Neither Oahiminre nor his lawyer could reached for comment. But his wife confirmed that he has not been deported yet.
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