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Toronto track star with Olympic dreams faces deportation

With the Paris Olympics only months away, college track athlete Tamarri Lindo was focused on qualifying for the chance to represent Canada on the world’s biggest stage. Now, he’s more focused on simply staying in Canada.

Lindo, 20, moved to Toronto from Jamaica with his family when he was 15. Canada is where his youngest sister was born, where he finished high school and where he became a university track star, winning bronze in hurdles for York University at this year’s national university championships.

Now, he’s training with Canada’s national track team, in the lead-up to the Paris Games.

“I’ve had dreams of running for this country ever since the first year I stepped in here,” says Lindo, who would like to become the country’s first 110-metre hurdles champion.

But he might not be able to stay in Canada, let alone represent it. Although he and his family have now been in the country five years, their refugee applications have been rejected and they’ve recently learned they may have to leave the country as soon as next month.

Why this rising Toronto track star and his family are at risk of being deported

1 day ago

Duration 1:58

York University sprint-hurdler and Paris Olympics’ hopeful Tamarri Lindo is at risk of being deported to Jamaica, along with his family. As CBC’s Greg Ross explains, the community is rallying around the Toronto athlete in hopes of preventing that from happening.

Heading back to Jamaica would do more than dash Lindo’s Olympic dreams, he says. His family is arguing their safety is at stake.

Family fears political persecution

In Jamaica, Lindo’s father was a supporter of the People’s National Party, working as a volunteer and helping them campaign. That political affiliation, Lindo says, meant they faced threats.

“There’s always been a genuine fear in my family, ever since I was a kid,” Lindo says.

He and his siblings often skipped school to stay safe, he says.

Immigration lawyer Aiden Simardone, who represents the family, says the government needs to consider the violence Lindo’s father experienced in Jamaica before sending him and his family back.

He had his neck slashed while organizing for a 2012 election, was targeted in a botched assassination attempt in 2016 and chased down by a gunman in 2019, according to Simardone.

After that last incident, the family moved to Canada, seeking refugee status. When their application was denied, Simardone says the family filed a humanitarian and compassionate considerations application. That was also unsuccessful and this week, the family were told they would be deported.

Simardone is now appealing, and the deportation deadline has been extended to June 24.

“In my opinion, the decision is unreasonable and did not take into consideration the hardships of the removal, if it were to occur,” he says.

A white man speaks into a microphone at a rally attended by dozens of Black people of all ages. People in the crowd are holding signs supporting the Lindo family's right to stay in Canada
The Lindo family’s immigration lawyer, Aidan Simardone, spoke at a rally in support of the family Monday. He says the federal government needs to consider the threat deportation would pose to the family. (CBC)

The CBC has reached out to Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada for comment, but has yet to receive a response.

Lindo says his family is going through a hard time as the prospect of deportation looms.

“My family has been really hurt and heartbroken,” he says. “My family has been working, they’ve been paying their taxes, they’ve never gotten themselves involved in any crimes.

“We’re praying. We’re trying our best.”

Family pushing to stay in Canada

Beyond the dangers back home, Tamarri Lindo says he and his family are now established in Canada, and he’s afraid of losing his community and leaving the place his sister was born.

“Ever since I been here, I kind of just fell in love with the country,” he says. “My family has been working, they’ve been paying their taxes, they’ve never gotten themselves involved in any crimes.”

Lindo says he and his family are hoping that drawing attention to their plight will help pressure the government to approve their application to stay.

On Monday, a rally was held at York University to voice support for the family. Lindo’s training teammate Ibrahim Ayorinde was one of dozens who showed up at the event to show solidarity.

“We’re all super shocked” that the family’s applications had been rejected, he says.

Lindo is a great person as well as athlete, Ayorinde says, and the training team is supporting him.

“We all want him to stay and achieve his goals here,” Ayorinde says.

For Lindo, Monday’s rally was a reminder of the community he’s found in Canada.

“It really touches my heart to see that people really want to see my family story and really see us succeed in life,” he says.

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