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Alaska Inupiaq man can stay in Aklavik with his family, for now

·1 min read
Herman Oyagak, right, embraces his wife, Carol Oyagak. Herman, an Inupiaq man living in the N.W.T., has had his deportation to Alaska deferred. (Submitted by Nick Sowsun - image credit)
Herman Oyagak, right, embraces his wife, Carol Oyagak. Herman, an Inupiaq man living in the N.W.T., has had his deportation to Alaska deferred. (Submitted by Nick Sowsun - image credit)

The deportation order against an Inupiaq man living in the Northwest Territories has been deferred, his lawyer says.

In 2018, Herman Oyagak travelled across the Arctic by snowmobile from Alaska so he could live with his wife, Carol Oyagak, in her home community of Aklavik, N.W.T., about 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle.

Three years later, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) moved to deport him, and he was arrested, taken to Yellowknife, and released on bond. Oyagak was to be deported to Juneau, Alaska, on Dec. 13.

In a press release Thursday, Oyagak's lawyer, Nick Sowsun, announced that the border agency had deferred the deportation order the previous day.

"We are pleased to announce that ... Herman's immediate removal from Canada was cancelled," wrote Sowsun in the press release. But the deferral of Oyagak's active deportation order is a temporary measure, and the border agency could still "move to deport him again at any moment."

Sowsun said Oyagak must still prove his case to remain in Canada.

Sowsun said Oyagak's right to live in Aklavik with his wife and family flows from the "rights of Indigenous person to engage in their traditional practices, even where that involved crossing borders in order to hunt, fish, participate in celebrations, marry, and engage in cross-familial relationships or activities."

"We remain concerned that Canadian border authorities felt it appropriate to put Herman and his family through the stress of impending deportation," Sowsun said, "waiting until his lawyers threatened to launch a constitutional challenge to immigration legislation before backing down moments before the challenge was set to be filed."

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