Jamaica is a beautiful country that is ripe with many issues. It is extremely poor, with high rates of violence. If you happen to be a member of the GLBT community, residing there can literally be a death sentence. GLBT activists have aggressively campaigned to boycott Jamaican products, as well to ensure that artists like Buju Banton and Beenie Man are unable to perform. One popular performer Elephant Man had this to say in his lyrics:
"When you hear a lesbian getting raped/It's not our fault ... Two women in bed/That's two sodomites who should be dead."
J-Flag, the Jamaican gay rights group, believes that violent lyrics have contributed to attacks upon and even the murders of gay men and lesbians in the country. J-FLAG estimates that some thirty people have been killed in homophobic murders in Jamaica between 1997 and 2004. This number includes the co-founding member of J-FLAG Brian Williamson who was hacked to death with a machete. A crowd reportedly, openly celebrated around the body.
Nickaldo Smith, was convicted of assault with a weapon in November of 2003, in Toronto, Ontario. He was then ordered to be deported back to his native Jamaica. He then filed an appeal which was denied by the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2009. Smith was originally sponsored by his mother in 1999 at the age of 17 to become a permanent resident.
According to the Toronto Sun:
Smith unsuccessfully appealed the deportation order to the Federal Court of Canada. He then appealed to the court for a pre-removal risk assessment in a second failed bid to remain here.
“The applicant asserted that he feared persecution in Jamaica due to his sexual orientation,” Judge Michel Beaudry wrote in a Feb. 11 decision. “The applicant discovered he was bisexual after (girlfriend) Karen encouraged him to explore his sexuality.”
Court heard Smith began dating Karen in 2005. He then began a “sexual relationship” with John, a friend of Karen, whom he is still dating.
His relationship with John was short-lived because Smith was placed in detention in April 2007, Beaudry said.
He said Smith was to have been deported last June, but that was put on hold pending an appeal.
His appeal was once again denied with Canadian officials stating in their ruling:
"The applicant has provided insufficient evidence to demonstrate that there would be a lack of protection being offered by the Jamaican authorities for him as a bisexual man or as a deportee. Should the police act contrary to their mandate, there are avenues of recourse available to the applicant through higher authorities and/or NGOs."
This is the same police force that failed to declare the murder of John Terry, a British diplomat, a hate crime despite discovering a note found next to the body of the deceased calling him a batty boy stating that, “this will happen to ALL gays". It cannot be fairly stated that police would act to protect Smith.
Clearly, Smith had to have been aware of the consequences of criminal activity before committing the crime. The issue is that had he been born a Canadian citizen, he would have served his time and reintegrated into society without any further punishment. It is mendacious to suggest that deporting a bi-sexual man to Jamaica would not present a serious risk of personal harm, when homosexuality remains a crime punishable by ten years in prison there. Politicians openly preach anti-gay rhetoric and homophobia is institutionalized. Canada long ago outlawed the death penalty and by forcing the deportation of Smith we could very well be sentencing him to death, if it is discovered that he is bi-sexual.
Toronto has a fairly large Jamaican population, however; they are conceived of as violent thugs. It is common to read stories about Jamaican thugs terrorizing neighbourhoods. They are seen as contaminating the neighbourhoods of good (read: white) Canadians. Much anti-immigrant vitriol is targeted directly at the Jamaican population in Ontario. Racism, poverty and a lack of education are never factored into the conversation.
It is also important to note that while gay marriage has been legal in Canada for some time, it has not reduced homophobia. The GLBT community is still subject to violence, as well as employment and housing discrimination. Like any other marginalization in Canadian society, much of homophobia is practiced covertly, thus giving the impression to outsiders that it is a thing of the past.
Smith’s case presented the authorities to act on various socially ingrained biases: homophobia, ethnocentrism, and racism. By virtue of his criminal offense, Smith is considered a threat to Canadian law and order, though he presents no greater threat than a Canadian citizen previously convicted of a crime. Can immigrants ever truly believe that Canada is their home, if we can revoke their right to stay in this country? Should a criminal conviction in Canada subject a person to a penalty that we have long ago ruled to be cruel and unusual punishment?