Beloved Hamilton chef dodges imminent deportation in the nick of time

A beloved Hamilton, Ont. chef dodged imminent deportation in January with just days to spare after the Canadian government extended his stay for another 18-months.

John Mulwa left Kenya eight years ago, fleeing the country, fearing for his life because he felt he was in danger.

“If I go back home now, [..] I’ll be killed,” Mulwa told CTV News Toronto back in January, roughly two weeks before he was expected to leave the country.

Mulwa sought refuge in Ontario after hearing the province boasted a large Kenyan community. Since he moved here, Mulwa has been a pillar of the community – he’s worked as a chef for the Mohawk Students’ Association at Mohawk College, organizes yearly barbeques for the city’s Kenyan diaspora using vegetables he grows in his garden, and runs a catering business that provides meals to Hamilton’s unhoused communities.

On Jan. 28, Mulwa was expected to fly back to Kenya, despite his pleas – and pleas from community members – to keep him in the place he has called home for nearly a decade.

“I just want to stay here. I just want to work. I just wanted to support my community,” Mulwa said in January. “The people [of Hamilton] mean a lot to me.”

Five days before the deportation date, Mulwa said he got a call from his local member of parliament, Matthew Green for Hamilton Centre.


john mulwa


“It’s not every day that you get to celebrate a win like this, for a person like John. The Ministry of Immigration has been completely overwhelmed and backlogged on files just like this,” Green told CTV News Toronto, adding that Mulwa’s temporary extension to have his application to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds considered further, is a community win.


“And certainly for every story like John, there’s unfortunately many others that aren’t successul, so we’re really happy to be able to celebrate this one with the community.”


Even though Mulwa says he is “relieved” to be in the country for the next little while, he cannot help but look ahead to what will happen after.


“If I don’t get something more permanent in 18 months, I will still be facing the same deportation [order]. I will still be sent back home with people threatening me,” he said. “I’m pleading with the government to still give me a chance – a more permanent chance – for me to be able to safely stay here, and without stress.”


Joshua Makori, Mulwa’s immigration lawyer, confirmed to CTV News Toronto that Mulwa’s application for permanent residency has already been filed through the humanitarian and compassionate grounds stream.


A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) told CTV News Toronto in a statement that those “who would not normally be eligible to become permanent residents through regular programs” may apply for this stream. Since Mulwa had already exhausted other avenues in the years that he has lived in Canada, he is eligible to apply for this kind of permanent stay.


“Before [Mulwa] was given the extension of 18 months, we had already submitted an application for him [..] This is also one of the routes that somebody can become a permanent resident,” Makori said.


“We did get a communication from immigration in connection to his humanitarian and compassionate application. It looks like somebody’s keeping an eye on it,” Makori added, saying he had received notice from the agency on Thursday.


Now, Makori says all there is left to do is “trust” the process.


“One of the reasons why he was given 18 months was basically to create room so that immigration would be able to complete his process,” Makori said.


The IRCC said it could not comment on Mulwa’s case due to privacy legislation.


“Every individual facing removal is entitled to due process, but once all avenues to appeal are exhausted, they are removed from Canada in accordance with Canadian law,” the spokesperson for the IRCC said.


Online, the IRCC notes it is still addressing a backlog. More than 45 per cent of the 918,000 applications the federal agency received in 2022 were not turned around in time to meet its service standards. 

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