Man’s coma blamed on illegal immigrant who wasn’t deported Family wants answers:

Five years later, Iranian limo driver still in Canada

Richard Foot and Adrian HumphreysNational Post Friday, December 31, 1999

Jim Lindala lies in a coma in a Toronto hospital today, and his family wants answers from the Immigration Department which, for five years, failed to enforce deportation orders against the illegal immigrant who put him there.

Mr. Lindala, 63, is a retired school principal who was leaving on a dream vacation with his wife from Toronto’s Pearson Airport on Dec. 6. A two-week cruise awaited the couple in Hawaii.

But as Mr. Lindala was unloading luggage at the airport from the back of a family van, he was hit by an airport limousine that careened up the ramp and crushed him from behind.

“Instead of stopping the limo hit my husband and pushed us 18 feet down the road,” says Mr. Lindala’s wife, Viola, who was sitting in the van at the time. “Jim started yelling for an ambulance. His leg had been severed.”

Mr. Lindala was rushed to hospital where he suffered a stroke from the trauma of the accident and fell into a coma. He remains on life support and in critical condition today.

The driver of the limousine was Mohammad T. Belfeteymouri Shafi, an Iranian whose refugee claim was first documented by Immigration Canada in 1989. Before his claim could be heard, he was convicted of assault and mischief and in May, 1992, sentenced to four month’s imprisonment. He was denied refugee status in 1994 and ordered deported the following year.

Asked whether Mr. Shafi should still be in Canada, Giovanna Gatti, an Immigration spokeswoman, said, “He is someone who would be removed from Canada at some point.”

Mrs. Lindala has sat by her husband’s side each day in hospital since the accident. She says her family deserves better answers from immigration officials.

“I am hoping that police will do a thorough investigation on it and that the Immigration people will be brought to task,” she said yesterday. “But right now my primary concern is to keep my husband alive.”

Mr. Shafi was charged with careless driving after the airport accident and fined $365. It was an alert police officer on duty at the airport who asked the Immigration department to run a check on his name, turning up Mr. Shafi’s record. Police say they are helpless, without additional evidence, to lay further charges against him.

After the accident, Mr. Shafi was arrested by immigration officers and released following a detention review on Dec. 11. Mr. Shafi is now free on a $4,000 performance bond, which only requires him to pay the money if he fails to report when required by Immigration authorities.

Mr. Shafi had either been issued a Canadian work permit or had applied for one and was waiting for it when the incident occurred. He has since left Canada Limousine Service Inc., the company that hired him as a driver three months ago. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Ms. Gatti declined to explain why he remains in Canada. However, there are several reasons why Immigration authorities might delay a deportation. Mr. Shafi could be appealing his order, or the government might be waiting for Iran to issue him travel documents or a passport.

The issue of the deportee’s country of origin failing to issue documents was raised earlier this month when Canadian agents dumped seven convicted criminals at the airport in Guyana without permission from the Guyanese government following years of waiting for its Canadian consulate to issue passports.

Mr. Lindala is a former school principal, a volunteer with Scouts Canada and a respected member of Toronto’s Finnish community. He worked hard, says his family, to help Finnish immigrants obtain proper paperwork to move to Canada and settle in Toronto.

Paul Lindala, Mr. Lindala’s son, says if the government was doing its job properly his father would have enjoyed his vacation and come home to a family Christmas.

“If the person who caused the accident wasn’t in the country, my father would have stood a better chance of making it to his plane in time.”

Yesterday Ms. Gatti defended the Immigration department’s record of deporting illegal immigrants.

“Our removals are up. We removed over 8,000 people in 1998. We don’t yet have the numbers for 1999, but in 1997 we also removed about 8,000 and that was an increase of about 36% in our removal rate from the year before.”