In the fall of 2007, David Perez sat down with his longtime girlfriend in Mexico City for what he knew would be a difficult conversation.
Perez told her he had to call off their engagement because he was gay and he could no longer live with the secret.
His girlfriend was furious and told him she would rather see him dead than be with a man, he says.
Perez and his partner, Pablo Gonzalez, told their story about what happened next in an interview with The Gazette this week:
A few weeks after the conversation, after leaving work one day, Perez was bundled into a car and driven to a remote neighbourhood by his ex-girlfriend’s uncle – a police officer – and three other men.
He says the men beat him, threatened to kill him with a gun and sexually assaulted him with a flashlight.
He and Gonzalez eventually fled Mexico City and moved to Cuernavaca, south of the capital. But his girlfriend soon showed up at their door, warning Perez she would track him down wherever he went.
A few months later, after fleeing to yet another city, Pachuca, Gonzalez says he was punched in the face by a man who turned up at his doorstep looking for Perez.
The men say they never reported either incident because they had no confidence the police would intervene.
“The culture is too macho – they don’t accept homosexuality,” Gonzalez said.The couple fled to Montreal in the summer of 2008.
In their application for refugee status, they said they fear for their lives in Mexico because the ex-girlfriend’s uncle was able to use his police connections to track them down.
However, the Immigration and Refugee Board has rejected their claim on the grounds that they could have found safety by moving to another part of Mexico.
The two men were ordered to leave Canada by Oct. 20. They’re booked on a flight to Mexico Thursday morning.
In its decision, the refugee board said it was implausible that the ex-girlfriend’s uncle had “the motivation or the power to track the men down anywhere in Mexico.”
Perez, 29, and Gonzalez, 26, disagree.
They say homophobia is widespread in Mexico, and both have tested positive for HIV since arriving in Canada.
The couple has applied to remain on humanitarian grounds. But the Canada Border Services Agency has turned down a request to delay Thursday’s removal pending that hearing, which could be months away.
In 2009, the federal government made it compulsory for Mexicans to obtain a visa to enter Canada, saying too many bogus refugee claims were being made.
Since the new visa regulation was implemented, refugee claims by Mexicans have plummeted 84 per cent – from 7,594 in 2009 to 1,201 in 2010.
Kathleen Hadekel, a lawyer and case worker with a legal clinic that helps refugee claimants, said the couple’s case is compelling given the trauma they say they’ve suffered.
After arriving in Montreal, Gonzalez said he opened a car wash business in St. Léonard, where Perez also worked. The business is now closed for good.
The couple will ask a Federal Court judge on Wednesday to delay the removal order until their application to remain here on humanitarian grounds is heard.
“I am scared,” Perez said of returning home. “But we have to follow the law.”Update: After the couple’s refugee application was rejected, their lawyer asked the Canada Border Services Agency to delay their removal until their application to remain in Canada on humanitarian grounds is heard.
The CBSA rejected the request for a delay in the removal. However, a Federal Court judge ruled on Wednesday that the couple can stay in Canada while they contest the CBSA’s decision.
“They are thrilled; they broke down in tears,” said Kathleen Hadekel, a lawyer who has been assisting the couple.No date for the hearing has been set.