Vancouver memorial fee for rejected refugee called unfair
A vigil was held in January to honour Lucia Vega Jimenez's life in front Canada Border Services Agency offices in Vancouver. Jimenez, a Mexican national, was found hanging from a shower stall in the immigration holding centre at the Vancouver airport. FILE PHOTO/24 HOURS
Organizers of the Latin summer festival in Vancouver feel shut out of city parks after being told they would have to pay a $4,000 fee for a memorial bench honouring an undocumented immigrant who died in custody earlier this year.
Lucia Vega Jimenez, whose refugee claim was rejected years ago, died after being held in a Canadian Border Services Agency cell while waiting to be deported. She had been arrested during a transit fare check.
She was found hanged in the detention centre.
Considering the plight of Vega Jimenez, festival organizer Ana David planned to erect a memorial bench for the woman, but said the city’s $4,000 requirement was too much.
“How do we turn around to a community that is impoverished and ask them for money so we can put her name there?” David said. “The whole concept of it is really disrespectful.”
She said she understands why the Park Board doesn’t simply allow them to put their own bench there, but said that doesn’t change the need for Vega Jimenez to be remembered.
She said considering Vancouver’s hype about perhaps becoming a sanctuary city, which would give undocumented immigrants access to necessary services without fear of immigration officials being alerted, the city is being “two-faced.”
City Coun. Geoff Meggs said creating memorials is more complicated than people think, but said perhaps an agreement can be made in light of Vega Jimenez’s story.
“It’s a good idea to try and make visible this problem,” Meggs said. “Maybe there’s a way we can approach the problem with community needs and not involve the same expense.”
Meggs said he would be meeting with the group over the issue, but wasn’t sure how the issue could be handled.
David said her group, in the meantime, would be finding a way to remember Vega Jimenez, by possibly planting roses.