Vanessa Rodel talks to media after arriving at Lester B. Pearson Airport in Toronto on Monday, March 25, 2019. A woman who escaped violence and human trafficking and helped shelter former CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden when he fled to Hong Kong is coming with her daughter to Canada after being granted refugee status, her lawyer said Monday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

‘Snowden refugee’ living in Montreal calls on Canada to accept others

After years of uncertainty, the 42-year-old said getting real ID felt like ‘winning a prize.’

Two months after landing in Canada, a refugee who helped shelter whistleblower Edward Snowden in Hong Kong says she’s grateful for her new life but is worried about the other members of the group who assisted the American fugitive.

Vanessa Rodel said she and her seven-year-old daughter, Keana, are settling into life in Montreal, where they’ve found an apartment and are learning French.

READ MORE: Refugee who sheltered Edward Snowden in Hong Kong arrives in Canada

For the first time since she fled gender-based persecution and human trafficking in the Philippines to head to Hong Kong 17 years ago, she can go to school again.

After years of uncertainty, the 42-year-old said getting real ID felt like “winning a prize.”

“For the first time I got a credit card and permanent residence, so I’m so happy,” she said Wednesday at a news conference in Montreal. ”Now I’m going to French class, it’s amazing, because I already got my student ID.”

Rodel said she and her daughter have been enjoying Montreal’s food, taking walks on Mount Royal and basking in their newfound freedom.

Keana, who wore a sparkly purple dress, showed off her ability to count to 10 in French and said her favourite subject in school is basketball.

Despite her gratitude, Rodel said she remains worried about the five other members of the group dubbed Snowden’s “Guardian Angels” — including her daughter’s father and step-siblings — who remain in Hong Kong.

On Wednesday, Rodel and her lawyers issued a new plea to the Canadian government to accept the asylum claims of the remaining “Angels,” who they say face discrimination in Hong Kong for their role in helping Snowden. Four of them, including two young children, have had their asylum claims rejected there and could be deported to Sri Lanka.

“Our family has been divided, and I ask Canada to act now to bring the family together,” Rodel said, adding that she didn’t understand why all the Snowden refugees hadn’t been accepted at the same time.

Rodel and Keana’s arrival at the end of March brought an end to a saga dating back to 2013.

At that time, when Snowden fled to Hong Kong after divulging classified documents from the U.S. National Security Agency, Rodel and a handful of others banded together to help in the whistleblower’s early days as a fugitive, according to their lawyer.

The information Snowden leaked exposed the scope of massive government surveillance operations. He currently lives in Moscow and is wanted in the United States on charges related to the leaks.

The remaining “Angels” have been identified as a couple from Sri Lanka named Supun Kellapatha and Nadeeka Dilrukshi, and their two young children, ages 3 and 7. The fifth is a Sri Lankan soldier who deserted the military. Rodel has said Kellapatha is Keana’s father.

Rodel appeared at the news conference alongside her lawyers, who announced they had filed additional applications last week to have the remaining refugees accepted on humanitarian grounds and for reasons of family reunification.

Lawyer Guillaume Cliche-Rivard said the whole family is suffering psychologically from the separation, and it’s imperative that they are brought together in Canada soon.

“We can’t have a daughter separated from her father for more than two months,” he said. ”Even two months is too long, and we need to reunite them as soon as possible.”

He expressed hope that the additional submissions would help boost the family’s existing asylum claim.

Robert Tibbo, a lawyer representing the group, said a recent case in which Germany granted asylum to two Hong Kong activists lends credence to the Snowden group’s claims that they’ve been persecuted by Hong Kong authorities.

The German decision to grant protection to the two pro-democracy protesters has been interpreted as a manifestation of growing concern over how Hong Kong treats those with dissenting political views.

Tibbo said many countries have been reluctant to accept asylum claims from the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, believing it to be a safe area.

The German decision, and the Hong Kong’s government’s angry response to it, shows the remaining five refugees are “at immediate risk for their safety and security,” he said.

“The Snowden refugees still in Hong Kong are at the mercy of the Hong Kong government, and they’ve been persecuted for the last three years,” he said. ”They stand alone compared to the rest of the refugee community.”

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

New staff housing camp opens at Barkerville Historic Town and Park

The ATCO trailer at the Forest Rose Campground offers 26 housing units

Quesnel boxers earn praise for performance in Williams Lake

Connor Clancy earns first win, Evan Lee lands fight of the night and James Mott is a gentleman

’This is our way to give back to somebody’

Quesnel couple’s TeamTanya “The Breast Ride” raising money to help people going through breast cancer

Quesnel business associations collaborate to host dinner on the bridge

The first event on the walking bridge, the Shore to Shore Dinner on the Bridge, sold out quickly

Grads will be celebrated at Quesnel’s National Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration

Event planned for Friday, June 21 includes dancing, children’s activities, food and music

Scorpion gives birth after hitching ride in B.C. woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought the animal home from a trip to Cuba

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

Commercial fishers in B.C. now required to wear life-jackets on deck: WorkSafeBC

WorkSafeBC reports 24 work-related deaths in the commercial fishing industry between 2007 and 2018

Beekeeping Rossland boy finds human kindness sweet as honey

Family overwhelmed by kind offerings of strangers

B.C. files second legal challenge against Alberta over turn-off-taps law

B.C. government filed a second lawsuit against Alberta on June 14

Tax credits, penalizing big polluters, key to Conservative climate plan

Canada’s commitment is to cut emissions to 70 per cent of what they were in 2005 before 2030

Victoria double murder trial: Blood splatter analyst found no shoe prints on scene

RCMP analyst testifies to smears, fingermarks, ‘swipe and wipe’ patterns around apartment

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

FVRD chair calls B.C. incineration plan for Philippines waste ‘disturbing’

Metro Vancouver ‘uniquely capable’ of safely disposing of waste coming back to Canada, say officials

Most Read