‘Heartbroken’ family of Nigerian man who died at Calgary airport wants answers
Bolante Idowu Alo died following altercation with border officers as they tried to deport him
A Canada Border Services agent stands watch at an airport gate in this file photo. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)
The widow of a Nigerian man who died following a confrontation with border officers on a flight is “heartbroken” and hoping for details about the circumstances that led to her husband’s death.
The man was on board a KLM flight destined for Amsterdam Wednesday when he was involved in an altercation with two Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers who were trying to remove him from Canada.
Nigerian man who died after altercation with border officials said deportation would be a death sentence
The altercation occurred prior to takeoff in Calgary. The plane was forced to return to the gate, where the Calgary police airport unit was called to the scene.
Officers found the 49-year-old in medical distress. He was rushed to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Documents from the refugee board and the lawyer for the man’s family have identified him as Bolante Idowu Alo.
Lawyer Elias Munshya, who represents Alo’s family, said they are still processing the news. He spoke to Alo’s widow, who lives in Lagos with the couple’s two children, on Saturday, and one of his brothers, who lives in the United States on Friday.
“It is very sad,” Munshya said. “A normal death itself is very heartbreaking and devastating for the family, but knowing that he died under these circumstances — that are unclear at the moment — is really much more devastating.”
Alo first arrived in Canada in 2005, making a refugee claim in Fort Erie, Ont., according to a detention hearing transcript obtained from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada Immigration Division.
His refugee claim was closed and reopened over the years, and he filed humanitarian and compassionate applications, followed by an appeal for a judicial review. All claims were denied.
Alo sang in church choir, worked as taxi driver
Munshya attended Evangel Christian Assembly Church in Calgary with Alo. He described him as a good guy, who sang in the choir and frequently attended prayers. He worked as a taxi driver and also worked for a fellow church member.
“I knew that he was a very hard worker.… He was a good guy, and so it was very sad to learn he had passed on,” he said.
Pastor Bob Webster said Alo would often drive congregation members to church, and he was a member of the church’s bible study group.
“He was the kind of guy that always greeted you with a big smile, a big hello. Just a big friendly guy, from my perspective. But obviously was struggling with other stuff,” Webster said.
I wish I had been there for him.
– Bob Webster, the pastor for Bolante Idowu Alo’s church
Webster said in 2013 he wrote Alo a reference letter for his humanitarian and compassionate application to stay in Canada.
“I knew that he was applying for immigration and was trying to support him in that process, but I guess it was getting rejected along the way,” he said. “I wish I had been there for him.…Like what could have led to an altercation of this sort? I don’t know.”
Alo was being detained in advance of his deportation as CBSA officers believed he likely wouldn’t appear voluntarily for his flight, due to comments he made saying he wouldn’t allow himself to be removed from Canada.
During the July 26 detention hearing, Alo told officials one of his brothers had been killed in Nigeria and that he still had bullets in his body from his time in the country.
Civil rights groups call for CBSA oversight after Nigerian deportee’s death
Munshya didn’t know the exact details of Alo’s refugee claim as of Saturday, but said the man spoke often about his family and his desire to officially become a Canadian citizen one day.