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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The RCMP are asking people to respect decisions to not celebrate Halloween this year, and to enjoy the holiday safely. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror.
RCMP ask that decisions to skip Halloween are respected, and that everyone enjoy the event safely

Reminder that fireworks without permit are not allowed under city bylaws

Quadra Island RCMP detachment. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror.
Multiple patients involved in Quadra Island motor vehicle incident

Quadra fire, BC Ambulance and RCMP responding

Centennial Pool is one of the ‘unfortunate casualties’ of the city’s 2021 budget cuts, according to Mayor Andy Adams, but the closure does enable the city to get more work done on the facility rather than have to close it again in the future for renovations. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Centennial Pool could remain closed for 2021 due to lack of gaming revenue for City of Campbell River

Change room building likely to get major overhaul while the facility is closed anyway

B.C. Provincial Election candidates for the North Island riding. (Campbell River Mirror graphic)
Over 4,300 mail-in ballots returned so far in North Island district

Elections BC provides progress report before vote count

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

Most Read