Former UN translator waits in Mexico to return to Canada

Published November 1, 2004

Sanja Pecelj, the Kosovo woman who sought sanctuary in the basement of St. Mark’s church in Halifax for more than a year, is now living with her sister in Mexico, where she will wait for the Canadian government to process her application as a permanent resident. Processing of her application under a program that allows provinces to sponsor employable immigrants can take anywhere from four to 18 months.

“The Mexican government asked that there be no media blitz as she (Ms. Pecelj) left Canada, so we kept everything quiet,” said Susan Moxley, suffragan bishop of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, a leader of the campaign to pressure Citizenship and Immigration Canada to let Ms. Pecelj stay in Canada. “She (Ms. Pecelj) phoned Saturday (Sept. 11) as soon as she arrived.”

Bishop Moxley added: “Leaving Canada was not what the people of Nova Scotia wanted for her, but it was the only option Immigration Canada offered. They wanted to deport her to Serbia but allowed us to find a safe third country for her to live while they processed the papers. Since she has an old Yugoslavian passport, she needed a visa to travel almost anywhere.”

The province of Nova Scotia has already nominated Ms. Pecelj to work as a translator for a local company. She arrived in Canada from Kosovo in 2000, when she worked as a United Nations translator at the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre in Cornwallis, N.S. She applied for refugee status saying she feared being killed if she went back to Kosovo since she had worked for the UN.

Bishop Moxley expressed hope that “the interest generated by Sanja’s case will encourage more people to get interested in refugees and immigrants and to take some useful action, either in sponsoring refugees, or lobbying the government for an appeal process for the refugee process,” or supporting the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund work with refugees.


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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