Filipina Vanessa Rodel and her seven-year-old daughter Keana were granted asylum by the Canadian government for helping Edward Snowden hide in Hong Kong after he exposed the United States global surveillance programs.
According to a non-profit organization For the Refugees, Rodel and her daughter arrived in Toronto on Monday, March 25, then traveled to Montreal on Tuesday, March 26, to settle there as private sector-sponsored refugees.
“(Me) and Keana can have a real life, a real future in Canada. I’m so happy,” Rodel told Radio-Canada by phone before she boarded a plane to Toronto.
Rodel, a Philippine national, was among those who helped Snowden while he was on the run from the U.S. authorities. She hid Snowden in her apartment in 2013. She was under pressure from Hong Kong authorities to the point that they faced a risk of deportation to the Philippines.
For the Refugees reported that Rodel and her daughter were offered the asylum in January but it was kept strictly confidential so as not to compromise their safety and security.
Canadian lawyer Robert Tibbo, who served as Snowden and Rodel’s legal aid in Hong Kong applauded the asylum grant as he emphasized that “Canada did the right thing.”
Snowden expressed his gratitude to the North American country for the generosity it offered to Rodel who once saved his life by providing him a shelter when he was in hiding. In a a Twitter post, he said that “Canada can save all of them.”
“Thanks to all who, in Canada and across the world, made this possible. After so many years, the first of the families who helped me is free, and has a future. But the work is not over. With solidarity and compassion, Canada can save all of them,” Snowden said.
Snowden was a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and a U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor. He leaked highly classified documents that revealed the global surveillance programs run by the NSA in cooperation with Australia, Britain and Canada.
Snowden was charged in June 2013 in the United States with espionage and stealing state secrets. He now resides in Russia.
The National Post reported that along with Rodel, there are five other people who helped Snowden and also requested asylum but remain in Hong Kong awaiting a response.
When reporters asked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a comment, he declined, stating that it would be inappropriate to do so in “a situation regarding a specific case.” However, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland implicitly confirmed the report, telling reporters she had not personally intervened in the process.
Tribbo urged the prime minister to approve the asylum grant for the other refugees. He noted: “what Trudeau needs to do now is step forward and grant the others refugee status and bring them to Canada.”
Asked during a Washington visit whether the granting of asylum might harm U.S.-Canadian relations, Freeland told reporters that Ottawa based its decision on case-by-case considerations, not “geopolitical relations.” (Nathalie Robles/AJPress)