Lajos Botos (Sr) now lives in Toronto with his three sons, Frank, Lajos (Jr), and Robi, and a nephew, Jozsef. Frank and Robi have resided in Toronto since 1998 having arrived as refugee claimants. After a protracted struggle to obtain Convention Refugee status, Frank, Robi, and their families are now well established in Toronto and have applied for Canadian citizenship. Robi has become a nationally acclaimed jazz pianist. He has recorded three albums and has shared the stage with Oscar Peterson, Al Jarreau, Chaka Khan, Molly Johnson, Peter Appleyard, and many others. He won the 2004 Montreaux Jazz Festival Award for the solo piano competition, the National Jazz Award in 2007 and 2008, and he was nominated for a Juno award in 2006 and 2012. He plays at jazz festivals around the world. Lajos (Sr), Lajos (Jr) and their families have been in Canada since November 2011. Nephew and first cousin Jozsef also arrived in November 2011. Lajos (Jr) and his wife have four children and a fifth is expected. Jozsef and his wife have one child.
All five men are successful musicians. Bass player and singer, Lajos (Jr) performed with Robi at Massey Hall on 1 June 2012 and plays regularly in Toronto venues. They have performed with numerous notable jazz musicians such as John McDermott, Dave Young, Pat Labarbera, Guido Basso, and the Rolling Stone’s saxophonist, Tim Ries. Guitarist Jozsef is negotiating an endorsement with the renowned Canadian guitar company, Godin, and Lajos (Jr) with Markbass and Warwick. Lajos (Sr) is establishing a church group. They and their children all do volunteer work for the Roma community, including public education about the conditions for Roma in Europe. Despite their arrival in Canada just months ago, Lajos' teenage children are already fluent in English and have made many friends at school. They are called upon to translate for other Hungarian Roma children in their school. The family are active church-goers. They marvel at Canadians' friendliness toward them and the readiness with which they are accepted as Roma. This is utterly unlike anything they experience in Hungary where intimidation and violence against the Roma is a daily occurrence.
Conditions for Hungarian Roma are very poor. The Roma people endure growing public support for the extreme right-wing Jobbik Party who was described in the 2011 Political Handbook of the World as a fascist party. Jobbik now holds 47 seats in the Hungarian Parliament translating to 1 million votes of support. Despite its ban by the Hungarian courts in 2009, Jobbik’s paramilitary wing, the Hungarian Guard has reorganized into new organizations. Its membership of several thousand rejects equal rights to Roma and incites hatred toward them and other minorities. In its publicly posted country reports, Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board indicates that since 2007 these organizations have held anti-Roma demonstrations in 11 locations including Budapest. In March and April 2011, paramilitary groups organized patrols and a training camp in the town of Gyongyospata with the aim of intimidating the local Roma population. NGOs asserted that the Hungarian government failed to protect the local Roma minority against the racist provocation. Yet Minister of Immigration and Citizenship Jason Kenney denies the problem. He has repeatedly stated that Roma refugee claims are “bogus.” Bill C-31 recently passed in Canadian Parliament. The new law known as ‘Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act’ weakens Canada’s commitment to refugee claimants already weakened by an earlier law passed in 2010, ‘The Balanced Refugee Reform Act.’ Bill C-31 hastens the timeline in which refugee claimants can prove their claim, eliminates all appeals, designates some countries such as Hungary as “safe” to which refugees may be returned, and prohibits families from reuniting for five years. Alarmingly, the new law vests the Minister with the extraordinary powers to make all of these decisions based on nothing more than his discretion.
When you sign this petition, you are protesting the harsh legal process aimed at shutting out Hungarian Roma like father and son Lajos Botos and nephew Jozsef Botos. Please support their application to stay in Canada on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds.
Cynthia Levine-Rasky started this petition with a single signature, and won with 1,563 supporters. Start a petition to change something you care about.