American basketball phenom getting ‘amazing’ support after being denied permanent residency in Canada

October 26, 2021
American basketball phenom getting 'amazing' support after being denied permanent residency in Canada

London Morning8:18Permanent resident application rejected

Bilqis Abudl-Qaadir is an athletic director who spent years advocating for Muslim girls in sport. She found out last week that Citizenship and Immigration Canada rejected her application to become a permanent resident of Canada. Abudl-Qaadir joins London Morning with her reaction. 8:18

Basketball phenom Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir says she’s “humbled” by the support she’s received since CBC reported she’s been denied permanent residency in Canada and must return to the U.S. 

Abdul-Qaadir has made it her life’s work to help Muslim girls through sport. Last Thursday, she received a letter from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that said she doesn’t “meet the requirements” to stay in Canada with her husband and young son. 

“The support has been amazing. I’m truly humbled,” Abdul-Qaadir said Tuesday.  

Among those working on her case is London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos, who has been in touch with Abdul-Qaadir for several months as she moves through the immigration process. 

“As a member of Parliament and as someone who deeply values her contributions to the wider London community, I wanted to do everything I could to assist her. This is something any member of Parliament does,” Fragiskatos said. 

Abdul-Qaadir has set up a basketball academy for girls in London, as well as coached multiple sports at the London Muslim Mosque and the London Islamic School. But her application to stay was denied because the immigration officer determined she did not meet the criteria to stay as an athletic director. 

Abdul-Qaadir and husband A.W. Massey moved to London from Tennessee three years ago. She hasn’t been able to work in Canada since August, when her work permit expired and wasn’t renewed by a Canadian border official. 

‘A shining example’

Now, Fragiskatos is among those working with her and advocating on her behalf. 

“This is someone who I respect,” the MP said. “In just a short time, she’s made an important contribution to the London Muslim community in particular but also to the wider London community.

Abdul-Qaadir was the first Muslim woman in a headscarf to play NCAA Division I basketball. (Haute Hijab Sport)

“I’ve talked about her as a role model and I truly believe that she’s overcome a great deal. She’s a shining example for youth and young women in particular.” 

However, “each application is looked at on its own merits, and we will continue to engage the department responsible for immigration and the granting of permanent residence on this matter,” Fragiskatos added.

Abdul-Qaadir was a leading high school point scorer for boys and girls in Massachusetts, and went on to play for the University of Memphis in Tennessee, where she was the first woman to play in a hijab in NCAA Division 1. 

When she wanted to play professionally in Europe, she wasn’t allowed because of her hijab. She fought the ruling and won, but the four-year fight ended her professional career. 

She and her husband have not decided whether to fight the Canadian immigration decision. Lawyers and others have been reaching out to offer words of support and offer help, said Abdul-Qaadir. 

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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