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Langley killer's deportation was deferred by instability in Haiti

Regis faces prison sentence of between 10 and 19 years
Forensic investigators at Naomi Onotera’s home at 200th Street and 50th Avenue Thursday morning, Sept. 16, 2021. This search took place shortly after IHIT took over the investigation, leading to manslaughter charges against her husband, Obnes Regis. (Langley Advance Times files)

During a two-day sentencing hearing in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, lawyers outlined the background of Obnes Regis, including how the man now convicted of manslaughter remained in Canada years after he was ordered removed by immigration authorities.

Regis pleaded guilty earlier this month to manslaughter and committing indignity to human remains, mid-way through his trial. He has admitted to punching and knocking down his wife, Naomi Onotera, in their Langley City home in 2021. He then dismembered and disposed of her body to cover up the killing.

Regis, 52, was born in Haiti into a religious home, his lawyer Gloria Ng told the court during the June 17 and 18 hearing. After his mother died when he was six, he was raised by his father and older siblings.

He took some time off from high school to care for his father, who was losing his eyesight, but did complete his secondary education, Ng said. She said his goal was to become a pastor, and he entered Canada as a student at Alberta Bible College in 2003.

Regis switched to Calgary's Mount Royal University in 2006, then moved to Ontario in 2007 when he married a Canadian woman.

However, as Crown prosecutor Crichton Pike noted, that marriage ended in separation after seven months, and they were divorced 12 months after the marriage.

When he was married, Regis had applied to become a permanent resident of Canada, but with his divorce, that application was refused.

In January 2010, Regis attempted to claim refugee status, but in 2011, Immigration Canada turned down that application and issued a removal order.

However, that order was put on hold by an Administrative Deferral of Removals (ADR) issued by Immigration Canada. 

ADRs, and the similar Temporary Suspension of Removals (TSRs), are used when it is unsafe for people to be removed to their country of origin because of major humanitarian crises. Countries and regions such as Ukraine, the Gaza Strip, Syria, and South Sudan are under ADRs now, as sending people back there could send them into immediate danger.

Haiti has suffered earthquakes, hurricanes, political instability and rampant crime over the past 20 years, and ADRs have been in place for that country repeatedly. One is in place now, according to the website of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). People in Canada under ADRs can apply for work and study permits.

After the first ADR, Regis remained in Canada and in 2013 was briefly arrested after he missed reporting to CBSA. 

Although he has some violations of his check-ins with immigration authorities, he did not have a criminal record in Canada prior to his manslaughter conviction.

In 2015, Regis applied again for permanent residency on humanitarian grounds; that was refused in 2016. He received another deferral for a second application, which was denied in 2017.

During much of this time, there were ADRs or TSRs in place for Haiti.

During his time in Canada, Regis worked in construction, and for a time while he was in university he had considered medical school, Ng said. He plans to return to his studies to become a pastor, remotely, when he is incarcerated following his sentencing next month, she said.

After his time in prison, he will be removed from Canada and returned to Haiti, regardless of whether an ADR is in place or not. Lawyers for both sides told Justice Martha Devlin during the sentencing hearing that serious criminal convictions override an ADR.

"An individual who is not allowed into Canada on grounds of criminality, serious criminality, international or human rights violations, organized crime, or security can still be removed despite an ADR," according to the CBSA website.

Both Crown and defense lawyers have agreed that Regis should serve the maximum sentence – five years – for the charge of indignity to human remains. A manslaughter sentence will be served consecutively. The Crown has asked Devlin for 14 years on manslaughter, for a total sentence of 19 years. Ng has asked for five to six years for manslaughter, with a total sentence of 10 to 11 years.

Having already spent just over two and a half years in pre-trial custody before his sentencing, Regis will receive a credit for about 3.8 years of time served. Time in pre-trial custody is calculated as worth 1.5 times time served after sentencing.

Devlin will pronounce her sentence in the case on Tuesday, July 16 in the courthourse in New Westminster.

Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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