After 29 months of taking refuge in a church in Shediac, N.B., Mahammed Amine Maazaoui is a free man.
Maazaoui's original claim to become a permanent resident of Canada was denied. Fearing for his life if he returned to his Tunisian home, he took refuge in the Shediac Bay Church.
In late October, he received word his file had been reviewed and he had been granted his permanent residence in principle on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
“For me it was a surprise. More than surprised. It was hope, and hope came true,” Maazaoui says.
For the last three weeks he's been getting used to life outside the church.
“I felt nervous when I was going to be outside. I don't know why. Maybe because it was (a) new system. The old routine was gone. But now I feel better,” says Maazaoui
Even though his claim hasn't been finalized, Maazaoui has no fear of being forced to leave the country.
“That order of deportation no longer exists,” says Akram Bensalah of the New Brunswick Refugee Clinic. “Amine is free. He's legal. He has his status and he will soon receive his work permit and he will soon start contributing and giving back to the community here in New Brunswick.
Amine Maazaoui has been active since becoming a free man. He’ll be travelling to Fredericton to observe his first Remembrance Day ceremony in Canada.
“I want to give thanks to those who leave the country, leave their families, leave this nation to help other people,” he says.
Maazaoui now has an apartment. He says he's grateful to the community and the church that welcomed him for the last two-and-a-half years.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jonathan MacInnis.