Vanessa Rodel talks to media after arriving at Lester B. Pearson Airport in Toronto on Monday, March 25, 2019. A woman who escaped violence and human trafficking and helped shelter former CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden when he fled to Hong Kong is coming with her daughter to Canada after being granted refugee status, her lawyer said Monday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Vanessa Rodel talks to media after arriving at Lester B. Pearson Airport in Toronto on Monday, March 25, 2019. A woman who escaped violence and human trafficking and helped shelter former CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden when he fled to Hong Kong is coming with her daughter to Canada after being granted refugee status, her lawyer said Monday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Refugee who sheltered Edward Snowden in Hong Kong arrives in Canada

Vanessa Rodel and her seven-year-old daughter Keana arrived in Toronto this week

A woman who escaped violence and human trafficking, and helped shelter former CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden when he fled to Hong Kong, has arrived in Canada with her daughter after being granted refugee status.

Vanessa Rodel and her seven-year-old daughter Keana arrived in Toronto on Monday before travelling to Montreal, where they will settle in an apartment provided to them by a non-profit group that filed her 2016 asylum application.

Rodel said as soon as the plane lifted off, she felt as though she could relax and begin to think of her new life in Canada.

“I feel so great and I feel like I’m free,” she said after arriving at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

Her lawyer, Robert Tibbo, said Rodel’s arrival in Canada is the “first victory” in a saga that began in 2013. Rodel was part of a group that became known as Snowden’s “Guardian Angels.” They helped the fugitive at Tibbo’s request in 2013, when the whistleblower fled the United States to Hong Kong after leaking classified information about the U.S. National Security Administration.

Five other people in the “Angels” group represented by Tibbo — three adults and two children — remain in Hong Kong. They fled Sri Lanka years ago, and their applications for asylum in Hong Kong have been rejected.

Rodel said she her thoughts are with those who remain in Hong Kong who also helped Snowden.

“I’m happy, but I’m also sad because they are still left behind,” she said. ”They are still stuck for many years in Hong Kong. They have so many troubles in their lives. … I’m hoping they also can come to Canada and (have) a better life.”

Tibbo urged the federal government to intercede and bring the remaining refugees to Canada.

“We are, though, very concerned that the other families have been left behind and we would like to see Mr. Trudeau and his government take necessary steps to decide the cases now,” he said.

Snowden’s leaks revealed to the world the global reach of the vast surveillance network of the U.S. and its allies. Snowden, who is still represented by Tibbo, is now in Moscow and is wanted in the United States on charges related to the leaks. The seven “Angels” gained notoriety in 2016 when their existence was revealed in Oliver Stone’s film “Snowden,” and Tibbo said they have since faced political persecution in Hong Kong.

Tibbo, originally from Montreal, and three Montreal-based lawyers set up a group to raise money for his clients who helped shelter the political fugitive. They filed asylum applications on their behalf, and collected about $350,000 for their expenses in Hong Kong and in Canada, should they all arrive in the city as privately sponsored refugees.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland was asked about the case Monday in Washington, where she was meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

“For the private refugees, it’s a quasi-judicial process — it’s not a political process,” Freeland said. “And we can’t comment on personal cases.”

Tibbo said Rodel and her daughter’s asylum applications were clear cut.

“There really wasn’t a debate there,” he said. ”And for the other families, all I can say is that their cases aren’t decided yet.”

Tibbo said Rodel fled gender-based persecution and human trafficking in the Philippines before she fled to Hong Kong. She and her daughter were accepted by Canada as refugees in January 2019. Her legal team kept their status secret until Monday.

“We wanted to make sure the wheels of the plane lifted off the ground,” Tibbo said.

READ MORE: Canada asked to take in families who sheltered Edward Snowden

The other asylum seekers are a couple from Sri Lanka named Supun Kellapatha and Nadeeka Paththini, and their two young children. The fifth is Ajit Kumara, a Sri Lankan soldier who deserted the military.

Aside from the individual reasons they fled Sri Lanka and the Philippines, Tibbo said all of the so-called angels ”have a separate refugee claim based on political opinion, stemming from their association and their assistance to Mr. Snowden in 2013.”

Snowden tweeted about Rodel and her daughter on Monday.

“Thank you to all those in Canada and around the world who have made this possible,” he wrote in French. ”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 them all.”

Tibbo said Snowden was charged with three counts of theft of data under the U.S. Espionage Act.

— with files from Shawn Jeffords

Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nick Warmerdam and his dog Diesel are inviting locals to check out the Lakeland Farm U-pick Flower Farm this spring. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
VIDEO & SLIDESHOW: Abbotsford’s Lakeland Flowers opens for spring

Tulip farm attraction opened on April 14, open to the public daily seven days a week

A man holds a child while speaking with RCMP following an erratic driving incident on Highway 1 in Chilliwack on Friday, April 16, 2021. The child and a woman (but not this man) were in this Jeep Grand Cherokee which hit a barrier and a parked car on Highway 1 and continued driving. The vehicle finally exited the highway at Yale Road West and came to a stop. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Video captures woman driving erratically with child after hitting barrier, car on Hwy 1 in Chilliwack

Smoke seen coming from SUV as it continues to travel eastbound of shoulder of highway

Video image
UPDATE: Bridge traffic moving normally after high-velocity crash involving logging truck

Northbound crash occurred at approximately 2 p.m., involves 6 vehicles, north lanes shut down

An undated picture of the Hope Station House. (Photo/Save The Hope Station House)
Hope council must consider all options for Station House: B.C. Ombudsperson

Investigation ‘revealed flaws in District’s process,’ statement said

The West Coast Women’s Show is among numerous events held annually at Tradex in Abbotsford. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Show producers start petition against city’s call for Tradex proposals

Abbotsford site should remain as events facility, petition states

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

Former Pitt Meadows city councillor David Murray was convicted of sex assault, and is now being sued by the victim. (files)
Former Pitt Meadows city councillor sued for sex assault

David Murray was convicted in 2017 of sexually assaulting a teen 25 years earlier

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Most Read