Plight of undocumented St. Lucian immigrant sparks church action

By Gerald V. Paul

Claudia Paula Peter and Rev. Jacqueline Dailey (inserted)
Claudia Paula Peter and Rev. Jacqueline Dailey (inserted)

No family member was there to shed a tear at Claudia’s funeral service in  Toronto  last week.

Not even her daughter, Diana,  who was thousands of miles away in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia  as her mom ‘s body was lying in a  coffin at  the chapel of a Toronto funeral home

Claudia would hardly have been surprised.

She was an undocumented  immigrant in a city of thousands of undocumented immigrants -living in the shadows, not knowing whom to trust and to whom she could turn for help – except some  church members and  community health workers.

It was a hard life for Claudia Paula Peter, a native of St. Lucia who lived in Toronto for more than 14  years and  worked mainly from her home as a hairdresser -until she got ill.

About two years ago , she  was diagnosed with breast cancer  and underwent surgery.Then it seemed as if the cancer was gone. But it came back.

Late last month she was found by a neighbour lying in the hallway of her apartment building where she had collapsed and was rushed to the Humber River Regional hospital in Toronto.

claudia pic

Her stay in the hospital was short. She had lost the battle against cancer. She died on October 3 last.

JD ordination

For several days after her death, it was uncertain what would happen to Claudia’s body. But after  a flurry of telephone calls between some concerned individuals in Toronto  and others in St. Lucia and New York, funds were raised to have her body flown back to her native country for burial.

F or members of the St. Stephen’s Anglican church in Toronto where Claudia worshipped, there was to be  a goodbye from her ” extended church family.”

And so, two Wednesdays ago, Rev. Jacqueline Dailey, the interim priest at the church, presided over” a service of thanksgiving ” for the woman who had no official papers to reside in Canada.

“She was a source of encouragement to the faithful with her gift of singing songs of Zion along with her hair braiding skills,” said the Jamaica-born minister.

According to Rev. Dailey, she (Claudia) ” suffered in silence, as she did not trust  many people.”

“But we were Claudia’s church family. Our role here is one of service to all of God’s children. So we press on helping those in need with food for their bodies and souls ,”  Rev. Daley told the Caribbean Camera.

“Our purpose as a church is to worship God and create a caring Christian community through growth and celebration, using our gifts and talents to reach out in love to others,” she explained.

“Claudia has been an inspiration for all of us and  has sparked a movement for other ‘Claudias’ out there in need of help, physically and spiritually. We are going to continue to help the elderly and those of our brothers and sisters who are undocumented,”  declared Rev. Daley.

The body of Claudia Paula Peter was scheduled to be flown back to St. Lucia today.