Sixteen years ago, Nick Cooper had a maternity ward conversion from hatemonger to lover of inclusivity.
Once member of racist extremist groups in London, England, Cooper is now part of a group called Life After Hate, he’s involved with Cycling4Diversity, and more locally, a Facebook group called Inclusion Chilliwack.
And earlier this month a Tweet of Cooper’s went viral around the world after he painted over a swastika adorned with racist language under a bridge at Eagle Landing. That Tweet received more than 350,000 likes in just four days.
But despite what seems like almost two decades of penance for mistakes he made in the 1990s, those choices are coming back to haunt him in the form of a possible deportation via the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
His friends are rallying around him hoping he is judged on the man he is today rather than who he used to be.
“After hearing Nick’s story and knowing him personally for the past year, I would be incredibly saddened to see Nick deported,” said friend Stacey Wakelin. “What inspires me most about Nick is his capacity to remain true to his mission in life – to share kindness and to drown out hate. The mistakes made while he was young are being used to make this country a better place.”
On Monday, Cycling4Diversity executive director Anne-Marie Sjoden started a “Keep Nick Cooper in Canada” petition via Change.org with a goal of reaching 500 signatures. By Wednesday at noon it had 300.
“According to friends, his immigration issues stem from some choices he made back in the early 1990s, when he was involved with a hate group that had ties to planned terror plots,” the petition reads. “Nick Cooper has been trying to make a better life for himself and his family. He has been doing public speaking on his past life and how he regrets his life as a member of a Hate group.”
Cooper’s change of heart came when his wife was in labour in 2000 in England. As a racist at the time, he didn’t want any non-white hospital staff helping them.
But there was trouble with the birth and his wife had to go for an emergency C-section. That’s when the lives of his wife and daughter were saved by a doctor of Indian descent and an Afro-Caribbean nurse.
He apologized to the nurse who he had been very rude to, and she brought him a cup of tea.
“That little bit of compassion that she showed me when I least deserved it, it just changed my entire life,” Cooper said.
“Now I’m trying me best to bring light out of darkness. Because that was a very dark time in my life. My message is, don’t do that because it it’s wrong. Everyone deserves to live a life in safety.”
His immigration status now in question thanks to mistakes me made in the 1990s, Cooper and his friends just hope Canada will let him stay.
“Nick uses his story to educate our youth and illustrate the destructive impact hate or discrimination has on society,” Wakelin said. “I do not believe that the mistakes Nick made as an angry 20-year-old man, warrant his deportation today.”
“He has more than earned it and wants to make it right,” Cycling4Diversity founder Ken Herar said on Facebook. “Second chances are important in life.”