Vanessa Rodel is no stranger to adversity.
The 42-year-old woman fled her home in the Philippines to seek asylum in Hong Kong, claiming she was a victim of human trafficking.
When an American whistleblower on the run from the U.S. government arrived in the special administrative region of China in 2013, Rodel knew how it feels to be unsafe.
That whistleblower was Edward Snowden, a former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency employee and U.S. National Security Agency contractor, who exposed U.S. global surveillance programs.
Together with her young daughter and other asylum seekers, Rodel sheltered Snowden in Hong Kong.
They came to be known as Snowden’s ‘guardian angels’.
On March 25 this year, Rodel and her daughter, Keana, now seven years old, arrived in Canada, where they have been granted asylum.
“Now we are safe and free. I’m so grateful,” Rodel told reporters at the Lester B. Pearson Airport in Toronto.
Snowden, who now lives in Russia, expressed appreciation for Rodel and the others who helped him.
“They opened their doors to me,” Snowden told Radio-Canada. “They knew what it was like to be hunted, to be chased, to be retaliated against.”
Five other people who helped Snowden have also requested asylum, but they remain in Hong Kong awaiting a response from the Canadian government.
They include the father of Rodel’s daughter. The man also has two children who are Keana’s half-brother and half-sister.
Rodel moved to Hong Kong in 2002, and applied for asylum there in 2010. Her application was turned down by Hong Kong in 2017. Because of this, she and her Hong Kong-born daughter had been living in legal limbo.
Rodel and her daughter were sponsored by a Canadian non-government group called For the Refugees.
On March 26, a day after landing in Toronto, the two arrived in Montreal, where they will begin a new life.
Ethan Cox, a spokesperson with For the Refugees, said that the Canadian government has the ability to hasten the private-sponsored refugee claims of the five remaining refugees.
As Snowden said via Twitter, the “work is not over”.
“With solidarity and compassion, Canada can save all of them,” Snowden said.