Editorial: Canada’s position on man’s refugee status incongruent

In many ways, Muhsen Ahmed Ramadan Agraira’s application for ministerial relief from the inadmissibility provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is a poor case for testing the law.

As Michael McKiernan reports on page 11 this week, lawyers are hoping for clear guidance on the issue when the Supreme Court of Canada rules on Agraira’s case.

They’re concerned that applications for ministerial relief are taking too long and have almost no chance of success, as evidenced by Agraira’s long battle to stay in the country.

After fleeing Libya in 1996, Agraira claimed refugee status on the basis of his membership in a Gadhafi opposition group, the Libyan National Salvation Front.

But since there was evidence the group had engaged in terrorism in an attempt to overthrow a government, an immigration officer told Agraira he was inadmissible under the act.

He then sought ministerial relief from the inadmissibility provisions, which former public safety minister Peter Van Loan rejected in 2009.

“There is clear evidence that the LNSF is a group that has engaged in terrorism and has used terrorist violence in attempts to overthrow a government,” Van Loan noted in his list of reasons for rejecting Agraira’s application.

What’s interesting, of course, is that the Canadian government has since then played a significant role in activities that led to the end of the Gadhafi regime in Libya.

So while the Federal Court of Appeal, in ruling in Agraira’s subsequent litigation on the matter recently, noted Van Loan was applying the law as it applies to his duty to consider the national interest within the context of public safety, it’s incongruent — at least in hindsight — for the government to reject his application on the basis of his connections to an anti-Gadhafi group when it sent its own military to Libya in an effort to protect citizens fighting the regime there.

Agraira’s case has several problems. As the appeal court noted, he has alternated between emphasizing his LNSF activities and downplaying them depending on the circumstances.

At the same time, the court repeatedly pointed out that the law is on Van Loan’s side. But given the overall optics of the case, it’s clear that it requires more analysis and consideration.

If it’s legitimate for the Canadian government to participate in activities that ultimately led to the overthrow of a regime, it was potentially acceptable for Agraira to fight his government as well.

To what extent the LNSF, and Agraira as an individual, engaged in terrorism and violence are further questions for consideration.

The Supreme Court’s guidance, then, will be welcome. Let’s hope it includes some analysis of where to draw the line between legitimate activities against a dictatorial regime and terrorism.
— Glenn Kauth

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