Editorial: Just the facts, please

With growing concerns over the government’s use of detention in immigration matters, a recent case shows just how far officials will sometimes go to keep people behind bars.

Last week, Federal Court Justice Russel Zinn decided a new panel should review Giga Odosashvili’s detention pending an admissibility hearing. Federal officials sought to lock him up after police charged him in December with two counts of break and enter, possession of property obtained by crime, and obstructing a peace officer and then a further two counts of break and enter in February.

Part of the government’s case rested on assertions about Odosashvili’s involvement in organized crime. While a government lawyer referred to “overwhelming documentary evidence” of such involvement, Zinn found otherwise. An exhibit filed by government counsel, Zinn noted, “contained a statement that was known or ought to have been known to be false.” The case included a statutory declaration about Odosashvili’s association with two men charged with break and enter who were leaders of a break-and-enter ring. “However, all of the criminal charges against those two men were withdrawn by the Crown 10 months earlier on April 24, 2013,” Zinn noted.
“With that withdrawal, the charges ceased to exist. . . . Criminal counsel further attests that neither was ever charged with any organized crime related offence.”

Zinn noted other misrepresentations as well.

At Odosashvili’s detention hearing, his counsel, Nikolay Chsherbinin, attempted to raise objections to the misrepresentations, but the immigration division member refused to hear them. “I did not find that I am required any further information and I was prepared to render my decision at the time,” he said.

For Zinn, the misrepresentations put forth by the government were “very disturbing.” Noting immigration regulations require more than suspected involvement with a criminal organization (in this case, it was the Georgian Mafia), he granted the judicial review application and sent the matter back to a new panel. Officials may believe their suspicions about Odosashvili’s involvement with members of a criminal organization, “but there has been no finding of any criminal court that any one of them is a member of such an organization,” he wrote.

The case, then, is an example of the government going too far in its zeal to enforce immigration laws. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but it should be basing its legal assertions on the facts, especially given the growing concerns by groups such as No One is Illegal about lengthy detentions in immigration matters.
— Glenn Kauth

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