The lawyer representing a former child refugee fighting to stay in Canada despite his criminal past says deportation would be a violation of international human rights law.
Benjamin Perryman is the lawyer for Abdoul Abdi, 23, who recently came to the end of a five-year federal sentence at Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick for aggravated assault, assaulting a police officer with a car, theft of a motor vehicle, and dangerous driving.
He is now facing deportation to Somalia, a country to which he has no connection and one that is so dangerous Canadian officials can’t even travel to some parts.
Abdi should have been released from Dorchester this week to serve the remainder of his sentence at a halfway house in Toronto, but he was arrested by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and placed in immigration detention.
The CBSA decided Wednesday to refer Abdi to the immigration division for an admissibility hearing for the second time. The hearing is set to take place Monday.
In July 2016 Abdi, who came to Nova Scotia from Somalia at the age of six, was first deemed inadmissible to Canada. According to Canadian immigration laws, a person can be deemed inadmissible by the CBSA for reasons that include having been found guilty of a serious crime resulting in a sentence of six months or more, or for an offence that carries a maximum term of 10 years.
Abdi subsequently sought an application for leave and judicial review in federal court. In October a federal court judge overturned the 2016 decision, referring the case back to the CBSA.
Perryman had hoped that this would be a second chance for Abdi to plead his case and bring to light facts that were initially omitted. The original submission by Abdi to the CBSA was only two pages long, and at the time he was not aware why he was even writing the letter or that he was facing deportation, nor did he have a lawyer to assist him. Many details about Abdi’s life were not considered for the initial decision, Perryman said.
Things like Abdi’s troubled childhood in Somalia, which included witnessing the murder of close family members, the abuse he and his sister suffered as children in foster care in Nova Scotia, and that while he was in the care of Nova Scotia Community Services from the age of seven, no one applied for citizenship on his behalf — something that should have been the responsibility of the provincial government.
Perryman said the current submission was around 30 pages long, but yielded the same decision by a delegate of Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on Wednesday: to send Abdi to an admissibility hearing.
“This time Mr. Abdi did raise those arguments and they were completely ignored by border services in their decision,” Perryman said.
“It’s unfortunate that the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness continues to ignore Canada’s international human rights law obligations, which are clear in cases like (Abdi’s).”
Perryman said the United Nations has previously held in identical cases that it would be a violation of international law to remove people like Abdi. He said the previous Conservative government also ignored those obligations, but he hoped the Liberals would have more respect for international law.
“It’s also upsetting to see government unwilling to take any responsibility for what happens when a young person falls through cracks that governments have created, and cracks that governments have refused to fix knowing that they exist.”
With the admissibility hearing scheduled for Monday, Perryman said Abdi is scared and anxious about what comes next.
He said the rules are such that at the hearing the government can only consider what is in the CBSA report by the minister’s delegate, and not any outside circumstances.
“It used to be that they could consider all the person’s circumstances and then there was an appeal from that. As it presently is they have to issue a removal order if the convictions in that report are well-founded and meet the definition of serious criminality, which they do in this case.”
The removal order would strip Abdi of his permanent resident status and set the wheels in motion for deportation. Because Somalia is a dangerous country, the government would also get something called a danger opinion showing that the danger to the public if Abdi says in Canada exceeds the danger he would face if he is deported in Somalia.
Perryman said Abdi will attempt to go back to federal court again and start the cycle over, which could potentially result in a third CBSA decision by a different minister’s delegate if the court again rules in his favour. Those proceedings were initiated on Wednesday.
The Chronicle Herald reached out to Goodale’s office for comment, but a spokesperson said they were not able to comment on specific cases for privacy reasons.