The CBC reported on Thursday that an MV Sun Sea Eezham Tamil refugee faces imminent deportation. The Canadian government has issued a deportation order for February 13 in the case. Changes to refugee appeals processes by the Canadian government have restricted the avenues and time frame for appeals. The refugee’s lawyer, Hadayt Nazami, speculates that the government has been ‘judge-shopping’ by canceling two previous hearings regarding a stay of the refugee’s deportation. Nazami told the CBC these tactics are being employed by the government to ensure a favourable judge, who will not order a stay on the deportation, hears the case.
According to a report by the CBC on January 31, an Eezham Tamil refugee faces deportation within 10 days. The judge in Immigration and Refugee Board hearing agreed that the Sri Lankan military tortured the refugee and that he was never a member of the LTTE.
However the judge did not find that the refugee or his family faced torture or persecution if deported to Sri Lanka, and therefore denied refugee status. This ruling goes against other rulings in similar cases before the Immigration and Refugee Board where the persecution faced by Eezham Tamils in Sri Lanka as been recognized.
Changes to Canada’s refugee law through Bill C-31 or ‘Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act’ restrict access to Pre-Removal Risk Assessments, necessary to establish that a refugee faces risk of persecution if returned to their country of origin. Following Bill C-31 individuals may not apply for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment for 12 months after the Immigration and Refugee Board has denied their refugee claim.
However, as this Eezham Tamil refugee’s lawyer, Hadayt Nazami notes, 12 months is the time necessary for the Canadian government to deport a refugee after denying their refugee claim.
Consequently in this case, an Eezham Tamil refugee is unable to file a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment to have the evidence of persecution faced by Eezham Tamils in Sri Lanka, as well as returned Eezham Tamil refugees, heard by Canadian courts.
Bill C-31, as passed by the Conservative Harper government, prevents refugees from accessing legal appeals processes necessary to protect their rights and safety.
Nazami further noted that while the only appeal option that remains is to seek a stay of the Eezham Tamil refugee’s deportation, the government has twice removed its deportation orders when judges who have tended to stay deportation orders in such cases have been assigned to the hear the case.
The CBC quoted Nazami saying, "Whatever I say would be speculating, but the way it happens to be — canceling after discovering the identity of the judge — appears to us to be judge-shopping."
The CBC further reports that the government has issued a third deportation order for February 13. The case is being appealed to the Federal Court for a stay.