Speaker 1.: So I was hoping you might be able to explain how could it possibly be that this man [Abdulahi Hasan Sharif] could enter Canada after being rejected in the United States? Could you just walk through the mechanism of how that might be possible?
Raj Sharma: Well The Safe Third Country Agreement or the STC is designed to prevent, or restrict at least, asylum shopping. It's meant to make sure that people that come to Canada first, make a claim here, rather than go and make a claim in the US and vice versa.
Now, there are exceptions to the STC. So someone could make a refugee claim in the US, be rejected, then come up to the border. So either you cross the border and make a claim outside of a port of entry, and that's an exception to the STC and that's what we're seeing with the border crossers over out East.
But you could also come to a port of entry and you could make a refugee claim at the border and there could be an exception, for example, if you have family in Canada that either have status or are going through the refugee process themselves. The definition for family under the STC is actually broader than what we sort of normally consider family in immigration. It could even be an uncle or an aunt.
Speaker 1.: Oh okay. Then how different is that, so just basically it extends to uncle or aunt from like father or mother, brother ...
Raj Sharma: Yeah and so you come to the sort of port of entry, and you say, "Well I have a relative in Canada," and you're allowed to make that refugee claim then. And of course-
Speaker 1.: Even if you've been rejected in the United States before?
Raj Sharma: That's right. If you look at the criteria for ineligibility to make a refugee claim, that's section 101 of the Immigration Refugee Protection Act. There's no ineligibility for a previous claim in the US. There is ineligibility for a previous claim in Canada.
Speaker 1.: Oh okay. But just being rejected in the US would have no bearing then, in a Canadian proceeding?
Raj Sharma: That's right. Our definition of a refugee is a touch broader than the US, which is generally just the convention refugee definition, which is our section 96. But we also recognize persons in need of protection under section 97.
Speaker 1.: Okay and you could just explain a bit what that difference means?
Raj Sharma: Well a convention refugee definition is restricted to someone that's outside of their country and has a well-founded fear of persecution by reason of one of the enumerated convention grounds. You know, political opinion, race, religion, things of that nature. But the person in need of protection, for example, let's say you're targeted by FARC in Columbia a few years ago, or let's say you're targeted by, you fear a sort of organized crime in Mexico, or even something similar, for example, in Somalia. The convention refugee definition doesn't lend itself well to that situation.
So section 97 does. It's a higher standard of proof but that's an important difference so someone that's rejected in the US could very well succeed in Canada. And of course, there could be, for example, an intervening act. There could be something sur place. There could be something that occurred back home after the refugee claim was rejected in the US, for example.
Speaker 1.: Right. Right. And is this unusual that you would see someone who meets these circumstances basically? That was turned away from the US and I assume he successfully claimed refugee status in Canada, right? If he's been here this long, he must be officially refugee-
Raj Sharma: Well that's my information. That's what I reviewed is that in 2012 he entered Canada. In 2012 his refugee claim was accepted.
Speaker 1.: Right, right. So is it unusual that you would see that kind of scenario or someone from a country like Somalia rejected in the US and then successful in Canada?
Raj Sharma: And I don't think that's unusual. I've done it myself. I mean I've done it out of Columbia for example. Number of accepted claims out of Colombia were very low in the US and that same person could come up to Canada, make a successful claim here in Canada. I've done it and it does happen.
Speaker 1.: Oh interesting. Do you know if you've ever had clients go through this, what kind of courts they go through in the US? I'm just wondering about-
Raj Sharma: Yeah, something similar to ours. It's administrative decision maker. So they'll call the immigration judge but probably analogous to an RPD member like we have over here.
Speaker 1.: Okay.
Raj Sharma: So yeah they have, my understanding is that their system of adjudication is similar to ours in that it's administrative process and quasi-judicial and less formal.
Speaker 1.: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Raj Sharma: And obviously we're saying that the US immigration adjudication has not changed that US, you know, we still have confidence in it. And if we didn't, that would be grounds obviously for doing away with the Safe-Third Country Agreement.
Speaker 1.: Right.
Raj Sharma: Now who knows what the exact solution is. Howard Anglin wrote an article for Macleans. He suggested perhaps that we could recognize a US decision, or restrict a subsequent claim here on section 97 only. Or maybe we could restrict it to strictly a paper based assessment of risk. Another suggestion that he has is to restrict to the Safe-Third Country Agreement, you know, that exception for family members, for example.
Speaker 1.: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Speaker 1.: Do you think it undermines confidence in the Canadian system at all that this one case seems to have gone through and then resulted in [inaudible 00:07:02]?
Raj Sharma: It's not, well good at all. I think ordinary Canadians are going to wonder why someone's that's been rejected by the US, that was ordered deported from the US in 2011, was able to come to Canada and then of course successfully make a refugee claim here and then obviously was investigated by the RCMP for extremist ideology in 2015, and then of course, runs over a police officer and tries to run over people in Edmonton in 2017. These things are not good for the public's confidence in the immigration system.
The other issue is of course when you have the border crossing out East, we are very, very lucky we have this sort of Jupiter like neighbor to the south that really absorbed most of the illegal immigration flows. And we may not have that anymore. And so we [currently have confidence in our immigration system. We don't have issues in terms of xenophobia or the underlying sentiments for Brexit precisely because we have this sort of orderly immigration system and we pick the vast majority of our immigrants including refugees. We re-settle, for example.
That [faith] could be undermined if the public keeps seeing instance like this or the public sees Canadian military building tent cities on the border.