The Deported: Hundreds of B.C. criminals without citizenship shipped out
2017/03/27 Leave a comment
Underlying logic undermined by blind application to those who have spent most of their life in Canada, where their criminality developed:
The 2013 legislation means any permanent resident sentenced to six months or more can be deported with fewer avenues of appeal. The old threshold was a two-year court sentence and more chances to appeal.
CBSA statistics show that the new rules have had the intended effect.
The total number of criminals deported from the Pacific region in 2011, 2o12 and 2013 was 174. Over the subsequent three years, 276 people were deported from the region for their criminal history.
Some have been high-profile gangsters like Barzan Tilli-Choli, of the United Nations gang, who was sent back to Iraq in January after serving almost eight years for plotting to kill the Bacon brothers. He came to B.C. as a teen in 1999.
Others, like Van Heest, suffer from serious mental health issues that contributed to their criminality.
Many of those affected have been in Canada since early childhood, but their caregivers never obtained citizenship for them.
“Somebody dropped the ball, whether it was the parent or the state if they ended up being a ward,” Golden said.
In Van Heest’s case, his family thought he was automatically a Canadian.
“By the time he was an adult and could have (applied for citizenship), he couldn’t because he had the (criminal) record and he was also dealing with a mental illness that was untreated,” Golden said.
Critics say the new rules are unforgiving and don’t look at the individual circumstances of those ordered out of Canada for criminality.
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said she supported the legislation in 2013 and still supports it today. And she thinks the majority of Canadians do, too.
“The primary responsibility of legislators is to keep the Canadian population safe, so that’s really … why we made these changes in 2013,” she said.
Focusing on any specific case, including Van Heest’s, is the wrong approach, Rempel said.
“Where I think we go off the rails is when we look at one case in a vacuum, or talk about taking away the personal responsibility component from criminal actions.”
CBSA communications officer Kristine Wu said the agency places “the highest priority on removal cases involving national security, organized crime, crimes against humanity and criminals.”
“Everyone ordered removed from Canada is entitled to due process before the law,” she said. “Our position is clear: Once all avenues of recourse are exhausted, the person must leave Canada or be removed.”
One of those the CBSA is currently trying to deport is long-time Kelowna resident David Roger Revell, a former Hells Angel associate convicted in 2008 of conspiracy to traffic cocaine after a massive RCMP undercover operation targeting the biker gang. He was sentenced to five years.
Revell, a father and grandfather who now works in Alberta, was born in England and was brought to Canada as a 10-year-old in 1974. Like Van Heest, he never got Canadian citizenship. Unlike Van Heest, his convictions are unrelated to mental illness.
Revell argued to the Immigration and Refugee Board last year that he never would have pleaded guilty in the assault case if he had known it would lead the CBSA to renew a review of his admissibility that had been on hold after the 2008 conviction.
“According to Mr. Revell, he pled guilty to simply put an end to proceedings that were requiring him to travel back and forth from Fort McMurray to Kelowna,” Immigration and Refugee Board member Marc Tessler noted in a July 2016 ruling. “According to Mr. Revell, if he had received a warning letter, he would never have pled guilty.”
Tessler agreed with Revell’s evidence that his deportation to England would have a “profound” impact on him.
“He has lived in Canada for 42 years and has only known Canada as home,” Tessler said.
But Tessler rejected Revell’s claims that his Charter rights had been violated and ordered him deported.
Revell has now asked the Federal Court to review Tessler’s decision. A hearing is set in Vancouver for May.
Revell’s lawyer Lorne Waldman said he plans to again argue that his client’s Charter rights would be violated by his deportation and that “Canadian jurisprudence should begin to acknowledge that it is just unacceptable to remove someone from the only country he’s ever really known.”
“The issue now that is coming before the court is: Are there circumstances in which it might be a violation of a person’s right to life, liberty and security of person to send that person away from a place where he has lived most of his life?”
Waldman, who is based in Toronto, said he has been inundated with calls from people living in Canada for decades who now find themselves in a similar situation to Revell and Van Heest.
“What they’ve done is they have significantly increased the number of long-term permanent residents that are being deported because the threshold now is so low,” he said. “It has had a fairly dramatic impact and that’s why we are seeing such a large number of cases now moving forward.”