Canada deports hundreds to China each year with no treatment guarantee
2017/04/04 Leave a comment
The large number of deportations to China reflects in part the large number of immigrants from China: 1,386 deportations compared to over 78,000 immigrants, or 1.8 percent (2013-15).
However, this is more than other large source countries like the Philippines and India. Given lack of due process in Chinese courts, this concern is not misplaced with respect to corruption cases:
The Canadian government is deporting hundreds of people to China each year without receiving any assurances that they will not be tortured or otherwise mistreated, statistics provided to The Globe and Mail reveal.
Canada and China do not have a formal extradition treaty, and the Trudeau government has signalled that it may not complete such a deal out of concern about abuses in the Chinese justice system.
The lack of such a deal has not, however, stopped Canada from sending people back to China. The Canada Border Services Agency has used deportation, expelling 1,386 people to China over the past three years, according to agency statistics.
It’s a process that lawyers, academics and former diplomats say offers too few protections against the mistreatment deportees might endure.
It also places Canada at risk of using evidence rooted in coerced confessions as Canadian authorities make decisions on ejecting people, particularly those sought by Beijing as part of its sweeping global Skynet operation to chase people it calls corrupt fugitives.
When people are returned to a country such as China, “there’s a need for very significant and enforceable assurances about the treatment they will receive and monitoring on the part of Canada – which Canada has not done,” said Sharryn Aiken, an expert on immigration and refugee law at Queen’s University.
“And in the absence of monitoring, people die in jail.”
The United Nations Committee against Torture has said that in China “the practice of torture and ill-treatment is still deeply entrenched in the criminal-justice system.”
Canada’s own foreign service recently signed its name to a letter saying there are “credible claims of torture” against people under interrogation in China.
Before deporting someone, Canadian immigration officials can conduct what is called a “preremoval risk assessment,” designed to evaluate whether a person is in danger of mistreatment upon return. “Due diligence is important before undertaking any removal measures,” said Nicholas Dorion, a spokesman for the Canada Border Services Agency. That assessment is “in place to ensure that a person will not be removed to a country where they could face death or torture.”
But risk assessments are done entirely in Canada and do not include demands that China guarantee it will abide by certain standards of conduct, or allow Canada to monitor deportees.
“Many of us don’t feel it’s really an effective safeguard,” said Vancouver immigration lawyer Douglas Cannon. “Especially in the case of people who are being sent back to face prosecution in China.”
The potential for problems is serious enough that David Mulroney, the former Canadian ambassador to China, says Ottawa should refuse to co-operate with Beijing on most corruption cases, limiting joint law-enforcement work to public-safety cases involving people accused of murder or drug offences.
When China demands the return of people it calls corrupt, it is asking Canada “to send people back into a very murky and worrisome Chinese system,” he said. “You have to be very sure that you are not on the Canadian side enabling the Chinese to unfairly prosecute someone.”
Ottawa does have the ability to demand assurances from countries such as China, as it did in the high-profile deportation of notorious smuggler Lai Changxing in 2011. Beijing pledged not to torture or execute the man it then considered its number one most-wanted. China also promised Canada extraordinary rights to monitor his treatment. Mr. Lai’s case, however, was a notable exception.
Canada maintains lists of countries to which deportations are either permanently or temporarily blocked, although it has exceptions for criminals and people deemed to be a security risk. Canada deported 6,964 people in 2016. Of those, 382 were sent to China, just more than 5 per cent of the total, CBSA statistics show. In recent years, Chinese citizens have been the fourth-most regularly deported from Canada, behind citizens of Hungary, the United States and Mexico.