Canadian Immigration Lawyer Wants Client Released – Claims Charter Rights Infringed
OTTAWA – A 26-year-old Yemen-born man convicted of bank robbery and other offenses has remained in custody by the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board for over 20 months, while facing deportation to his country of birth.
Canadian immigration authorities have been holding Ahmed Ali Ahmed in custody since his completion of a two-year sentence for robbery. Ahmed’s lawyer Arghavan Gerami claims that Canadian immigration officials are violating two sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by continuing to keep Ahmed in custody: the right to life, liberty, and security of person, and the right not to be arbitrarily detained. Gerami anticipated that a fourth attempt by Canada Border Services Agency to deport her client, slated for August, would again fail, further prolonging his detention. According to Germani, Ahmed has been denied reconstructive surgery to repair a torn ligament from which he has been suffering throughout his time in custody. Maintaining that her client cannot be deported to Yemen because of his medical issues and the country’s current state of unrest, Germani wants to take her client’s case to the Federal Court.
“Even if you’re going to try to remove him, it’s inhumane in his medical condition to send him to a war zone where he will have no access to medical care,” said Gerami. “His continued detention, based on the new medical evidence that we have, constitutes cruel and unusual treatment.”
Ahmed is entitled to a detention review hearing every 30 days. At a hearing in June, the board refuted Gerami’s claims about the cruelty of Ahmed’s continued detainment.
Back in July, Judge René Leblanc of the Federal Court of Canada ruled that Ahmed’s detention had become indefinite after repeated failures to deport him, and that the immigration board’s decision on May 28 to keep him in custody neglected to account for the length of his detention due to the unstable security situation in Yemen.
“In a context where the detention is now exceeding 20 months, which is a considerable amount of time from a liberty interest perspective, this factor, in my view, was just not given the consideration it deserved in the particular circumstances of the case,” Leblanc stated of the May 28 immigration board ruling.
Ahmed’s original deportation date in November of 2014 was postponed, and a subsequent date in December of the same year was cancelled due to the unstable situation in Egypt, which was to be his transition point en route to Yemen. The Yemen airport closure prevented subsequent attempts to deport him, including a planned deportation on April 18, but then the airport re-opened exclusively for military aircraft to deliver aid. For this reason, the board found that Ahmed’s detention is no longer indefinite. Other findings of the board were that Ahmed is still a flight risk and a threat to the public, and that he should be subject to psychological assessment.
The immigration board cited Ahmed’s criminal record, which includes convictions for sexual assault and forgery as well as robbery, in the May 28 immigration board ruling.
“In addition to your criminal record, which is a valid consideration in assessing the issue of danger to the public, members previously took note of the fact that not only was there an escalation in dangerous criminal behaviour but there was little evidence of rehabilitation to mitigate the danger concerns,” the ruling stipulated. “You do not accept responsibility for your conduct, you have claimed that you were duped into committing the bank robberies.”
On April 4, 2010, Ahmed was convicted and sentenced to 30 days in prison for sexual assault, breaking and entering, and theft while working as a door-to-door salesman in Brockville, Ontario. At the trial, he stated that he regretted his actions, and that he had “erroneously” believed a woman was flirting with him when he attempted to kiss her. He later revealed that he felt so ashamed that he attempted suicide in 2011 while in custody.
On April 27, 2010, Ahmed was convicted for forging the signature of a Vanier resident on an energy rate contract, for which he received a suspended sentence and 12 months’ probation. On June 18, 2012, he was sentenced to two years in jail for two counts of robbery, obstructing a peace officer, and failing to comply with a probation order.
Gerami has contested the appraisal of her client’s threat to the public as outdated, and has called for new psychological evaluations of his current risk of reoffending.
Difficulty adjusting to Canada
Ahmed and his mother Nejat Ali Mohammad and younger brother Naser Ali Ahmed fled from Yemen in 1994 and sought refuge in Ethiopia for the next ten years before relocating to Canada on July 21, 2004. The Court heard testimony of Ahmed’s difficult adjustment to Canada, where he was often left at home alone while his mother worked two jobs. Records indicate that, after his mother moved to Alberta to accept a new job, Ahmed grew “unstable and angry for being left alone to struggle” and began to use drugs and alcohol.
Leblanc’s ruling in July has raised the hopes of Ahmed’s brother and mother that he would finally be from custody.
“We were really excited about this. My brother has learned a lot since he’s been there,” Naser Ali Ahmed said in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen. “I’m learning from him right now. It’s not fair, you know?”
However, Jyll Hansen, the Counsel at the Department of Justice Canada representing Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, has argued in Federal Court for Ahmed’s continued detention.
At Ahmed’s last detention review, the board refused his proposed plan of release, which was to include a $10,000 bond, psychological analysis, daily supervision, and two sureties: Ahmed’s mother and a close family friend. According to Hansen, this plan was rejected because the sureties were deemed unsuitable. Gerami has contested the claims about their suitability, vouching that they would dutifully report Ahmed if he failed to abide by his conditions of release. However, Hansen further discounts the claims that Ahmed’s prolonged detention was either indefinite or unreasonable, since the airport closures in Yemen were temporary.
Despite reports from the immigration board that Canadian Border Services Agency was working out plans for Ahmed to enter Yemen via Oman, Gerami remains skeptical that they have devised any definite itinerary.
“After 21 months of immigration detention, with no concrete removal plan, with security conditions being what they are on the ground, you can’t continue to detain this person,” Gerami insists. “Even one extra day of detention is illegal, in my respectful submission.”
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