Canada's growing culture of refugee exclusion
Almost 25,000 refugees fight exclusion claims every year, according to a report by two law professors from the University of British Columbia, Ashal Kaushal and Catherine Dauvergne, entitled “The Growing Culture of Exclusion: Trends in Canadian Refugee Exclusions.”
Citizenship and Immigration press secretary Alexis Pavlich commented that it was important to distinguish between "refugee" and "asylum claimant," and that failed refugee claimants have as many as seven negative, quasi-judicial and administrative decisions before being deported.
"The Canada Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) obligation is to ensure that a removal order is enforced as soon as possible...At all times, the best interests of the child are taken into account when persons are facing removal from Canada," Pavlich said.
Figueroa is being deported on the allegation that FMLN is a terrorist organization, despite it being a legitimate party now. His association with it therefore classifies him as a terrorist. This practice is not uncommon, Kaushal and Davuergne found in their report.
“The Canadian judiciary has refused to differentiate between freedom fighters and terrorists, and has not sought guidance in international humanitarian law to delineate the conditions in which national liberation movements may resort to force,” the stated in their research.
A stroke of luck
In the wake of 9/11, authorities have created stricter rules on refugees seeking asylum in Canada through the creation of the omnibus Anti-Terrorism Act in December 2001.
Jose Figueroa said he feels that his chance of gaining citizenship in Canada is a gambling game – that “the immigration law is kind of a lottery” – that his fate is completely in the hands of one Canadian Border Services Agency officer.
Karla Lottini, a Mexican journalist who blew the whistle alleging that corruption was rampant within the government ministry of the National Council for Culture and Arts, echoed Figueroa’s statement. “My case is one of them that are very lucky because I am maybe one percent or less – who won [their exclusion cases].” Lottin's story was told last year by David P. Ball in the Vancouver Observer.
"[We] are all struggling every day," she said.
Karla Lottini, a Mexican journalist, pictured with her family in a photo by David P. Ball
Indeed, refugees make up only 8.8 to 13.6 percent of all accepted permanent residents in Canada between 2001 to 2011. Economic immigrants consistently make up an average of 60 percent or higher for the same years, and family sponsorships usually a quarter of all intakes.
A former political science student at UBC, Caroline Chingcuanco, created a blog campaign called “We are Jose,” where she and other artists sketch portraits of people who support Figueroa. The art pieces are an effort to “change the narrative on what it means to be Canadian,” Chingcuanco said, as she sees herself no different from Figueroa – despite obtaining citizenship through her parents, who were economic immigrants.