People should not be trapped inside an evil regime by their knowledge of the crimes being committed around them. The Supreme Court of Canada made a good decision on Friday about the refugee claim of a former government official of the Democratic Republic of Congo, recognizing that passive acquiescence in the actions of a criminal government should not automatically disqualify someone from being accepted in Canada as a refugee. Not every asylum seeker has to be a hero or a martyr.
The Supreme Court did not simply clear Rachidi Ekanza Ezokola; sensibly, it sent his case back to Canada’s Refugee Protection Division – with a new panel of adjudicators – to reconsider the evidence in the light to the court’s view of the law. His history was not manifestly one of a war criminal. The government of President Joseph Kabila has indeed been guilty of massacres and mass rapes and abductions; other opposed factions had acted likewise. Mr. Ezokola began his work in the civil service of the DRC in the Ministry of Finance. Later, he was in the Ministry of Human Rights. He was sent to the United Nations, rising to acting chargé d’affaires; among other things, he spoke to the Security Council about conflicts and natural resources in his country. But he apparently became suspect to the Kabila government because of his tribal and political-party affiliations, and he says he was threatened. He and his family got into a car and drove to Canada.
Some might suspect that, as a diplomat, he did his bit in New York to try to cover up some of the horrors inflicted by his masters in the DRC. The new panel may yet detect some aiding and abetting of crimes of humanity that might disqualify his refugee claim. But the Supreme Court has provided the panel with sensible directions – for cases of less than heroic people who may have been in serious danger.