The Conservative government has released a U.S.-style list of Canada's 30 most-wanted war criminals, the most recent in a flurry of announcements targeting alleged immigration cheats.
A past president of the Refugee Lawyers Association said Thursday he could not recall the government ever having released such a comprehensive list before. Raoul Boulakia further complained that some characterizations - including the statement that all of the individuals "violated human or international rights" under applicable laws - was misleading.
"These people are being described in a way that's highly exaggerated," said Mr. Boulakia, a Toronto lawyer who represented one of the 30 listed men. He said he now fears for his client's safety because "anywhere he is in the world ,people can now assume he has tortured or killed, which is completely false."
The client in question, Mr. Boulakia said, was merely found to be inadmissible to Canada for being involved in a Ghanaian paramilitary group that was allegedly involved in human-rights violations. He said the courts never heard any evidence his client was directly culpable in any acts of violence.
Mr. Boulakia, who doesn't dispute that his client faces deportation, said he never heard from him after the Federal Court ruled in the 1990s that he should be kicked out of Canada.
"I don't know what happened with the file after '97," he said. "I don't know if he's in Canada."
Canadian officials can jail potentially dangerous foreigners, including war-criminal suspects, only at the beginning of legal processes that usually turn out to be protracted affairs. This often leaves agents at the Canada Border Services Agency hunting for the foreigners when deportation orders are eventually issued by judges and adjudicators years later.
Several of the 30 listed men appear to have gone underground in Canada after judges ruled against their refugee claims, according to Federal Court decisions.
There are indications some of the 30 were directly involved in atrocities … in fact some admitted as much to federal authorities.
For example, one listed man was a former Peruvian helicopter gunner. "In December, 1987 I was part of a helicopter crew involved in the murder of thwo civilians," he said in his written application for Canadian refugee status, according to Federal Court records. "They were shot in my helicopter in my presence by army personnel on suspicion of being terrorists and then their bodies were weighted down with rocks and pushed out of the aircraft into a river."
He added that later:"I was part of a helicopter crew which attacked a village of civilians with rocket and machine gun fire. … The victims of the attack included women and children."
The Peruvian said he fled to Canada as a refugee to avoid implicating himself in any more atrocities, but federal tribunals ultimately declared him inadmissible as a war criminal. He apparently went into hiding.
A spokesperson for the CBSA said that list is not a novel concept.
"The agency has published a limited number of cases in the past with some success," Esme Bailey said in an e-mail, noting that such techniques led to last year's arrest and deportation of Mohamed Said Jama, a fugitive Somali with a long Canadian rap sheet.
The most-wanted list was announced in Toronto Thursday by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
They were joined by Luc Portelance, the former intelligence official who now heads the CBSA., and who is being touted as a leading candidate to become the next commissioner of the RCMP.
The Conservatives this week announced they planned to strip the citizenship of 1,800 Canadians who allegedly garnered their status under false pretences.
Last week, Mr. Kenney lauded Indonesian authorities for stopping a boat of more than 80 Tamil migrants that he claimed was destined for Canada.