An immigration judge has been found guilty of offering to approve a refugee claimant's application in exchange for sex.
Steve Ellis, 50, had pleaded not guilty to breach of trust and an Immigration and Refugee Protection Act charge of bribery, but was convicted on both counts yesterday .
Mr. Ellis was the adjudicator at Ji Hye Kim's refugee hearing in 2006.
A Toronto court heard the woman interpreted comments Mr. Ellis made as him proposing a physical relationship, which made her uncomfortable.
After he twice visited her at a restaurant where she worked, Ms. Kim - then 25 years old - and her boyfriend Brad Trip planned to secretly videotape her third meeting with Mr. Ellis.
Outside the courtroom with Mr. Trip, who is now her husband, Ms. Kim said she was relieved.
"I'm very happy with the results," she said. Mr. Trip said he was proud of his wife.
"She's been very strong," he said. "Imagine leaving your home country, coming to Canada and being faced with this."
Crown prosecutor Linda Trefler said the decision was another lesson that no one is above the law.
"This is just an example of the law being applied equally to everyone regardless of his or her position," said Ms. Trefler.
Mr. Ellis walked out of the courtroom with his lawyer looking upset. His lawyer said they're both disappointed with the results.
"We'll be looking at it and considering our options," said defence lawyer John Rosen.
Ms. Kim, now a landed immigrant, was seeking asylum in Canada because of a physically abusive father and threats from money lenders in South Korea.
Mr. Ellis was suspended from his job after the charges were laid. The former Toronto city councillor and non-practising lawyer was appointed to the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2000.
Critics, including the Canadian Bar Association, have said political patronage was rampant at the board for years.
Toronto NDP MP Olivia Chow, whose party has long lobbied for an appeals process when it comes to appointing refugee board members, welcomed news of the conviction yesterday.
"People who are refugee claimants are the most vulnerable and a board member has the power of the lives of these refugee claimants in his hands," she said.
This conviction could speed up ongoing efforts to change the way refugee board members are appointed, she said.
"It's a good illustration of why these appointments can't be done for partisan purposes."
Changes to the selection process for board members were made in 2004 under the previous Liberal government and again in 2007 under the Conservatives.
CP24, The Canadian Press, with a report from Sarah BoesveldReport Typo/Error
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