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Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Tuesday, May 7, 2013. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Tuesday, May 7, 2013. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Raj Sharma

Canadians respect due process on deportations, not abuse of the system Add to ...

Mahmoud Mohammad Issa Mohammad, a convicted terrorist, was finally deported from Canada after spending a quarter century here. When he entered Canada, he hid the fact that he was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (designated a terrorist organization subsequent to his arrival), and convicted of manslaughter by a Greek court for his role in a brazen hijacking of an El Al commercial jetliner where an innocent passenger lost his life.

The wheels of justice grind slowly. While he was deemed to be a terrorist – and inadmissible under the previous Immigration Act back in 1987 – Mr. Mohammad somehow staved off his removal from this country. Mr. Mohammad is represented by the indomitable Barbara Jackman, which may be a big reason he has been able to celebrate 25 birthdays in Canada and is now a grandfather to children born in Canada.

The reasons for these delays, at least in initially, were allegations that he would be at risk upon return. Canada ’s laws restrict refoulement or return of individuals facing personalized risk. Canada is not alone in facing obstacles in removing individuals such as Mr. Mohammad. The U.K. is still struggling to deport Abu Qatada, a radical Islamic cleric, back to his native Jordan, a case that has lasted more than eight years. The obstacles that prevent easy deportation are our self-imposed fetters (like the Rule of Law) that correctly restrict arbitrary government decision making.

More recently, Mr. Mohammad’s entreaties to remain centred around his poor health. At the end of the day, Mr. Mohammad has had multiple levels of review with full access to the panoply of rights accorded to him by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Due process, and justice, have been served.

There is no discernible reason why Mohammad’s removal took a quarter-century after the initial determination of inadmissibility. One can surmise, given his unique circumstances, he has had access to immigration tribunals, the Federal Court of Canada, and sought other, legal, recourses to remain in Canada. He was entitled to do so and he cannot be faulted for availing himself of these options. There is no doubt that the system is also likely to blame for any delay in removal and this is attributable to the fact that Mr. Mohammad’s file was with individual officers who had little oversight or accountability with respect to individual files such as his.

Jason Kenney’s reforms to his Immigration department will likely prevent a repeat of this outlier case (as an aside, it remains to be seen whether the balance is tipped too far). Individuals will have refugee hearings in weeks, not years and removal proceedings are now initiated after that claim has been rejected. Access to other options has been restricted.

Canadians respect due process, but do not respect an abuse of our process.

Raj Sharma is a Calgary immigration lawyer

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