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Politics Canadian freed after being jailed in U.S. over decades-old marijuana conviction

Demetry Furman, 47, near a hotel in Windsor, On. after being deported from the U.S. on Oct. 16, 2018.

Elaine Cromie

A former Canadian army captain has been released from custody in the United States where he spent months behind bars because of a decades-old marijuana conviction for which he had been pardoned in Canada.

Demetry Furman, 47, was dropped off at the border crossing at Windsor, Ont., on Tuesday. His American wife, Cynthia Furman, sped to Canada to spend the first night with her husband since he was arrested by U.S. Immigration, Customs and Enforcement [ICE] on Aug. 1.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Mr. Furman said of being freed. “The fresh air made me drunk."

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When he woke up on Tuesday, he said, he was led to believe he was going to be transferred to another jail. Instead he was put into a van and driven the border and “unceremoniously dumped off on the Canadian side.”

Mr. Furman said ICE officials had suggested that going to the media about his situation would only hurt his cause. But The Globe and Mail wrote about the ordeal in Tuesday’s paper and "as soon at it went public, I suddenly started moving.”

He is now planning a civil suit against ICE and the U.S. government. “This is a travesty, what they pulled off here," he said in a telephone interview. “I agree with legal immigration and I agree with border security, but I am not the person that is threatening their security, nor am I the person who was trying to immigrate illegally.”

Mr. Furman was a Canadian artillery captain who was deployed to Afghanistan and obtained top-secret clearance while working with the CIA, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Military Intelligence.

That clearance came years after he was convicted on a drug-trafficking charge in Saskatoon at the age of 23. Mr. Furman was with a friend who tried to sell marijuana to a police officer. He was fined $80 and spent a month at an equestrian work camp for his crime. He was pardoned by Canada in 2002.

Mr. Furman with his wife, Cynthia Furman.

Mr. Furman met and fell in love with Ms. Furman, a retired member of the U.S. military, when he was in the United States on a military training exercise in 2011. They were married in 2014 and have been trying, since that time, to obtain a green card that would allow him to remain in the United States.

His recent problems began in July when he went to the motor vehicle office in Ohio to register a truck. The officials said he had been flagged in their system and confiscated his passport, his driver’s licence and his truck ownership. They called a few weeks later to say he could have the documents. But when he went to retrieve them, ICE agents were waiting.

Multiple efforts to secure his release proved fruitless. And, Mr. Furman said, the Canadian officials at the Detroit consulate, which covers Ohio, would not take his phone calls.

Global Affairs Canada said in an e-mail on Tuesday that Canada cannot intervene on behalf of Canadians citizens who do not meet the entry or exit requirements of the United States or any other country, and that a pardon for an offence issued by Canada is not recognized by the United States.

NDP foreign-affairs critic Hélène Laverdière, who spoke to Ms. Furman on Tuesday, said it is “troubling that, according to the information we have, he [did] not receive consular assistance, including a medical response to an injury he sustained while imprisoned.”

ICE has not responded to questions from The Globe.

The marijuana-trafficking conviction has been a long-term problem for Mr. Furman and his wife.

In 2013, while Mr. Furman was unable to enter the United States as a result of his drug record, Ms. Furman was hit by a drunk driver. She could not work because of her injuries and the bank foreclosed on her house. Mr. Furman agreed to guarantee the rent on a new home but the property owner insisted that he sign the documents in person.

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In a moment of desperation that Ms. Furman says they both say they deeply regret, she tried to smuggle him into the States in the trunk of her car. He was caught and sent back to Canada within 24 hours.

But he was legally allowed into the country three times after that on compassionate grounds, including the final time in 2014, because his wife had been diagnosed with cancer. On each entry, the U.S. customs guards were aware of the trunk incident but it was no barrier to his crossing the border, Ms. Furman said.

Nor was the attempted illegal crossing mentioned in the U.S. Homeland Security documents related to his incarceration, which cited the marijuana conviction and that he does not have papers to be in the United States.

Ms. Furman said the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services knew her husband had been in the country since 2014 and wrote multiple letters to him at their Ohio home while processing the green card that never came.

The couple has spent more than $15,000 on legal fees and is expecting to pay thousands more so a GoFundMe page has been created to help with their expenses.

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