Sarina Faizy breathed a massive sigh of relief when her family was evacuated from Afghanistan almost six months ago after urging the Canadian government to help. But now she’s confused and afraid because her father, who has been housed in a Toronto hotel since August, recently received a letter from the Canada Border Services Agency saying he may not be admissible to Canada.
Ms. Faizy was a human-rights advocate and elected provincial council member in Kandahar. She worked alongside Canada’s embassy in Kabul for about five years, promoting women’s rights and education. In August, The Globe and Mail reported that Ms. Faizy, who lives in Washington, D.C., had turned to Canada to save her family.
They had hidden in their basement in Kandahar for more than 20 days. After the Taliban took that city, her family went to Kabul, obtained documents and applied to go to Canada. They stood in filthy water at the airport for hours waiting to show their documents to Canadian officials and sat under the blistering sun for days.
They were grateful to finally start their new lives in Canada. But since arriving, Ms. Faizy’s father, Fazal Mohammad Faizy, his wife and Sarina’s siblings have been living in a single hotel room waiting for permanent residency documents. Last week Mr. Faizy received a letter indicating that the process for him is about to become complicated.
The letter from CBSA says a report may be prepared “alleging that you are inadmissible to Canada” under the Immigration Act. It goes on to say that, if a report is prepared, an admissibility hearing may be held, “which could result in a removal order being issued.” It says he is required to show up for an interview to discuss his admissibility and to provide him with an opportunity to respond to any concerns the minister may have. It says he may have counsel with him, but the CBSA is not responsible for legal fees.
Ms. Faizy said her family have been traumatized and are terrified by the prospect of being sent back to Afghanistan.
Judith Gadbois-St-Cyr, a spokesperson for the CBSA, said the agency is responsible for investigating potential inadmissibility cases, which might include interviewing the individual to better understand whether the person is inadmissible to Canada.
She said the CBSA provides evidence to a minister’s delegate authorized to make decisions on certain cases; in more serious circumstances, cases are referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). If the IRB determines someone is inadmissible, the person can seek recourse through the federal court system. For privacy reasons, the CBSA would not comment on Mr. Faizy’s case.
Canada partly suspended routine deportations to Afghanistan in 1994. Now, only individuals subject to a removal order for national security reasons, war crimes, crimes against humanity, serious criminality or for being senior members of a designated regime or criminal organization may be deported. “Note that the prevailing conditions in Afghanistan may impact the timing of the individual’s removal from Canada,” Ms. Gadbois-St-Cyr said.
Warda Shazadi Meighen, an immigration lawyer and partner at law firm Landings LLP in Toronto, said she did not know the specifics of Mr. Faizy’s case, but after reviewing some of his documents, suggested it is possible the government is questioning his admissibility to Canada because of his military service. Ms. Faizy said her father worked in the military 30 years ago and was a member of a logistics team that took care of uniforms, food and training. She pointed out that military service was mandatory at the time in Afghanistan.
She explained that under Canadian immigration law, an applicant can be excluded from refugee protection and deemed inadmissible on security grounds if they were a member of an organization that there are reasonable grounds to believe engaged in acts of terrorism or subversion by force of any government.
Ms. Meighen reiterated that she is not familiar with Mr. Faizy’s case but said it is possible he was flagged because his military service predated the arrival of coalition forces in Afghanistan. The government may argue the Afghan military committed acts during that time that may deem him no longer admissible.
If military membership is the issue, she said, that provision in the Immigration Act is broadly interpreted, and most applicants who are flagged for this reason are found inadmissible.
If that happens, they can apply for ministerial relief, in which case the minister will weigh the risk they pose to society against deporting them to a hostile country.
Ms. Meighen said she would be very surprised if the government deported someone to Afghanistan, given the country’s political climate. And she said Mr. Faizy’s circumstances should not affect his family members.
“Cases such as this underscore the need for exacting inadmissibility assessments in the immigration system. It is crucial to look at the individual’s actual contribution as part of a determination of risk, rather than just affiliation with what can be a very broad group with different branches – such as a military with multiple functions,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ms. Faizy said her father is “nervous and confused.” She said he has never been questioned in any kind of court and was an honourable citizen in Afghanistan.
Mr. Faizy told The Globe that since arriving in Canada he and his family have watched other Afghans move out and into homes while they have remained in the hotel. His married daughter, her husband and their son were given permanent residency, while he and his wife and their other children wait for their documents.
But since getting the letter, he said, he can’t stop thinking about the possibility of being forced back into a war zone. Even if that doesn’t happen, the process the government is making his family go through is stressful, he said.
“Since I got that paper I haven’t been able to sleep at nighttime, and of course it affects the whole family.”
Ms. Faizy said she stayed up until 3 a.m. Saturday night perfecting a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, pleading for help.
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