Canadian Immigration Law 'undemocratic'
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 28 October 1997, 23:59 GMT]
On 18 October 1995, Mr. Suresh Manickavasagam was detained by the Canadian Immigration authorities, following the issuance of a security certificate against him. Mr. Manickavasagam, a Tamil refugee, was deemed a person inadmissible into Canada, under the Immigration Law. This controversial law has been criticized as 'undemocratic' and 'draconian' by international human rights and refugee organizations, including Amnesty International and the Canadian council for Refugees.
Mr. Manickavasagam was issued with a section 40 certificate which says that he could be described under section 19 of the Immigration Act. Eventhough Mr.Manickavasagam has been accorded the status of a Convention refugee, he could be deported under the Act.
The process and the law under which Mr. Manickavasagam was prosecuted has been criticized as undemocratic and draconian by several international human rights and refugee organizations, including Amnesty International, the American Association of Jurists, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and the Canadian Council for Refugees.
The American Association of Jurists have said that " On the pretense of national security, the Canadian Government has resorted to the draconian provisions of the Immigration Act to deny Mr. Suresh the right to know who his accusers are and his right to challenge the veracity of the evidence."
The Association of American Jurists have also adopted Suresh as a political prisoner and a prisoner of conscience. Amnesty International
has expressed its concern over his detention and has indicated that if the detention continued, it would declare him a political prisoner.
The basis for the organizations' stand is that the prosecution had agreed there were no allegations of criminal misconduct or criminal activity in
Canada against Mr. Suresh and that there were no allegations that he had engaged in terrorism in Sri Lanka.
It would therefore appear that Mr. Manickavasagam is being detained and could potentially be deported purely for his political views.
The certificate was signed by Solicitor General of Canada and the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration. Ironically, the Minister of
Immigration, Mr. Sergio Marchi was one of the strongest opponents of the law when it was brought before the Canadian Parliament in 1988. He had then vigorously argued that he and his Liberal Party were opposed to "detaining or ordering people out of the country based on suspicions. It has to be much more than that".
Mr. Marchi had even argued that Nelson Mandela (who was still a South African prisoner at the time) had been "convicted on what South Africa considered a crime but what we would reward with a medal, namely, seeking of one's democracy and freedom."
Following the upholding of the issuance of the certificate, the Adjudicator (Immigration Department) has served Mr. Manickavasagam with a removal order and informed the Mr. Marchi that Mr. Manickavasagam can be deported to Sri Lanka.
Mr. Manickavasagam's lawyer is expected to appeal, on the basis that if removed to Sri Lanka, Mr. Manickavasagam would face serious risk to his life and freedom, given Sri Lanka's poor human rights record.