A recent Federal Court ruling spells potential good news for two men who face deportation from Canada as “terrorists” because they once supported a rebel organization that is now the democratically elected government of their former land.
“I think it’s very helpful,” said Lorne Waldman, a Toronto immigration lawyer representing Oscar Vigil, the former executive director of the Canadian Hispanic Congress. Vigil has been declared “inadmissible” to Canada over his ties to the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front that now governs El Salvador.
Waldman was referring to a ruling handed down this month by Federal Court Justice Richard G. Mosley, ordering the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration to take a second look at a case involving another Salvadoran man who has also been deemed inadmissible to Canada, for reasons very similar to those affecting Vigil.
Mosley aimed some harsh language at Karine Roy-Tremblay, a senior bureaucrat in the Immigration Ministry, who in March 2013 denied an application by Jose Luis Figueroa of Vancouver to be allowed to remain in Canada on compassionate grounds.
In his ruling, Mosley used words such as “unreasonable,” “facile,” and “simply not good enough” to describe Roy-Tremblay’s decision. He also rejected her description of the FMLN as a terrorist organization and dismissed her conclusion that Figueroa poses a security risk to Canadians.
One elderly woman’s only political act was to stitch together uniforms for armed rebels in Ethiopia, then ruled by a murderous tyrant named Haile Mariam Mengistu.
Another man, now in his 60s, once donated the equivalent of $50 to the militant opposition in his country.
Yet another man used to act as an informal contact for foreign journalists who were seeking interviews with anti-government guerrillas in El Salvador.
None of these three people ever engaged in political violence themselves, and yet all of them – along with dozens and perhaps hundreds of others – face the threat of deportation on the grounds that they pose a security risk to the people of Canada, under a catch-all provision of this country’s immigration law that many lawyers decry as unfair and excessive.
“It’s an extreme overreaction,” says Ontario legal-aid lawyer Andrew Brouwer. “Their stories are so compelling. There’s not a single allegation of ever being involved in any kind of violence, much less a terrorist act.”
A leading member of Canada’s Hispanic community faces deportation and the probable breakup of his family because he once acted as an informal liaison arranging contacts between armed rebels and foreign journalists covering the civil war that convulsed El Salvador during the 1980s.
“I think this is extremely unfair,” said Vilma Filici, former president of the Canadian Hispanic Congress, referring to the impending deportation of reporter and community activist Oscar Vigil, 48.
“Oscar is an incredible human being. He has done an incredible amount of work on behalf of the Latin community. He is not a danger to the public. He’s an asset to Canada.”
Vigil, who has been in Canada for more than a decade, has been ordered to leave as soon as the Salvadoran consulate in Toronto can issue him a passport. He has no Canadian travel documents.
Following a series of unsuccessful appeals, the final decision to deport Vigil was taken by Citizenship and Immigration Canada this past February, even though it will almost certainly result in the breakup of his family.