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Canada doesn’t have to accept refugees with serious non-political crimes in their history, Supreme Court rules

By Giuseppe Valiante, National Bureau

 OTTAWA — Refugee claimants who have previously committed non-political, serious crimes in other countries cannot seek safe haven in Canada, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

In a 5-2 decision, Canada’s highest court said the country’s refugees laws apply to anyone who committed a serious crime outside Canada prior to asking for refugee status, whether or not the seeker served time or is a fugitive.

The specific court challenge came from a 59-year-old Cuban citizen, who was striped of his refugee status in the U.S., entered Canada illegally in 2008 and applied for refuge status.

Luis Alberto Hernandez Febles had pleaded guilty twice in the U.S. to violent crimes.

He blamed alcohol for hitting someone in the head with a hammer, and for pointing a knife at another person years later and uttering threats. He was given a two-year prison term in 1984 and in 1993; he completed both sentences.

Canada’s refugee board, the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal all dismissed his refugee claim.

The courts pointed to the United Nations refugee convention, adopted into Canadian Law. It states a claimant is not allowed refugee protection if he or she committed a serious, non-political crime in another country prior to asking for safe haven.

Febles argued the law should only apply to fugitives, not people who have served time and who have been rehabilitated and are sorry for past mistakes.

Canada’s immigration department argued the law bans anyone who committed a serious, non-political crime, fugitive or not.

The Supreme Court agreed with the government.

“There is nothing in the (law) suggesting that it only applies to fugitives,” Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote for the 5-2 majority. “Or that factors such as lack of dangerous or post-crime expiation of rehabilitation are to be considered or balanced against the seriousness of the crime.”

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