When a friend in the U.S. called him one day four years ago to ask for his help in getting a man he barely knew out of immigration detention in Toronto, Jian Feng Yang didn’t hesitate, because they came from the same hometown in China.
On July 22, 2011, Yang, 40, and his wife, Yue Yun Gao, 39, went to the immigration holding centre on Airport Rd. and posted a $40,000 bond to secure the release of Wa Cheng, a man from Changle in Fujian Province. Cheng was later deported from Canada, ruled inadmissible because of his criminal past abroad.
Two years later, the Toronto couple have found themselves owing $40,000 to Ottawa — the result of what their lawyer describes as “a lack of procedural fairness in forfeiture” by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
Yang and Gao’s dilemma offers a cautionary tale to others asked to bail out someone being held on immigration law violations.
“We took this person in and made sure he would not run away, and he never did,” said Yang, who works as a waiter to support his wife and their two boys, 10 and 8. “We do not regret helping him out of jail, but we have lost our faith in the system.”
The border agency receives millions of dollars each year in cash bond deposits from Canadians who bail out immigration detainees, including failed refugee claimants, undocumented migrants and visitors deemed inadmissible to Canada on criminal and security grounds.
CBSA was not able to provide a breakdown by nationality or the total number of detainees released on bail, but said more than $5.6 million in cash bonds was deposited in 2014 alone, up from $5 million the year before.
According to federal court documents filed in Yang’s and Gao’s appeal against the CBSA bond forfeiture, Cheng sought asylum in Canada in July 2011 but was deemed inadmissible because he had been convicted earlier for obstructing American law enforcement and faced a warrant in the U.S.
He was detained by Canadian officials because he was considered a flight risk for non-compliance with U.S. immigration law — circumstances of which Yang and Gao claimed they had no knowledge. Cheng was ultimately released by CBSA but ordered to live with his guarantors.
On April 15, 2013, a day before a scheduled meeting with CBSA to confirm the itinerary of his upcoming deportation, two enforcement officers arrived at Yang’s Scarborough home during a “bond compliance check” and found Cheng’s room “contained nothing but a bed.”
The officers assumed Cheng no long resided with the couple and alleged the couple had failed to enforce the bail conditions.
Cheng was arrested the next day when he showed up for his appointment. A week later, CBSA notified the couple that the bond they had posted could be forfeited because Cheng breached the conditions of his release. They were asked to make written submissions.
Yang insisted Cheng was residing at all times with them, though he did spend time with his girlfriend.
“He knew he was going to be deported very soon, and he’d already packed his belongings,” Yang explained to the Toronto Star, after the federal court dismissed his appeal.