Canadian Deportation Policies Need More Nuance

Less than two weeks ago, Canada ordered Saed Jama deported to Somalia. He had been convicted of trafficking crack and possessing stolen goods. Last march, in a similar story, the government also ordered Jama Warsame deported to Somalia for criminal acts. This is standard practice. Non-citizens who are convicted and sentenced to over two years in prison are deported to their home country. The one problem for both Saed and Jama is that they have never ever stepped foot in Somalia. They were born to Somali refugees in Saudi Arabia before making their way to Canada. Their parents have not been able to achieve citizenship for either of them. There are a number of security and human rights concerns with shipping two youths back to a dangerous, partially terrorist-controlled country with no support or local language knowledge.

Immigration Minister Kenney stated, in relation to Jama’s deportation, that he should not have chosen a life of violent crime. On face value, this argument satisfies the standard standard crime and punishment rationale. But if Canada truly has an interest in stopping crime, why is it sending two young men, with no local knowledge, to a country unable to control terrorist entities inside its borders? Last year, a UN Human Rights Committee noted that Canada would violate Jama Warsame’s right to life and right to freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment if it deported him. Why? Because these men would be prime targets for forced recruitment into the Al-Shabaab militia or even the government army. Yet Canada chose to do so despite being found in breach of its international obligations, says the Ottawa Citizen. Without any language skills or family support, these two men would likely be unable to avoid conscription.

These situations require common sense and a view from a wider lense. In these cases, it can be argued that Canada is putting these two men at risk of forcible recruited into terrorist organizations, or in danger of being a victim of terrorist acts. I do not believe this is just, ethical or good security policy. Not only is this a violation of Canada’s international obligations, it is going against the current government’s rigid anti-crime and anti-terrorism stance. I would argue there is far more of a criminal threat in sending two young men into possible conscription of terrorist groups than keeping them in a Canadian prison. This is an example of how black and whites policies miss the bigger picture, from both a human rights and security standpoint.

Not long after the story of Jama and Saed was printed, another story regarding an Ottawa man who was almost deported to Gaza hit the presses. Haitham Alabadleh, a 37-year old father of three, had never lived in Gaza. He was born to Gazan parents in Dubai, where foreign nationals are only given the citizenship of their parents. By its own definition, the Canadian government views Gaza as a non-state that is controlled by a terrorist group, Hamas. Furthermore, Gaza was recently the scene of a large military exchange with the Israeli Defence Force resulting in casualties on both sides. Yet Canada was still considering sending Alabadleh to Gaza. Luckily, the Canadian Border Services Agency suspended Alabadleh’s deportation only yesterday.

It should be noted that I am not aiming to stir up any debates regarding Palestinian statehood or the recent armed conflict in the area. What I am arguing is that Canadian officials should examine deportation orders more closely when a region in question is defined by the government as unstable and possibly controlled by terrorist elements.  To avoid possibly sending terrorist recruits into conflict zones, Canada should develop more sophisticated policies to deal with deportation. This would be better both for the protection of individual human rights and for the security of the international community. Currently, the only plans to change deportation policy is to lower the two-year deportation threshold to six months with Bill C-43.


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