Canada’s federal government said on Thursday it was challenging a contentious Canadian immigration board panel ruling that granted refugee status to a white man from South Africa who claimed persecution from black South Africans.
Danielle Norris, spokesperson for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, said the government will challenge the decision before the Federal Court. She earlier said department lawyers were studying the panel’s decision.
South Africa had asked the Canadian government to appeal to the court. The ruling has angered many in South Africa, where race remains a highly sensitive issue.
A Canadian immigration board panel issued its ruling late last week in the case involving Brandon Huntley.
Huntley argued that whites are targeted by black criminals in South Africa and that the South African government does nothing to protect them. He claimed he was attacked seven times during attempted robberies and muggings.
Tribunal panel chair William Davis ruled that Huntley would stand out like a ”sore thumb” due to his colour in any part of South Africa and ruled that Huntley’s fears of persecution are justified based on the evidence he submitted.
The Immigration and Refugee Board has refused to comment on the case. Board spokesperson Stephane Malepart has said he is barred from commenting on any individual case by privacy provisions.
The board is an independent tribunal that operates at arms’ length from the Canadian government.
Norris said a judicial review by the Federal Court will not hear additional evidence, with respect to the facts, for example, about conditions in South Africa.
Anesh Maistry, head of the political section at the South African High Commission in Canada, said board’s decision is wrong and belies the reality of South Africa. High Commissions are embassies in British Commonwealth nations.
Maistry also said the board never asked for South Africa’s views on Huntley’s claims nor did it seek to confirm his allegations of repeated attacks.
”This decision is incorrect, it is not factual, it does not represent the facts on the ground. It portrays South Africa in a negative light and it misrepresents the work that has been done in the last 15 years to build a nonracial society in the country,” Maistry said.
Abraham Nkomo, South Africa’s High Commissioner to Canada, said the refugee board was taken for a ride in the matter and said that it’s a crime issue, not a race issue.
”There is no persecution of the white community in South Africa. What crime does happen happens to targets of convenience,” Nkomo said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Nkomo met with Canadian officials and expressed surprise Huntley was granted refugee status.
Huntley came to Canada on a visa in 2004 to work as a carnival worker. He returned in 2005 on a one-year visa and stayed for a second year illegally. He went back to South Africa, then entered Canada a third time, and filed his refugee claim in 2008.
Deepak Obrai, Canada’s parliamentary secretary to the minister of Foreign Affairs and a Conservative lawmaker in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, expressed outrage over the board’s decision in a statement and said it shows a serious lack of judgement.
”Having grown up in Africa and witnessed the devastating effects of apartheid, in this case against blacks and Indians, it is beyond my understanding how a Canadian institution makes a decision on a racial basis,” said Obrai, who was born in Tanzania. – Sapa-AP