What should our immigration officials do when they are alerted to the fact that a foreigner who may be legally inadmissible to Canada is headed our way?
This is the question raised in the case of George Galloway, the British MP who was planning to travel to Canada on March 30 to deliver a series of speeches on the conflict in the Middle East.
Normally, foreigners who are inadmissible to Canada are kept out of our country when they are refused a visa at a Canadian embassy or consulate. Those who do not need visas are examined when they arrive at a Canadian port-of-entry and are denied entry if they are found to be inadmissible here.
Before Galloway’s planned departure for Canada, our immigration officials caught wind of his intentions. However, they had no way of examining him to determine if he was, in fact, inadmissible to Canada since he is a British national and does not need to apply for a visa to travel to here. The only option our government had was to let him appear at a port-of-entry where he could be examined, detained and possibly ordered deported from Canada.
The prospect of arresting or denying admission to a British MP, with reportedly no criminal record, on the eve of a controversial speech invited more drama than our immigration officials probably wished to handle.
Instead, they decided to extend to him a “courtesy”. On March 20 the Canadian High Commission in London wrote Galloway a letter advising him that his support of Hamas makes him “inadmissible to Canada”. The letter went on to say that if he applied for a temporary resident permit (‘TRP’) to overcome this inadmissibility “it is unlikely that the application would be successful”. They allowed him until March 30 to make submissions and warned him that if he appears at a port-of-entry a “CBSA officer will make a final determination of inadmissibility based on this preliminary assessment”.
Obviously wishing to avoid an unpleasant arrival in Canada, Galloway did not try to enter the country but instead sent his lawyers to Federal Court to seek an urgent order permitting him to enter Canada without any examination by border officers.
On March 30th Mr. Justice Martineau denied this request. But before doing so the judge remarked that the letter that was sent to Galloway might give “credence” to his argument that his case was being pre-judged by our immigration minister before he was afforded the opportunity to state his case at a formal examination.
It may be that Galloway will prevail by proving that the minister “pre-judged” his case. However, the only legal alternative for the minister was to direct his officials to let Galloway reach our border and to then embark on what would probably have been a lengthy and stressful examination that would likely have led to great political, legal, and diplomatic stress on all sides.
Since our immigration department could not examine Galloway before his arrival here they gave him the “courtesy” of a heads-up. If our immigration minister is rebuked in court for “pre-judging” this case, I suspect that he will end this practice and will, in the future, let those in similar circumstances head to Canada where they may unexpectedly face a very unpleasant welcome.
Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration specialist. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at email@example.com.