But Geez, you know, I wish they would take a slightly harder look, because it's becoming all too clear to me that Canada's refugee system really has no interest in adding upstanding citizens to the country who are precisely who we should promote. If Canada could send out a flyer to potential refugees with examples of who we desire, Jose Figueroa, living in Langley with his wife and three kids, would be the poster boy for the campaign.
By all accounts, a hard working, peaceful and committed family man with three children born in Canada during the 13-year process, Mr. Figueroa has been contributing to the famed Canadian mosaic while his case hobbled its way through the system. In May he was ordered to be deported. The order hinges on his membership in the student wing of the FMLN, a left-wing resistance group fighting against the brutal regime in El Salvador in the 1980's. The immigration board adjudicator, Otto Nupponen, took it upon himself to declare the FMLN a terrorist organization, even though no other government body, including the UN, has ever done so.
To read the 13-page transcript of the decision is to learn more about refugee board sausage-making than one would care to. In it, Member Nupponen, as he's referred to (not gonna go there) spends a lot of time going over the evidence that proves that Mr. Figueroa was a member of the FMLN, which he declared upon entry to Canada 13 years ago!
But it wasn't until some intrepid keener at the Canada Border Services Agency, still sore, I imagine, for failing to receive his boy scout “stop the illegal alien” badge, flagged him as a security threat through his membership. Of a legitimate organization. That is now the government. “If the FMLN is a terrorist organization, then there are 7 million terrorists in El Salvador,” said Mr. Figueroa.
The adjudicator repeatedly acknowledges that the brutal death-squad regime in El Salvador at the time would not have been defeated without the strong action of this group. He points out, however, that government officials, particularly some mayors, (who, by some accounts, were supporters of the regime) were killed. In Afghanistan, it's called 'collateral damage,' and nobody misses their breakfast over it. Jose Figueroa, however, is being held personally responsible. The adjudicator cites a figure that states that 85 per cent of the violence was committed by government forces, and maybe 5 per cent by the FMLN.
But here's the really priceless part of the decision: After ordering the deportation, he says, in effect, you know, you really should talk to somebody, though, because you have a really strong case for being allowed to stay. Gee, thanks.
He acknowledges that Mr. Figueroa was only part of the student group advocating for “better political realities.” He goes on to point out: “What the people appear to have been trying to do was to stop a regime that ran death squads. There's some legitimacy, I would say, in trying to arrange matters so that death squads can be eliminated.” Monty Python couldn't have understated it better.
What seems to be going on here is that member Nupponen can say Hey, my only charge is to decide if Jose Figueroa was a member of a group that killed in a manner I deem as terrorist. As I said, there's no room for nuance at the IRB. To say the standard is low doesn't do it justice. A cockroach in a floppy balaclava couldn't limbo under that bar.
So now Mr. Figueroa's only recourse is to apply for an exemption directly from the Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews. I can just see how it will go down. The Minister gets to say, “Heaven's no, I wouldn't dream of interfering in the independence of the IRB.” So the story ends with everybody gathered around the big basin of absolution washing their hands of responsibility. I wish they wouldn't scrub so hard. They end up washing away any decency as well.