Wednesday February 3, 2016
Room: 519 Kaneff Tower
Title: The Smuggled and the Smuggler: Exploring the distinctions between humanitarian refugee assistance and people smuggling in Canadian law
Speaker: Angus Grant, Lawyer, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers
How do states draw the line between those who engage in humanitarian assistance to asylum-seekers and those who commit smuggling-related crimes? Over recent years, Canadian courts have grappled with this question, particularly in relation to the arrival of two ships off the west coast of Canada in 2009 and 2010 that carried, respectively, 76 and 492 Tamil asylum-seekers. The state’s response to these arrivals was an aggressive one – the alleged organizers of the operations were prosecuted criminally and others alleged to have assisted in the journey, even in relatively minor ways, were subject to immigration inadmissibility proceedings. A finding of inadmissibility in these cases was significant because it deprived individuals of the right to assert a refugee claim, pursuant to the 1951Convention Related to the Status of Refugees. The cases were also significant because they explored the role of profit in conceptualizing people smuggling in domestic law and the extent to which domestic anti-smuggling legislation has diverged from international understandings of people smuggling, as explicitly defined in the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air. The results have provided interesting insights into the contours of people smuggling legislation, the scope of states’ non-refoulement obligations, the reach of constitutional protections for non-citizens and the distinctions between criminal prohibition and immigration sanction in Canadian law.