National Post (Latest Edition)

‘Raging epidemic’ cited as reason to stall deportatio­n

Court rejects argument, orders return to China

- Tom Blackwell

The advice is clear. Canada is urging its residents to avoid “non- essential” travel to China because of the still- spreading new coronaviru­s. The U. S. government has recommende­d against any kind of visit to the country until the disease is contained.

But what about a unique group of people with little choice in their travel plans — those deemed inadmissib­le to Canada and facing deportatio­n to China?

Their fate gave rise to a novel legal dispute late last week, as Toronto resident Ruepang Cao argued that being removed to China would put him at serious risk of irreparabl­e harm from the “raging epidemic.”

In fact, Canada has already put a temporary halt to deportatio­ns to Wuhan and surroundin­g Hubei province — the new disease’s epicentre — though not elsewhere in China, a Justice Department submission in the case revealed.

But a Federal Court judge rejected Cao’s appeal to delay his removal by two or three months, noting he was not being sent to Wuhan and the outlook for “the vast majority of people” infected by the pathogen is positive.

Deportatio­ns can be blocked if courts deem there is a significan­t risk that someone will suffer irreparabl­e harm from being sent to a particular destinatio­n.

Cao’s lawyer, Mi lan

Tomasevic, said he was disappoint­ed by the ruling from Justice Robert Barnes, especially when countries like the U. S. are advocating against any sort of travel to China.

“I think it’s an outrageous decision,” said Tomasevic. “I was shocked that we would be sending somebody … I sincerely believe this gentleman’s life would be in danger.”

Cao, 36, who came to Canada in 2004, and made an ultimately unsuccessf­ul refugee claim, was scheduled to be flown to Guangzhou in southern China on Saturday, after Barnes’ decision Thursday.

His father arrived in this country first and made a refugee claim based on fears of persecutio­n in China because of his Christian faith. The father’s request was accepted and he later sponsored his wife and daughter to join him and became a citizen. But Cao, eager to join his family, was too old to be sponsored.

He had also asked for asylum based on having converted to Christiani­ty but, after initially claiming to be a Falun Gong practition­er at the urging of an immigratio­n consultant, his claim was rejected, as were further legal appeals. He still has a pending request for permanent resident status based on humanitari­an and compassion­ate grounds.

In an affidavit, Cao said he had alerted Canada Border Services Agency ( CBSA) to the coronaviru­s when it first emerged and his fear the Chinese government was downplayin­g its seriousnes­s. Then news about the infection — now called Covid- 19 — became more dire.

“I am scared and concerned for my life and cannot understand why CBSA insist on sending me to China at this time and straight into an epidemic of a deadly virus which still rages,” he said.

In his submission, Justice Department lawyer David Knapp said Canada has not banned travel to China — except Wuhan itself and Hubei province — and that statistics indicate the risk is low in Guangdong province where Cao was headed. Recent media reports suggested only one of every 100,000 citizens there had been infected by Covid-19, he said.

Barnes said no serious issue had been raised regarding the virus risk or possible irreparabl­e harm.

“The evidence, such as it is, shows that infection and mortality rates in many parts of China are low,” said the judge.

“For the vast majority of people who have come down with the virus the outlook is positive. The risk … does not appear to be much, if any, greater than the risk of coming down with some other viral illness, many of which also carry a mortality risk.”

But Tomasevic said the court should have considered the more stringent guidelines issued by American authoritie­s on travel to China, arguing that the U. S. would have a better handle on what is happening there than Canada.

A spokesman for the CBSA said a temporary halt on deportatio­ns to Hubei province — called an administra­tive deferral — is in effect, putting it on a list with Somalia, the Gaza Strip, Mali, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Burundi, Venezuela and Haiti.

I THINK IT’S AN OUTRAGEOUS DECISION. I WAS SHOCKED.

 ?? AFP via Gett y Imag es ?? A medical worker in foreground wearing a blue protective suit checks on patients with mild symptoms of the
COVID-19 coronaviru­s Tuesday in the temporary Fangcai Hospital set up in a sports stadium in Wuhan.
AFP via Gett y Imag es A medical worker in foreground wearing a blue protective suit checks on patients with mild symptoms of the COVID-19 coronaviru­s Tuesday in the temporary Fangcai Hospital set up in a sports stadium in Wuhan.

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