‘Rag­ing epi­demic’ cited as rea­son to stall de­por­ta­tion

Court re­jects ar­gu­ment, or­ders re­turn to China

National Post (Latest Edition) - - NEWS - 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.

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