Court grants Christian family second chance

A Christian minority family in Pakistan recently had negative decisions on their refugee claims set aside by the Federal Court, which ordered a new hearing by a different panel member.

The family is comprised of a husband who I will call the Applicant, his wife and young daughter.  They all arrived in Canada in January 2014 and made refugee claims at the border. They claim they fear persecution based on the husband’s profile.

The Applicant and his family are members of the Christian minority in Pakistan. In 2005, he lived in Rawalpindi where he ran a consultation and equipment company in the security field.

A little later he started being harassed and threatened. His business was vandalized with anti-Christian messages and two of his technicians were kidnapped. He believed this was connected to his Christian religion and as a result he closed he closed his business in 2011 and moved to Islamabad.

In Islamabad, he worked at a general store with a friend in the security equipment business. In December 2012 he was forced to get into a car with three masked men who looked d like fundamentalists because of the way they were dressed, their dialect and the fact they were armed.

He was beaten and asked to hire a member of the fundamentalist group so they could gain access to the diplomatic missions with whom his friend worked. He reported this to the police but the police apparently said they could not guarantee his protection and, as a Christian, it was best he leave the country. After that, they lived in hiding until they left the country in December 2013.

Their claims were rejected by the Board in March 2014 and they sought judicial review as he commented favorably on the Applicant’s demeanor and concluded they were genuine Christians. From the documentary evidence, the Board noted that Christians in Pakistan may face threats, violence and discrimination.

With regard to persecution based on religion, the Board found that the threats in Rawalpindi were both business and religion related. Moreover, while as Christians, the family may face discrimination and harassment, there was insufficient evidence they would be persecuted everywhere in the country.

Regarding the risk to life or unusual treatment, the Applicant was targeted in the December 2012 incident not because of who he is but because of the field in which he worked, ruled the Board. It concluded it would not be unreasonable for the Applicant and his family to live in Islamabad and to find work in another field.

In granting leave, the judge stated: “I find that the Board erred in failing to refer to evidence that corroborated the Applicant’s testimony but contradicted the Board’s findings.

“It made determinative factual findings that were central and fatal to the claim without regard to two signed declarations that contradicted those findings.

“The Board accepted that he was kidnapped by armed individuals who threatened to kill him unless he provided the information requested.

“The Court finds that the Board’s decision does not fall within a range of “possible, acceptable outcomes which are defensible in respect of the facts and law”. The decision lacks intelligibility and many findings were made without regard to the evidence. Accordingly, the application for judicial review is granted.”

Sukhram  Ramkissoon is a member of ICCRC and specializes in immigration matters at 3089 Bathurst St.,  Suite 219A, Toronto. Phone 416-789-5756.

Sukhram Ramkissoon
Sukhram Ramkissoon