Man who claims to hear voices gets another shot at refugee claim

Convention refugees are persons who are outside their home country or the country where they normally live, and who are unwilling to return to that country because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, public opinion or membership in a  particular social group.

A social group can be:

A group someone is part of because of something they cannot change, such as their gender, sexual orientation, tribe, or relationship to a family member who is politically active.

  • A group they chose to be part of but cannot change now, because they belonged to it in the past. Example: having been a student at a certain school.
  • A group they chose to join out of deep conviction or principle, such as a labour union or a human rights organization.

The definition of membership of a particular social group is broad, according to case law and claimants should first seek legal advice as to whether they have grounds to pursue a claim based on this particular category.

Let us look at the case of a 25- year old man (his first name is Paul) from St. Vincent and the Grenadines who made a claim for refugee protection in Canada.

At his hearing before the Refugee Protection Division(RPD)  he testified that he suffers from major mental problems, including schizo-affective disorder which was undisputed.  He stated that he is delusional, and hears voices and believes himself cursed.  He was designated as a Vulnerable Person and a representative was appointed by the RPD who spoke on his behalf.

In n his evidence, Paul claimed that he was targeted by members of the Hungry Dogs and Pups (HDP) gang. He said  members of the gang threatened, robbed and beat him and spread rumours that he is gay. He spoke of  particular problems with one HDP member (named mentioned,)

He further told the refugee hearing that HDP members have learned that he is in Canada and have made said in conversations with his family and in Facebook messages that they believe he is gay and they will kill him if he returns to St. Vincent.  Paul also alleged   that a person (named mentioned) threatened to kill him in a Facebook message in April 2014.

He further stated at the hearing that he is terrified of returning to St. Vincent because he fears the HDP. He also said he  fears violence from members of the general public due to his imputed sexual orientation. He also told the  hearing that he will be at risk because he is seen as mentally ill. He says that mentally ill people are stigmatized and persecuted in St. Vincent.

His refugee claim was rejected.But he did not give up the fight.  He then appealed the decision to the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD). Again, his claim was dismissed.  The RAD found no nexus to a convention ground under the refugee law.

Paul then took his case to the Federal Court of Canada.

In a recent ruling, the Federal Court stated that the RAD failed to consider Paul’s risk due to the perception that he is gay and it did not make reference to the Facebook page which was tendered into evidence. in which a person (named mentioned)    called him gay and repeatedly threatened to kill him.

The Court also stated that the RAD failed to consider whether Paul’s mental problems placed him in a social group and did not mention the letter from the President of the Human Rights Association in St. Vincent and the Grenadines which says that mentally ill people are at risk.

The learned judge also ruled  that Paul was at risk in St. Vincent  because of  the public’s reaction to his mental illness, not on his inability to access healthcare.

The Court allowed the application for judicial review and ordered that his appeal be reconsidered by a different member of the Refugee Appeal Division.

These results were achieved by Paul’s determination and courage in pursuing his legal rights to the fullest.

Good luck, Paul.

SUKHRAM   RAMKISSOON is a member of the ICCRC and specializes in  Immigration Matters at No. 3089 Bathurst Street, Suite 219A, Toronto, Ontario,

Phone 416 789 5756.