Vincentian woman granted another chance to remain in Canada

By Sukhram Ramkissoon

Sukhram Ramkissoon

Ms. K is a 30-year-old citizen of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. She grew up in an abusive household and suffered incidents of domestic abuse throughout her life.

In 2008, she was the victim of rape, and her accuser was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison.  He has since been released and it is alleged, he has been threatening Ms. K’s life.

Ms. K arrived in Canada in July 2012 and filed a refugee protection claim which the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) accepted. It  found her testimony credible and concluded that she would be at risk from her rapist.  The RPD ruled the protection she would receive in her home country as “an inconsistent and ineffective protection system”. In December 2019 her refugee claim was terminated due to criminality.

As a result of her criminality, Ms. K was issued a removal order and she then became eligible for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment [PRRA] on the grounds of the gender-based violence she would face in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In the decision dated July 7, 2020, a PRRA officer rejected her application on the ground that she provided insufficient evidence to establish that state protection would not be available to her.  She then sought judicial review of this decision.

She was self-represented in her application for judicial review where the judge requested Ms. K and the Minister to make additional submissions on the issue of state protection. The Minister provided submissions whilst Ms. K did not respond. At the hearing, the judge again asked the parties to address the issue of state protection, which was, in his view, the determinative issue.

In Miss K’s written submissions in support of her PRRA application, prepared by her then-counsel, she alleged that she faces severe gender-based violence at the hands of her rapist and his family members in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. She provided evidence that her rapist was released from custody in December 2018 and continues to make threats against her.  She also provided country condition evidence detailing the prevalence and severity of physical and sexual violence against women in her home country.

With regards to state protection, Ms. K provided evidence demonstrating the “climate of impunity” within which the rapist operates and the widespread attitudes of victim-blaming in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.  She also cited many documents showing the ineffectiveness and often re-traumatizing nature of the state’s responses to incidents of gender-based violence.

In response to the country condition evidence submitted by Ms. K, the officer stated that he finds “that country conditions overall indicate the government’s willingness to confront the issue of violence against women, and the ability to effectively respond to such incidents.”

 A 2018 United States Department of State report also noted that “The law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment, although authorities could prosecute such behavior under other laws. Local human rights groups and women’s organizations considered enforcement ineffective.”

The officer noted in the decision that he finds “that the applicant’s own unfortunate experience also demonstrates the willingness and ability of authorities in arresting, successfully prosecuting, convicting and incarcerating perpetrators of violence and sexual assault against women.”

The judge in his reasons allowing the judicial review stated “I find the Decision unreasonable for two reasons. First, the officer conducted a selective analysis of the evidence and ignored evidence that contradicted their findings. Second, the officer failed to conduct an individualized assessment of state protection.”

 The application for judicial review was allowed and the matter was referred back for redetermination by a different decision-maker.

Good Luck Ms. K.

SUKHRAM RAMKISSOON is a member of CICC and specialises in Immigration Matters at 3089 Bathurst Street, Suite 219A, Toronto, Ontario. Phone 416 789 5756.