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OTTAWA - Canada's immigration policy is being reviewed following revelations that one of the men charged in an alleged plot to attack a Via Rail train was ordered deported years ago — but was never removed because he is a stateless Palestinian.
The federal immigration minister said Friday he wants to know what can be done when Canada wants to deport someone who has no home country.
"(I) am having a briefing with officials to see if there was any way to work to still remove someone like this who allegedly is stateless," Jason Kenney said.
In the briefing, he's likely to learn that Canada can and does deport people who are considered stateless.
Between 2003 and 2010, 352 of them were removed from Canada, according to government statistics published in a 2012 study commissioned by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Sixty-seven others have been removed in the last two years, the Canadian Border Services Agency said Friday.
Being stateless means an individual can't be considered a citizen of any country, a legal limbo that can arise for a variety of reasons. It's considered a situation beyond the individual's control — and one which Raed Jaser, one of the two men charged in the Via plot, has claimed applies in his case.
"I am a Palestinian by blood, that does not give me any rights whatsoever in my place of birth," Jaser told a deportation hearing in 2004.
The case of Palestinians is a unique among the estimated millions of stateless people in the world. While there is such a thing as a Palestinian passport, most countries do not recognize Palestine as a state and therefore its people are considered stateless.
Jaser's lawyer claimed he was never deported because the government couldn't figure out where to send him.
Immigration regulations concerning deportation make no allowances for those considered stateless so officials, theoretically, have several options: removal of a stateless person to the country from which he or she came to Canada, removal to the country of last permanent residence before coming to Canada, removal to the country of which the person is a national or to the country of birth.
If none of those places will accept the deportee, the minister has the power to pick any country that will and send the individual there.
The UN report did not say where stateless individuals who have been removed from Canada were sent and the CBSA could not immediately provide that information on Friday.
Jaser was born in the United Arab Emirates and his family came to Canada from Germany in 1993, making a refugee claim on the basis they faced persecution there.
The claim was ultimately denied, but most of the family managed to obtain citizenship anyway, except for Jaser because he'd racked up a series of criminal convictions.
Those convictions prompted a deportation order but he was never removed. Instead, he was eventually granted a pardon, which appeared to overturn the deportation order.
Kenney said he's also taking a closer look at that element of the case.
"Why should a pardon override criminal inadmissibility? That’s what I’m looking at with my officials — is to see whether we can make a policy change," he said,.
"It seems to me, I don't care whether you get a pardon or not, if you commit a serious criminal offence in Canada you should be kicked out — period."
The New Democrats' foreign affairs critic said the whole case raises many questions.
"When it comes to, you know, preventing terrorism and concerns that people have around terrorism, it’s all about co-ordination and you need to have co-ordination between CSIS, police services, immigration," said NDP MP Paul Dewar.
"And it would appear that someone dropped the ball here and that’s what we’ll be looking at is who exactly dropped the ball? How did this happen?"
The legal limbo of stateless people is a major policy gap, the UN report said.
"In the absence of specific legislative or administrative measures to address their protection needs, such individuals may end up without status in any country and risk being caught in a cycle of detention, futile attempts at removal and destitution," the report said.