Latest Blog Posts
Wildwood Fire ReviewBy Ezekiel McAdams   &n

Get Connected

August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Anatomy Of A Disgrace

Nathan Raine
Published Wednesday October 15, 06:56 pm
The tragic story of Jamila Bibi’s deportation shames Canada

For 22 months, Pakistani refugee Jamila Bibi dutifully reported to Immigration on a weekly basis. Then, at her Wednesday, Sept. 10th appointment in Saskatoon, the Canadian Border Service Agency arrested Ms. Bibi, cuffed her, and shipped her to the Pinegrove Women's Detention Facility in Prince Albert.

For reasons that remain unknown, it took two days for Immigration to notify her attorney, Winnipeg-based lawyer Bashir Khan, that she had been arrested and would be deported the following Tuesday. When Khan received the call that Friday morning, he just happened to be boarding a plane bound for Saskatoon.

“It was just a miracle that I saw her,” he says. “Had I not been flying that moment, there would have been no way for me to file a case in court, because I couldn't have got her signature in time.”

In the end, the 168-page appeal that Khan scrambled to file on Monday morning was rejected, dismissed on the grounds that there was no new evidence and that the motion should not be heard on such short notice — even though Khan was notified less than four days before Bibi’s scheduled deportation.

“There was a huge conspiracy here on the part of the system. And I just want you to understand the human side of it, which gets lost,” says Khan, “and just how disadvantaged Ms. Bibi was.”

Khan's point is warranted. When looking at Ms. Bibi's treatment through the Canadian immigration and judicial system and asking how something like this could happen, it's hard to deny that there was an outright lack of compassion and regard for Jamila Bibi's life.

 

What happened:

On Jan. 27, 2007, Jamila Bibi has her intake interview in Canada, and her refugee claim referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. On Jan. 15, 2010, her claim is denied. The principal board member behind that rejection is Negar Azmudeh. In the refugee claim decision, Azmudeh begins by endorsing Bibi as a credible claimant:

 

I have found the claimant to be a credible witness. I believe that she has had a long history of land dispute with [her brother-in-law] Mr. Boota, [...] and has even gone as far as falsely accusing her of adultery [...] She testified in a straightforward manner and there were no material inconsistencies in her testimony.

This becomes a very important detail — that the evidence Bibi gave in her claim was accepted.

But, despite accepting the evidence, Azmudeh ignores several major factors in Bibi's case. She continues:

 

I have found that Mr. Boota has not been capable of harming the claimant and have no sufficient credible evidence before me to suggest that he will be capable of harming [her] in the future [...] This is because all the land disputes with Mr. Boota was resolved by the courts in the claimant's favour.

The documented evidence presented by Bibi, however, clearly displays that the verdict reached in court actually did very little to persuade Boota from withdrawing his claim to her land. Azmudeh also ignores the fact that Boota had repeatedly escaped liability under the law, including the times Bibi was beaten and tortured in public. Azmudeh goes on:

 

While I understand that women living alone face a lot of serious problems in Pakistan [...] the claimant has never lost the love and support of her family, including her husband [...] There is no evidence before me to suggest that she will have to face life in Pakistan [...] alone”.

That evidence you are looking for, Ms. Azmudeh, are Jamila Bibi's formal divorce papers, which were filed on Aug. 12, 2009 — a full three months before the refugee claim verdict on Nov. 24, 2009. Even long before the divorce, Bibi's husband had disowned her, says Khan.

“The judge was way off by saying [that she never lost the love of her husband] because the husband hadn't completely disowned her,” says Khan. “So both decisions were completely wrong.”

Of the threat to Bibi's life, Azmudeh states: “she does not have a well-founded fear of persecution.” But the testimony Bibi gave included several accounts of mental and physical torture. It also clearly affirms that she is the potential target of an “honour killing” [in 2013 alone, 869 women in Pakistan were killed from honour killings] and is wanted by both Boota and the police for the false accusations of adultery.

Khan, who did not become her lawyer until 2012, says the decision made by Azmudeh in 2009 is completely dishonourable.

“This decision is totally, horribly wrong because refugee law in Canada is clear: if you are at risk from the state authorities, and wanted for a crime, then you can't just go hide in Pakistan, or any country, where you are wanted,” said Khan. “A person can't be expected to go into hiding. That is not a principle of refugee law.”

But on these grounds, Jamila Bibi's case was denied. Azmudeh seems to possess neither a sense of compassion, nor a competent understanding of her job and how it affects the safety of the claimants she's rejecting. So where does this state of cognitive oblivion come from? The Conservative government, of course. Azmudeh was appointed to the Immigration and Refugee Board by blue-blooded Conservative Diane Finley, who at the time was the minister of Citizenship and Immigration. And the current government has a less-than-unblemished reputation when it comes to the treatment of refugees.

“[Bibi's] credibility was not destroyed: there wasn't a single thing where the judge said 'I don't believe you,'” says Khan. “My point was she was 110 per cent believed in everything she said. There could be a bunch of reasons why her refugee claim would be denied, and none of them, not even one, was there — meaning she had the most perfect refugee claim under the sun,” said Khan.

With very little money, Bibi couldn’t afford to appeal the decision to the Federal Court. If she had, says Khan, she almost certainly would have secured a victory on appeal, due to the strength of her evidence.

In 2011, the Immigration Board gave Bibi a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment, essentially to explain why, again, a deportation to Pakistan would be a risk. Bibi's answers remained consistent, but the PRRA was rejected on the basis that no new evidence had been presented. But an important distinction that was overlooked is that her initial Refugee Claim hearing did not reject the evidence. They, in fact, accepted the evidence as true.

“That would make sense — why someone might have lost the case because the evidence was rejected. Then I can see that,” says Khan. “But here they are saying, 'Because you lost your refugee claim, the story and the evidence you are giving me now is the same you had given the Refugee Board before. And since the Refugee Board rejected you, I don't want to look at that old evidence. Give me something new.' The evidence is the evidence! She's not going to manufacture something new.”

As a last-ditch hope, Bibi appeals the PRRA to the Federal Court of Canada. The case is rejected without reason. One line: case dismissed.

“That's how immigration courts work in Canada,” says Khan. “The Supreme Court of Canada can't be bothered with every case that's being appealed to it. So, it has restricted appeals by saying that everyone has to apply for permission to appeal. And 95 per cent [of applications] taken to the Supreme Court are denied permission.”

Once her case had been dismissed at the federal level, Bibi was notified of her impending deportation. At this point, Khan becomes her lawyer.

“I told her there was nothing left for her in Canada — there's nothing left in Canadian law. The only hope left for her is in international law.”

Khan urgently filed a case with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. The UN responded by sending Canada a “cease and desist” letter, stating Canada is not to deport her until they have had a chance to review the case — a process that could take up to two years. Within three weeks, the UN additionally added support for her with a Protection of Non-Refoulement — a refugee law protecting someone from being deported into torture. Canada abides, and immediately stops her deportation.

And for the next 22 months, Bibi reports weekly to Immigration. Khan is quite confident in his client's chances of staying safely in Canada.

“To be honest, we expected the decision to go heavily in her favour. We expected something like: ‘She is in great danger in Pakistan. Canada is absolutely refrained from expelling her, permanently.’ That's what I expect from the UN,” he says.

This is when things went a little crazy, if they weren't already.

A decision comes from the federal minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Steven Blaney, to ignore Canada's obligations with the United Nations and the Protection of Non-Refoulement, and deport her anyway. That’s devastating, and possibly fatal, to Ms. Bibi.

The decision is a breach of our contract with the United Nations, which prohibits Canada, a country party to the Convention Against Torture, from deporting a person to a country where they are wanted by the state.

“Canada is in violation of international law, in violation of its own legal obligation of a nation-state, in violation of its undertaking that it had given the UN after the UN told them not to deport her. So yeah, this is very shameful,” says Khan. “It doesn't look well for the honour of the Canadian state — talking about human rights on an international scale when we ourselves are shirking away from our legal obligations under a treaty called Convention Against Torture. Canada has accepted the jurisdiction and the competence of the United Nations in matters of human rights, and suddenly Canada does an about-face.”

The implications of deporting Jamila Bibi send ripple effects on an international scale. Amnesty International sends a letter to the Federal Court in Ottawa on Sept. 13th, concerned about the deportation of Bibi as a serious compromise of Canada's relationship with the UN. They state:

“When states disregard their obligations and fail to adhere to the requests and recommendations of the treated based expert bodies, the system is undermined and its ability to uphold and defend human rights is significantly weakened. Canada’s authority and credibility with other governments is inevitably undermined when, in a case such as this, Canada chooses to disregard UN recommendations. Amnesty International has a growing concern about Canada’s reluctance to comply with all requests for interim measures of protection [...] Amnesty International urges the Government of Canada to comply with its obligations under the Convention Against Torture and fully comply with the interim measures requested from the Treaties Division, and not remove Ms. Bibi from Canada until the Committee has completed its review of the merits of Ms. Bibi’s request.”

The deportation was far from irreversible, and Amnesty International wasn’t the only one that tried to intervene. At the House of Commons on Sept. 16th, the date of Jamila Bibi's deportation, Andrew Cash, an NDP MP, made this request to Chris Alexander, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration:

“Jamila Bibi is facing charges of adultery in Pakistan. The penalty is death by stoning. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights has been looking into the case, but the Conservative government could not wait [...] In the name of human rights, in the name of compassion, will the Minister urgently act now, intervene and stop the deportation of Jamila Bibi?”

The Minister, Chris Alexander, in all his compassion, gave this reply:

“Canada has a fair and generous asylum system where decisions are made by the independent Immigration and Refugee Board, not under political pressure but according to the facts. Where claims fail, there is recourse to appeals. When those appeals are exhausted, we all expect failed claimants to leave our country.”

Alexander, though, is ignorant to the fact that Bibi's case was far from being exhausted.

“There is a difference between [Bibi and] someone who has exhausted all their rights to appeal in Canada, and then are deported,” says Khan. “Then, yes, they should go back because that's what the law requires. But this is not one of those cases! And I hate it, it pisses me off so much when people say she's in that category.

She is not, for two distinct reasons: one, she never had the money to file an appeal against the negative refugee decision which was so horribly written and illogical that it makes no sense, even in law. And two, she was brave enough to take her case to the United Nations under existing treaties between Canada and the UN in Human Rights. And under that treaty there's a principle called Pacta Sunt Servanda, which is Latin for 'treaties must be honoured.' States are obligated to obey their commitments under treaties. Canada violated this.”

That violation, and the deportation of Bibi, garnered plenty of reaction throughout the news and political parties. NDP MP Cam Broten sent us this statement:

“The decision the federal government made to deport Jamila Bibi lacked compassion, and it lacked common sense. Jamila was welcome in Saskatoon. She had a job and worked hard, she contributed to her community and she had strong relationships with friends. Deporting her absolutely lacked common sense,” said Broten. “The province should have intervened on Jamila’s behalf. They failed to do that, but it’s not too late to try to save Jamila’s life. This government should pick up the phone, call Ottawa and ask them to reverse the decision...”

And so, what hope does Bibi have? Minister Blaney could also have intervened at any moment he desired. And he still can, says Khan.

“If Ms. Bibi hasn't either been found by the police in Pakistan and arrested, or been the target of honour killing, yeah, something can be done. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration can issue something called a Minister's Permit, and under that, he can bring her right back,” he says.

The entire Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in Canada is one of those very rare and unique acts of Parliament where everything under the act is based on the discretion (and potential arbitrariness) of the minister. There are very few laws like this in Canada. Unfortunately, it’s unrealistic to think that the decision might still be reversed.

“That's something Canadians don't realize. That law is written that way to be always arbitrary and at the discretion of the person who is listening to whatever, anything, under the Immigration and Refugee act. If the Minister wants to use his discretion and arbitrarily issue her a Minister's Permit and bring her right back, he can do that right now,” says Khan.

Minister Blaney did not return our requests to speak with him.

Bibi is completely blindsided by the arrest and deportation. Her arrest report clearly depicts a woman in profound distress: she strikes herself on the body repeatedly, begs the officers for help or for mercy, and cries out over and over again that she will die. But when asked if she will cooperate with the deportation, she replies in the affirmative, “of course.”

The officers still decide to send her to a detention centre. Bibi spends her last five days in Canada in a prison cell.

From her heartbreaking story in Pakistan to the lack of compassion she faced in Canada, to the violation of international law and eventually to her deportation, Jamila Bibi's story is undoubtedly one that stands out among the thousands of refugee cases in Canada.

“The UN doesn’t have to request the stoppage of the deportation, but they did — and Canada did not comply,” says Khan. “I think that speaks to why this case is such a rare case. That's why this is a one-in-a-million case in Canada.”

In this case, one in a million is far too many.

 

THE BEGINNING

On Tuesday September 16th, 2014, Jamila Bibi was deported from Saskatoon back to her native country of Pakistan. The woman, who had been arrested and jailed by the Canadian Border Services Agency, cried out for mercy, begging impervious ears to “shoot me, kill me, keep me in jail.” For Bibi, deportation back to Pakistan meant almost certain death.

In the Refugee Claim decision from the Immigration Refugee Board of Canada, Negar Azmudeh [Board Member of the Refugee Protection Division] cites the following reasons for Ms. Bibi's deportation [including, not limited to]:

 

the claimant is not a Convention refugee as she does not have a well-founded fear of persecution [...] there are no substantial grounds to believe that her removal to Pakistan will subject her personally to a danger of torture[...] the claimant has never lost the love and support of her family, including her husband [...] and I therefore find that she and or her family will not face undue hardship.”

The following is an abridged history of Jamila Bibi, sourced from obtained documents that were filed with the Federal Court of Canada. Jamila Bibi's story was given, and reviewed, by the Immigration Refugee Board, including one Negar Azmudeh, whose verdict you see above.

Jamila Bibi was born on January 1, 1963 in the Lahore District of Pakistan. She is the mother of six children; three daughters and three sons. Bibi's [now ex] husband, Basharat, is a simple uneducated labourer who must travel to Saudi Arabia for work – limiting him to only yearly visits to his family. Bibi is also an uneducated, illiterate woman, but has always worked hard to ensure her children were well-educated and well-provided for.

In their village, Bibi and her family were respected, and even considered well-off. Bibi owned farmland [in her name], and had started her own small dairy business. Her prosperity, though, was met with contempt from her husband's uncle, a man named Mohammad Boota. Boota and his sons were notorious in their village for their criminal activity, as well as a pension for drinking and gambling their money away. This eventually forced Boota to sell his land, which, Bibi and her husband decided to purchase – as they were adjacent to their own farms.

While they were waiting for the transfer of the lands, Boota proposed his three sons marry Bibi's three still very young daughters. Boota hoped, through the marriages, that he would be able to reacquire the lands as a dowry. Bibi refused the offer. In spite of the fact that he had been paid, Boota refused to transfer or vacate the land.

And so Bibi took Boota to court. Despite the courts deciding in Bibi's favour, Boota continued to occupy the land illegally. He threatened that “she would face severe consequences if she pursued further.” With her husband only returning for yearly visits from Saudi Arabia and no support from the community, Boota began to mentally and physically torture Bibi. Some of the documented incidences include:

When the transfer and registration of the land complete in Bibi's name, Boota set fire to the documentation record office, destroying the records stating Bibi was the rightful owner of the land.

Boota attacked Bibi and one her workers on their way home from work, hitting the worker in the head with a brick. The worker was hospitalized.

Bibi's house was raided by Boota and his sons, destroying much of the interior.

Bibi  upon walking home from her farm, was chased down by Boota's sons and beaten with iron rods. Boota's intention was to “teach her a lesson and kill her.” Fortunately Bibi was able to escape.

Boota attacked Bibi in a public area of the village. He beat her, tried to tear off her clothes, and broke one of her fingers.

For all these attacks, Bibi was hospitalized with various injuries. And although all of the incidences were reported to the police, Boota received no form of punishment.

Bibi, bravely, continued to fight Boota for the rights to her land. In 2005, after years in court, Bibi's land was rightfully restored to her. For all of the suffering she endured, Bibi then resolved to stay close to her home.

Then in 2006, Boota again invaded Bibi's house, this time with the intention of forcing her daughters to marry his sons. Fortunately for the daughters, they were not at home at the time. An enraged Boota dragged Bibi by the hair out to the street and tore off her clothes. He dragged her naked through the town to the police station. Boota laid false charges on Bibi, stating that he caught her in bed with an anonymous man, and that she is prostituting herself in the absence of her husband. He claimed that she was ruining the integrity of the village, and something must be done to restore its honour. For this Bibi was thrown in jail, where she was beaten and tortured for three days before receiving bail.

Upon release, Boota threatened to take her land and daughters for he and his sons. He then filed a case of adultery against her. In Islamic law, such an accusation often results in an “honour killing” - with the accused adulteress being stoned to death.

After being released from prison, not knowing where daughters had fled to, the physical torture and mental abuse no longer tolerable, and the threat of being stoned to death far too horrific, Bibi tried to kill herself. She jumped into a canal and was eventually saved by some towns folk.

Boota now essentially had licence from the Islamic state to stone her to death. With her life in greater risk than ever before, and her children were safely in care of an aunt, Bibi obtained a Vistor's Visa to Canada. On January 11th 2007, she showed up Toronto, and from there, Saskatoon, where she resided for almost eight years before she was deemed unworthy of staying in Canada.

Her husband, who has since been poisoned by the false accusations against her, filed for divorce in August of 2009. Bibi has also had regular contact with her daughters, who have implored her not to return, as they say Boota will find her and kill her.

In a statement made by Bibi, she said: “I know my life would be in danger if I am sent back and I would rather to have a peaceful death here than being killed for something that I did not do. In Pakistan women get killed every day for crimes they did not commit. Especially in our provence of Punjab, honour killing is very common and government does not do anything to protect us.

I am very fearful for my life [if] I am sent back. Now I have no support from my husband. I have no support from any man in my life. In Pakistan no woman can live without the support of the men of the family.”   

Back to TopShare/Bookmark