Canada wants court to toss out former asylum seeker's attempt to clear his name
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VANCOUVER — A legal bid by a former asylum seeker to clear his name after spending more than two years in a British Columbia church to avoid deportation is not only too late, it's also irrelevant now that he's a permanent resident, a court has heard.
Lawyers representing the Canadian government urged a Federal Court judge in Vancouver on Wednesday to reject an application by Jose Figueroa to rescind an eight-year-old report linking him to a political group in El Salvador with alleged terrorist ties.
"There is no valid reason for this moot application to proceed to judgment," government lawyers argued in a court document.
The respondents in the case are the federal attorney general, the ministers of both public safety and immigration, as well as the Canadian Border Services Agency.
Any debate around Figueroa's inadmissibility "has lost practical significance" after Immigration Minister John McCallum brushed aside roadblocks to permanent resident status last December, on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, they said.
The report highlights Figueroa's past membership in Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front in El Salvador, the same group that brought in a new era of democracy when it was elected in 2009.
Figueroa fled the country with his wife in 1997 after he began receiving death threats and came to Canada as a refugee. Thirteen years after his arrival, the Canadian government issued a deportation order against him.
He sought sanctuary in Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in Langley, where he remained for two years until the immigration minister's intervention allowed him to walk free without fear of expulsion.
Figueroa became a permanent resident of Canada last May and is now studying law at the University of Victoria.
Government lawyers said Figueroa's application should be tossed out because it's five years too late.
The statute of limitation has long since expired and Figueroa has given no special reasons in his "extraordinarily late application" for that deadline to be extended, they said.
The lawyers also took issue with Figueroa's allegation that the border services officer who prepared the 2009 report was unfair when he concluded the Salvadoran refugee was inadmissible to Canada.
The officer was fair and reasonable, the lawyers countered.
The report found Figueroa would not be at risk if he returned to El Salvador, contrary to the asylum seeker's fears that he would be targeted because of his past involvement with the National Liberation Front.
The organization has its roots in the 1980s as a coalition of insurgent leftist groups that morphed into a legal political party 12 years later following the country's civil war.
Government court documents say Figueroa based his refugee claim on having volunteered as an active member of the organization between 1985 and 1996.
Figueroa and his wife have three children, all born after their arrival to Canada. The family lives in Victoria but was in Vancouver on Wednesday watching Figueroa represent himself in court.
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