News / Vancouver

Former sanctuary seeker Jose Figueroa goes to court to clear name

Jose Figueroa, granted stay in Canada on humanitarian grounds, is now challenging the original allegations of terrorist links against him.

Jose Figueroa stands outside the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church with his family, left to right, Esmeralda, Ruby, Jose and wife Ivania in Langley, B.C. Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Jose Figueroa stands outside the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church with his family, left to right, Esmeralda, Ruby, Jose and wife Ivania in Langley, B.C. Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015.

Former asylum seeker Jose Figueroa is ready to go back to court for another legal battle with the Canadian government.

This time, he wants to clear his name once and for all.

The British Columbia resident was granted exemption on compassionate grounds to stay with his family in Canada in December 2015 after taking up sanctuary in a Langley church for two years to avoid deportation.

Although he had been living in Canada since 1997, the Immigration and Refugee Board deemed him inadmissible in 2010 because he belonged to a student group with ties to the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, which now rules El Salvador.

Although he’s now a free man, and studying law at the University of Victoria, the allegation of terrorist links still hangs over Figueroa’s head.

He hopes that can change Thursday, when his long-running case to have the government issue a certificate stating he is not a terrorist is heard at the Federal Court of Appeal in Vancouver.

“I was alleged to be a member of a terrorist organization and, since that, the Canadian officials who made that decision still want to hold that opinion,” Figueroa, now a permanent resident, told Metro on Monday. “This will represent for me a problem when I apply for my citizenship here because if they still hold that opinion, it might be ground for deny citizenship. That’s something we want to avoid. Plus, I need to clear my name.”

Figueroa first applied for the certificate in 2014, making him the first person in Canada to ever do so.

Since then, he says government has stalled and that federal judges have denied his applications for judicial reviews of the decision.

“I am not on any [terrorist] list and have never been on any list. That’s part of the issue that we have,” said Figueroa. “It wouldn’t take anybody less than three minutes to compare my name with those on the list and establish that I am not on it. The law is very clear, a person claiming not to be a listed person may make this application.”

-with files from The Canadian Press

More on Metronews.ca