Mushen Ahemed Ramadan Agraira married a Canadian woman in 1997 and applied to the government to be allowed to settle in Canada. Mr. Agraira did not hide the fact that he once belonged to a group dedicated to the overthrow of Libya’s tyrant dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The government denied Mr. Agraira ‘s application to live in Canada, finding him to be inadmissible to Canada on the basis that there were grounds to believe that Mr. Agraira belonged to a terrorist organization.
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act allows applicants to avoid being considered inadmissible to Canada if they can convince the Minister their presence in Canada “would not be detrimental to the national interest.” Mr. Agraira applied for “ministerial relief”, arguing that he should be allowed to live in Canada. The Canada Border Services Agency recommended that relief be granted to Mr. Agraira. However, then-public safety minister Peter Van Loan rejected the request.
The BCCLA was an intervener in the case. The BCCLA argued that the Minister should weigh human rights, civil liberties and broader Charter values when determining the national interest in a decision about allowing someone to stay in Canada. The decision should include a thorough assessment and balancing of all factors relevant to the national interest, not just national security and public safety.
The Supreme Court of Canada Ruling:
The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the Minister’s decision. Importantly, however, the court rejected the Crown and the lower court’s interpretation that “national interest” is limited to considerations of public safety and national security (para.65). The Court noted:
It is equally clear, however, that more than just public safety and national security are of concern to Canada and to Canadians. For example, the plain meaning of the term “national interest” would also include the preservation of the values that underlie the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the democratic character of the Canadian federation, and in particular the protection of the equal rights of every person to whom its laws and its Constitution apply. (para. 65).
In considering the “national interest” there is a “wide variety of factors” the Minister must consider (para. 87). The plain meaning of “national interest” requires a broad reading such that many factors may be relevant, depending on the particular circumstances of the case before the Minister.
The BCCLA is represented by Jill Copeland and Colleen Bauman of Sack, Goldblatt, Mitchell LLP.
Supreme Court of Canada