For Media Release

In Landmark Ruling, Federal Court of Canada decides that People Smuggling Does not Include the Transportation of Refugees for Humanitarian Purposes

Toronto, Dec. 11, 2012
In a landmark ruling released December 4, 2012, the Federal Court of Canada has decided that the term ‘people smuggling’ in section 37 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), does not include the transportation of refugees for humanitarian purposes. This decision contradicts previous jurisprudence in the area and brings Canadian Immigration law into line with internationally recognized principles. If a person or organization assists in helping refugees escape their country and their motive is purely humanitarian and not for profit, section 37 of IRPA does not apply.

In Hernandez v. Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (2012) FC 1417, the alleged people smuggler had been apprehended attempting to assist asylum seekers fleeing Cuba into the United States. His motive was not for financial or other material benefit, but was to assist family members and friends in starting a new life away from Cuba, a fact accepted by immigration officials.

 In ordering him deported from Canada and barring him from a refugee hearing, the Immigration Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada held that regardless of his motive for assisting the asylum seekers, his actions were caught by deportation provisions in Canadian law prohibiting  people smuggling. He was subsequently found described, ordered deported from Canada and denied a refugee hearing. On judicial review of his decision, the Court overturned the deportation order and held that only if he had been acting for a financial or other material benefit, would he face these sanctions.

"We're pleased that the Court has issued such a strong decision on this issue. If your motives are humanitarian in nature, you are not a people smuggler. If you are using the plight of refugees to gain a profit, you are a smuggler and deserve to face sanctions under section 37. It only makes sense," added Ronald Poulton of Poulton Law explaining the importance of the legal precedent

Ronald Poulton is considered one of Canada’s leading immigration lawyers. He has acted as counsel at the Supreme Court of Canada, Federal and Ontario Courts of Appeal and Federal Court Trial Division in some of the most prominent cases in Canadian immigration law.

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