CARL Argues Human Smuggling Laws Unconstitutional in Supreme Court

February 16, 2015

Smuggling Laws Cast Too Wide a Net, Subject Innocent People to Criminal Penalties

For Immediate Release (Ottawa, ON): On February 16th and 17th, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) will intervene in a two-day hearing at the Supreme Court of Canada in a case concerning the legality of Canada’s human smuggling laws. The matter involves 5 cases alleging human smuggling. Eight of the nine appellants in these cases are Sri Lankan refugee claimants who arrived in Canada aboard either the MV Sun Sea or the MV Ocean Lady.

Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) defines human smuggling, and sets out the punishment for human smuggling, which includes fines and imprisonment.  For refugees, the punishment also includes disqualification from making a refugee claim, which is potentially the most severe punishment of all.

CARL will argue that the IRPA’s penal prohibition on human smuggling is grossly disproportionate, and thus unconstitutional, because of the severe impact it has on refugee co-claimants, humanitarian workers, and others assisting vulnerable people fleeing persecution. CARL will also argue that criminal defences, including duress and necessity (which are raised by one of the claimants in these cases), must be fully considered each time refugee status is denied on the basis of alleged involvement in human smuggling.  In its written materials CARL also argued that the consequences of a decision that an individual is involved in human smuggling are so severe that they engage the rights to life, liberty and security of the person under Section 7 of the Charter.

 “The current laws penalize innocent refugee claimants and humanitarian workers for no principled reason”, said Mitchell Goldberg, President of CARL. “Because of these laws, people who are refugees might never get the chance to make their refugee claim. They will be deported or left in an endless legal limbo.”

“The anti-smuggling laws cast too wide a net that catches victims along with the smugglers and the penalties are severe”, explained Andrew Brouwer, representing CARL in this case. “Refugees are not being given a full and fair opportunity to present justifications for their actions, including those of duress and necessity,” added Professor Jennifer Bond, co-counsel for CARL in this case.

CARL will be represented by Andrew Brouwer and Erin Bobkin of the Refugee Law Office and Professor Jennifer Bond of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, whose work is supported by the University of Ottawa’s Refugee Law Research Team. CARL’s counsel team is looking forward to appearing alongside many of Canada’s top refugee lawyers at this important hearing.

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For comment, please contact:

Andrew Brouwer: 416.435.3269 |

Jennifer Bond: 613.612.6204 |

Mitchell Goldberg: 514.844.7528 | <>