Border Guards Want Explanation In Singh Case

Border guards want explanation in Singh case

Officers frustrated with the way situation is being handled and 'how it makes us look,' insiders' assessment finds

From Monday's Globe and Mail
January 21, 2008 at 1:01 AM EST

VANCOUVER The head of the national border guards' union says he will press the Canada Border Services Agency this week to explain tactics in the case of paralyzed refugee Laibar Singh, which he fears are eroding the morale of his members.

Ron Moran, national president of the 10,500-member Customs and Excise Union, said he has been prompted to act by complaints from members across Canada as well as a written overview of the situation that concludes this case has gone much further and longer than it should have.

The insiders' assessment, by a B.C. employee of the agency's removals unit that was provided to The Globe and Mail on condition the employee not be identified, says officers are very frustrated about how this case is being handled and how it makes us look.

The writer says managers are very hush hush on details about the case, and have occasionally taken to handling it without the involvement of a removals officer.

Supporters of Laibar Singh gather outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara temple in Surrey, B.C., to block the Canada Border Service Agency from deporting the disabled man to India on Jan. 9, 2008. (Richard Lam/The Canadian Press)

It is the majority of the officers' opinion that not removing Mr. Singh makes us look quite impotent and we need to show the public that we do uphold the immigration laws and that we should not bow down to public protests, as this makes us appear without a backbone.

Mr. Moran said he has a previously scheduled meeting this week with Alain Jolicoeur, president of the CBSA, and plans to discuss his concerns with him.

I have raised it as something I want to discuss with them the next time I meet, he said. I expect I am going to have an opportunity to have, at least, a preliminary discussion with the president of the agency.

He said he would like to know if there are elements of the case he is not aware of that would explain the way it is being handled.

Two attempts to remove Mr. Singh from Canada have been cancelled due to protests by his supporters.

Mr. Singh, 48, came to Canada on a false passport in 2003. His appeals to stay in Canada have been complicated by the fact that he was left a quadriplegic by a medical crisis variably described as an aneurysm and a spinal infection.

He has been provided shelter in Sikh temples, most recently at the Guru Nanak temple in Surrey, where he is being cared for by supporters and doctors who are donating their services.

Federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, who is responsible for the CBSA, suggested in a visit to North Vancouver last week that the law would eventually be upheld in the Singh case.

Mr. Day also rejected suggestions the agency might look weak due to their handling of the case, noting that when a crowd of Mr. Singh's supporters forced the cancellation of the most recent removal effort, agents had instead shown sensitivity to a situation possibly becoming inflammatory. The minister noted the CBSA successfully removes 12,000 people a year.

But the author of the assessment provided to Mr. Moran had another view.

If our department is so worried about dealing with a crowd of protesters, make it so there cannot be protesters, the author of the assessment says. Mr. Singh knows he is under an enforceable removal order, so removal should not come as a surprise to him.

If we allow him to stay, we are setting a dangerous precedent.

The writer suggests the CBSA knows that health care, better than [Mr. Singh] would receive here, has been arranged for him at a world-renowned facility in India.

A regional spokesman for the CBSA declined comment on the assessment, referring inquiries to Ottawa. There was no response from the Ottawa office to a query about the matter.


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