The federal government is asking a judge to combine two separate lawsuits, after another Afghan Canadian alleged that Canada discriminated against Afghan refugees by treating them differently from Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.
A former Canadian language and culture adviser who served NATO in Afghanistan filed a lawsuit in late July, alleging the government did not allow his family in Afghanistan to seek refuge in Canada.
This followed a complaint filed in May by two other former language and cultural advisers who served in the Canadian military. They also accuse the government of insisting that their families are not eligible for programs bringing Afghan refugees to Canada.
They all accuse the government of offering benefits to Ukrainians that were not offered to Afghans hoping to escape the Taliban takeover in 2021.
Canada has allowed an unlimited number of Ukrainians and their family members to come to Canada on emergency visas for three years to work and study while they escape the Russian invasion of their home country.
“Many benefits are conferred on Ukrainians that are not conferred on foreign nationals from other countries, including other countries facing devastating wars and human rights abuses,” says the adviser to the NATO in the court case.
He cites Afghanistan, Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia and Myanmar as examples. None of the former advisers are named in court documents due to the significant danger their families face in Afghanistan.
To date, Canada has welcomed 175,729 Ukrainians since the Russian invasion in February 2022. This is more than four times the number of Afghans who have arrived in Canada as refugees since August 2021.
The government has yet to file a defense to the Canadian advisers’ claims, but in a similar case before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, the government argued that unique crises require a unique response.
The Canadian army has recruited some 45 Canadian citizens of Afghan origin to serve as linguistic and cultural advisers _ called LCAs _ during the mission in Afghanistan. They obtained top-secret security clearance and risked their lives to serve alongside the soldiers.
The former NATO adviser behind the lawsuit is one of at least six Canadian citizens who have worked as an interpreter to help Canadian, US and other NATO member nations’ military forces, and served from 2007 to 2011.
He said in his court filing that his six siblings and their families are at significant risk of being tortured, k**led or injured in Afghanistan because of their ties to him and the work he has done.
They are not eligible to come to Canada. But the lawsuit alleges that if they were Ukrainian nationals, they would be received on an emergency visa.
After a group of LCAs filed a human rights complaint about the situation, the government reached a voluntary settlement and in March launched a special program aimed specifically at bringing their families to safety.
However, the criteria for this program are restrictive and it is not open to all extended family members, such as adult nieces and nephews. It also does not apply to people who have worked for NATO rather than the Canadian military.
The government said at the time that the eligibility criteria were informed by a “range of stakeholders” but were not specific, saying only that the approach was “flexible and tailored”.
NDP Immigration Critic Jenny Kwan wrote to the Minister of Immigration in April expressing her concerns about the program and the fact that it does not apply to immigration staff. NATO.
“While Afghanistan has been under Taliban rule since 2021, ties to NATO/ISAF personnel pose a clear and present danger to the families of those a*sisting Canada in their mission,” Kwan wrote to the minister. of Immigration at the time, Sean Fraser.
“Canada must make every effort to bring them to safety. »
Sharry Aiken, a Queen’s University law professor who specializes in immigration, said it’s common for courts to deal with similar cases together when they raise similar legal issues.
“What you have to pay attention to is that this is not just a complaint. This is a series of complaints from an affected population. And, you know, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more,” she said.
She said she was glad to see another case come to light that highlights the distinction between how Canada handled the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and how it responded to the Russian invasion. from Ukraine.
“In no way do I want to suggest that Canada’s policy response to Ukraine was wrong or misguided. It wasn’t, it was appropriate,” she said.
But on the a*sistance offered to the Afghans, she said: “I think there are absolutely grounds for a judicial review of this situation and, hopefully, a correction of this policy. »
© 2023 The Canadian Press