Ottawa urged to review immigration board cases
Arab group's chief accepted 100% of refugees from Middle East
John Ivison, National Post
Published: Saturday, March 07, 2009
The government is being urged to re-examine all refugee cases heard by Khaled Mouammar, the current president of the Canadian Arab Federation, following the revelation that his acceptance rates were nearly twice the national average during a decade-long stint on the Immigration and Refugee Board.
Mr. Mouammar, an outspoken supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, recorded an acceptance rate of 100% when it came to refugees from North Africa and the Middle East during his time with the IRB between 1995 and 2005, according to statistics obtained by the National Post. Although cases from the Middle East represented only a tiny fraction of his overall caseload, the 68-year-old orthodox Christian, who was born in Palestine, also accepted each claim he heard against Israel during the period, while the rest of the IRB accepted just 10% of Israel claims.
"I would like to see some close scrutiny of who this fellow accepted because his numbers are off the radar screen, even in comparison
to the generally questionable record of the IRB. Obviously no one was monitoring his performance because he was there for 10 years," said Martin Collacott, a former diplomat who follows immigration and refugee issues for the Fraser Institute.
Alykhan Velshi, spokesman for Jason Kenney, the Minister of Immigration, said the government acknowledges those concerns.
"Without knowing the full details of the individual cases, I can't comment beyond saying that the numbers speak for themselves," Mr. Velshi said.
"I think it's fair for Canadians to ask why Mouammar's acceptance rate was so much higher than the IRB average for the same countries, as well as whether he was letting people in who he shouldn't have."
When contacted at home, Mr. Mouammar referred all questions to the IRB. "I have nothing to add to that," he said. A spokesperson for the IRB said the board did not comment on the performance of past or current members. "However, statistics on individual acceptance rates cannot be used to draw conclusions or inferences."
Mr. Mouammar has found himself in hot water in recent months because of his support for Hamas and Hezbollah. The CAF advocates both be taken off a list of banned organizations because they are "legitimate political parties," while it considers Israel a genocidal regime, guilty of "war crimes."
Mr. Mouammar also hit the headlines for calling Jason Kenney, the Minister of Immigration, a "professional whore" over his support of Israel, a move that prompted Mr. Kenney to say he intends to review the CAF's public funding.
The Post reported this week that Mr. Mouammar spent much of the late 1990s and early 2000s sitting on the refugee protection division of the IRB. He was appointed when Sergio Marchi was the Liberal immigration minister in Jean Chretien's first term in 1994 and reappointed on four successive occasions.
Sources have forwarded statistics on the number of cases he handled during that period and the number of refugees that were admitted to Canada as a result.
In his first few years with the IRB, the norm was for two or three members to sit on a panel and hear refugee cases. In those years, Mr. Mouammar heard 912 cases, recording an acceptance rate of 50%, compared to an IRB average of 30%.
One person who heard cases alongside Mr. Mouammar on the refugee board said that when he presided over a case, he routinely accepted claims, and it was only when the other member presided that he would agree to deny claimants.
After the IRB streamlined the hearing process to one member, Mr. Mouammar's acceptance rate rose dramatically. Of the 1,092 cases he heard on his own, he accepted 88%, compared to a 49% average for the rest of the IRB. When it came to cases from Algeria, Iraq, Israel, Morocco and Tunisia, that number rose to 100%.
"My conclusion is that, statistically, you definitely wanted him in the room with you if you were from Algeria or Iraq, or if you were making a claim against Israel," said immigration policy analyst and lawyer Richard Kurland.
Mr. Collacott noted that Canada accepts three times as many refugees as most other countries.