Rejection of applications for admissibility by the Canadian federal courts and its possible implications for Bangladesh
For the last ten days or so, the media in Bangladesh as well as social media was filled with a story surrounding a verdict of Canadian federal court delivered on June 15, 2023, dismissing an application for a judicial review of inadmissibility of a person of Bangladeshi origin in Canada.
As the story broke all around, several media outlets from Bangladesh contacted me requesting my comment and additional information on the issue, including my comments on the possible implications of this verdict for Bangladesh. Although I was invited to make some comment on a television discussion on the issue, I found the space and time not adequate to clarify certain matters related to this issue; hence, this short article can provide some more clarity on the issue.
First, let it be clarified that the high commission or consulate in Toronto have nothing to do with such issue. When a person of Bangladeshi origin seeks asylum, he or she avoids keeping any kind of contact with us as, in the application for admission as a refugee, it is claimed that Bangladesh is unsafe for him or her.
The application for admissibility is dealt with by the immigration division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. The high commission is not at all any party to it, nor are we contacted by them to give any testimony or to present any evidence of any kind against the asylum seeker.
However, such issue is never anything pleasing for any high commissioner or the high commission when the name(s) of some major political organization/party of the country is linked with such issue, especially linking it engaging in the acts of terrorism and subversion.
Since 2017, at least ten such cases and verdicts thereon awarded by Canadian federal courts came to our attention. Such information does not bear any good news for us or for our Bangladesh in the host country.
To be precise, out of these ten verdicts that came to our attention, in seven verdicts the organization/party with which the persons concerned were found involved as active members to have had engaged in acts of terrorism; in two verdicts the organization/party was found to have engaged in both terrorism and subversion; and in one verdict, it was found to have engaged in subversion.
However, the expert report on the person based on which the immigration division made the determination on this case, contained allegations and evidence of both terrorism and subversion. Moreover, while considering subversion, elements like: Terrorism — engaging in acts of violence or threats of violence to create fear and disrupt the normal functioning of the government and society; incitement of violence — encouraging or promoting violence, riots, or rebellion with the intention of destabilizing the government or its institutions; organized dissent or protests — actions aimed at inciting violence or attempting the government through unlawful means; and espionage, treason, and conspiracy were taken into consideration.
I am not constrained to express my feeling that not only as the high commissioner, as an ordinary citizen of Bangladesh I find these verdicts, no matter which organization or party of our country is implicated, are a matter of embarrassment and disgrace both for the organization or party concerned and for our country as well. I think most Bangladeshi Canadians living in this country also feel the same way.
In my view, these verdicts would have long-term implications for our country in several ways, especially in terms of issuance of visa to Bangladeshi applicants, including student visa and flow of Canadian investment to Bangladesh.
For obvious reasons, no developed country would be willing to easily issue visa for nationals of a country with such reputation and would not encourage their investors to invest in a country where major political parties are found engaging in the acts of terrorism and subversion.
In this connection, I would like to cite a recent example. A Canadian company, already having an investment in our apparel industry, is now reinvesting an amount of $750 million that would create over 7,000 additional jobs. With this new investment, this company would be one of the largest foreign apparel companies in Bangladesh.
Just before the big political rally held by a major political party in Dhaka in December 2022, the top management of the company came to meet me and conveyed their concerns if their investment would be safe in Bangladesh in such an unstable situation.
While expressing their concerns, they referred to another big rally and sit-in programme of some Islamic organization in May 2013. They even referred to the wide-spread violence that was carried out by the participants of the rally.
I assured them that Bangladesh is perhaps one of the few countries in the world where businessmen play an important role in politics, adding that a vast majority of them also have businesses in the apparel industry across the party-line, and they would not
allow any unstable situation in the country in their own interest, and no matter which party is in power in Bangladesh, businesses would always be safe.
I also feel that although these verdicts of the Canadian federal courts, as referred above, are limited to the period mostly from 2011 to 2015, a few violent incidents that took place during 2022 and in 2023 — namely in the second week of December 2022 during the big political rally organized by a major political party in Dhaka as mentioned above, the attack on the Ahmadiyya community in early March this year, and the incidents that took place very recently in the month of July in Dhaka and other cities, would have implications for all Bangladeshis and Bangladesh in the future.
During the attack on the Ahmadiyya community in Panchagarh in early March, over 100 ministers, senators, and MPs across the party line who are members of the Ahmadiyya Parliamentary Friendship Group in Canada wrote to me and requested to ensure the safety of the community and their religious freedom, as well as the same for other minority communities in Bangladesh.
The issue of rights of the minorities is something very important for the political leadership in this country, and any kind of persecution against them is taken seriously.
As the High Commissioner in Canada, I would like to urge all political parties in Bangladesh to change the political culture in the country and request them to pay serious attention to these issues to avoid repetition of such incidents in the greater and broader interest of the country. It is the responsibility of all political parties to create a peaceful political environment in the country to carry forward our ongoing socio-economic development.
All political parties should also believe that violence and terrorism have no place in a democracy and in any civilized society. We need to recognize that those who get involved in violence and terrorism are nobody’s friends; rather, they are the enemies of the society and the country. They should be renounced and denounced as anti-social elements, and no party should give them any place in their organization.
At the same time, we must appreciate all those concerned who worked hard to see Bangladesh progressing in the terrorism index. It was pleasing to note that Bangladesh ranked second most improved country after Bhutan in the terrorism index in South Asia, published in March 2023.
After the violent period from 2001 until the Holey Artisan attack in 2016, following which many investors were discouraged and even stopped to invest in Bangladesh, and the country was designated as a non-family station by the UN and some western countries, our country made tremendous progress in controlling terrorism, which has been recognized and commended by the global community.
We are well ahead of two other major countries in the region in the terrorism index. We must not squander this hard-earned achievement and status; instead, we should capitalize it to promote our country, especially in attracting investment from Canada and other countries as well as to promote and demand regular and faster migration, by working with countries like Canada and others, through easing up visa regime for Bangladeshi applicants as well as for our students.
It is my expectation that as a progressive Muslim majority country, all political parties would also uphold and promote our secular identity which was one of the cardinal principles of our liberation war. Our political parties should work hard to maintain our status as the most secular country in the region, maintaining and promoting communal harmony and religious freedom.
Dr Khalilur Rahman is the high commissioner of Bangladesh in Canada.