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Supreme Court of Canada to Hear Human Smuggling Case

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear arguments beginning Monday from lawyers who believe the country’s human smuggling laws are unfair and unconstitutional.

The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) will appear in court to speak about the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) relating to “human smuggling.” The law currently makes it a crime for any person to assist anyone entering Canada without valid documentation, including humanitarian workers assisting refugees fleeing persecution.

The BCCLA points to a case in which four defendants are charged with human smuggling under the law. The charges relate to the arrival of the MV Ocean Lady in 2009, which brought 76 Sri Lankan Tamils into Canadian waters off the BC coast.

“At trial, the accused argued that s. 117 is overbroad, as it criminalizes any person who knowingly assists any undocumented individual in coming to Canada,” said the BCCLA in a statement. “This includes individuals the government did not intend to prosecute, such as those who provide support to migrants for humanitarian reasons, and individuals who provide support to migrants on the basis of close family ties. The B.C. Supreme Court agreed, and found s. 117 to be unconstitutional.”

At the Supreme Court of Canada, the BCCLA will argue that vague or imprecise definitions of legislative objectives are inappropriate because they undermine the ability for courts to meaningfully review legislation for compliance with the Charter. In addition, the Crown’s broad characterization of the law’s objectives is unsupported by the legislative history of the provision, and accepting this characterization would skew the analysis of the provision’s constitutionality.

The arguments are expected to be heard over two days in Ottawa.








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