Americans are kind of at ease ignoring our neighbors to the north. Sure, we pay attention during the Olympic Games there or during the election of a new prime minister with Olympic-quality hair. We tune in when there’s a mayor with epic problems. But for the most part, Canada is just a country that’s up there, with which we have few problems and do a lot of trade.
But last week, one American went further. Much, much further.
Kyle L. Canty, a native New Yorker, went before Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board in Vancouver and asked the country to grant him refugee status.
That’s the official term for political asylum-seekers granted permission to remain, work and live in another country. Canty told Canadian immigration officials that after living in seven different states, he has faced what he describes as harassment and undue targeting by police in each one of them because he is a black man. And, Canty says, the recent spate of high-profile cases involving alleged police misconduct and black male private citizens have only affirmed his fears that this pattern might wind up costing him his life.
Under Canadian law, those seeking permanent refuge in the country must provide evidence that they face grave danger in their homeland. That evidence can include “well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or affiliation or membership in a particular group,” the CBC reported.
Canada, like the United States, has long been an active participant in coordinated global efforts to welcome and resettle refugees. Canada’s refugee resettlement program is significantly smaller than that of the United States and always has been. For instance, below is a snapshot of refugee resettlement activity in Canada in 2014. Pay particular attention to the number of asylum-seekers, who like Canty sought permission to move to or remain in Canada because of concerns for their safety. All told, Canada’s 2014 count amounted to less than 17,000 people:
Before anyone rushes to a rapid dismissal of Canty’s efforts, consider this: Canty presented a case that one member of the country’s refugee review board described as “well-prepared,” the CBC reported. The CBC itself described Canty’s presentation this way:
As part of evidence submitted to the board, Canty edited together multiple point-of-view videos of his interaction with police, including one where he was arrested for trespass in Salem, Ore., when he spent two hours talking on the phone and using free Wi-Fi at a bus station.
“I got bothered because I’m black,” Canty said. “This is a history of false arrest. My name is ruined because of the false arrest.”
If Canada denies Canty’s bid for refugee status, he will have to return to the U.S. and face multiple outstanding charges for crimes such as jaywalking,disorderly conduct and issuing threats.
While Canty’s claims might strike some Americans as a preposterous attempt to avoid American justice, the string of mostly low-level charges he faces also offers an example of what many advocates of policing reforms say is the non-lethal but damaging effect of the way that police in the United States all too often interact with people of color.
Source: The Washington Post