Monday, April 4, 2011

Canada's decision to deport a Rwandan asylum seeker immoral

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As it sadly appears, Amnesty International may not be off the mark in their proclamation that Canada might forfeit its coveted status as a leading human rights defender. Something acutely bizarre transpired a few days ago. It is one of those stories that are guaranteed to make you wonder whether we are living in the pre-World War II period or not.

In a nutshell, the Canadian Federal Court refused to grant asylum to Mr. Jean Leonard Tenganya and subsequently ordered for his deportation back to Rwanda. Well, everything might seem fine at least until you get exposed to the nitty-gritty details of his case. Mr. Tenganya is not a genocidaire and does not appear to be wanted in Rwanda for genocide related crimes.

Tenganya was a medical intern at the National University of Rwanda when the 1994 genocide started. He survived the killings on this site, which swallowed over 200 Tutsi and moderate Hutu. However, the fact that he survived the killings is being used as a crime against him. The court reasons that because he “didn’t flee the hospital and wasn’t slaughtered himself… [it is] proof [that] he was a genocide supporter.”

This ruling is as strange as it is frightening. The only way to rationalize it is to assume that the judges lack a historical understanding of the Rwandan genocide. Even if we are to assume that Tenganya was not among the targeted because of his Hutu ethnicity, what influence did he have that could have stopped the killings? Indeed, speaking out against the massacres would have been both heroic and admirable. But if presented by a similar situation, not many people have the selfless courage or the platform that Paul Rusesabagina or Oskar schindler had. A lot of Rwandans count themselves just lucky to have survived.

Of course as victims, we also constantly feel guilty and responsible for those who died. However, one would not imagine that such guilt would be used against survivors of any tragedy much less genocide. Canada through this ruling is endangering one more Rwandan life; it is my sincere hope the law is repealed in a way that acknowledges Tenganya’s humanity.

Blogger Aimable Mugara has covered this in a multi-faceted letter “to the editor” that he wrote for the National Post, please find it on his blog. The letter quotes Edmund Burke's saying that “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

I do not necessarily agree with Edmund Burke on this, but I am morally inclined to think that the ruling by this court is an unfortunate cruel interpretation of law. Do the judges even know anything to do with the human rights situation in Rwanda, especially in regards to Rwandan asylum seekers who get deported to Rwanda?

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