Norma Greenaway, Canwest News Service, October 21, 2009
The federal government has denounced as “perverse” a refugee board ruling that granted asylum to white South African Brandon Huntley on the grounds he could face persecution in his homeland because of his skin color.
In a written submission to the Federal Court of Canada, the government said the ruling that Mr. Huntley’s claim was “justified” is unreasonable and based on a “jaundiced assessment”, by the one-man board, of conditions within South Africa.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is asking the Federal Court for permission to seek a judicial review of the ruling by board member William Davis.
Mr. Davis’ ruling in late August sparked outrage in South Africa where, among other things, the governing African National Congress said the reasoning behind the decision “can only serve to perpetuate racism.”
In Ottawa, Abraham Sokhaya Nkomo, South Africa’s ambassador to Canada, told Canwest News Service Mr. Davis’s ruling was shocking and could seriously damage relations between the two countries.
Within days, the federal government announced it was taking the rare step of appealing a decision by the Immigration and Refugee Board.
The federal submission took Davis to task for effectively accepting Huntley’s argument that he did not seek police protection after allegedly being attacked six or seven times by black South Africans because he did not trust a police force dominated by blacks to help him.
It said Mr. Huntley, who hails from Cape Town, failed to provide “clear and convincing” evidence of the South African government’s inability to protect him.
Mr. Davis’ implicit acceptance of Mr. Huntley’s argument represents a “disturbing view” that “rests largely on the board’s jaundiced assessment of the country conditions,” the government said.
It took strong issue with the statement by Mr. Huntley, who is living in Ottawa, he would stick out like a “sore thumb” because of his colour if he was forced to live anywhere in South Africa.
Dismissing the statement as “unreasonable and perverse,” the government cited figures from Statistics South Africa that said whites form a sizeable minority in the country, ranging from 23.9% of the population of Pretoria, for example, to 16% in both Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg.
The government said that while it is “indisputable” that crime is prevalent in South Africa, all South Africans are affected, regardless of race.