Kim Hawkey, Sunday Times (Johannesburg), April 10, 2010
Race “refugee” Brandon Huntley is having a hard time convincing the Canadian government of his “plight” as a white South African.
The 31-year-old made international headlines in August when the Canadian immigration board granted him refugee status after it found him to be a victim of crime, genocide and affirmative action back home.
Huntley–a Cape Town-born martial arts fanatic–was declared a refugee after claiming he had been robbed, and stabbed seven times by attackers, who had called him a “white dog” and a “settler”.
Following a massive backlash, the Canadian government announced it would go to court to seek a review of the decision.
On Wednesday, the federal court in Toronto was set to hear an application by the country’s minister of immigration, Jason Kenney, for a review of this “plainly wrong” decision.
Lawyers spent the morning arguing a procedural issue as Huntley, in papers before the court, suggested the Canadians wanted a review of his case purely due to political pressure from South Africa.
“It is clear to objective observers that the applicant’s motives in commencing this judicial review were purely political and in reaction to complaints by the South African government,” Huntley’s lawyer argued in papers before the court.
Kenney, however, rubbished Huntley’s claims, accusing him of going on a “fishing expedition”.
The minister noted that the South African’s reasons for seeking a review were not the subject of the court matter.
“It is worth remembering that the reasonableness of the board’s decision is what is at issue in this judicial review application,” Kenney said.
A spokesman for the Canadian department of immigration told the Sunday Times that there were several reasons why Kenney was challenging the decision.
“The board’s decision contained several errors, including an error in its finding that Mr Huntley did not have access to state protection and an error in equating random acts of violence that Mr Huntley claimed to have experienced with persecution due to his race,” she said.
Huntley also argued he had been sidelined by South Africa’s affirmative action policies, had been subject to persecution and genocide by the black majority who hated all whites and wanted them “stomped on like ants”.
He added that, as a white person, he would “stick out like a sore thumb” in South Africa if he had to return home.
But the Canadian government minister did not buy any of this.
In court papers Kenney agreed that crime was a “huge problem” in South Africa, but he said citizens from all racial backgrounds were victims, and not just whites, as Huntley claimed.
Kenney also said that Canada, too, experienced random acts of violence.
The minister’s lawyers argued that the immigration board’s acceptance of Huntley’s claim that the South African police could not be trusted as “a majority of them are black, conveys this rather disturbing view”. “This view is unsupported . . . it largely rests on the board’s jaundiced assessment of the country conditions.”
Regarding Huntley’s complaint about affirmative action, Kenney said Canada had absolutely no problem with South Africa’s affirmative action policies, which suggested that justifiable “social changes were afoot in South Africa”.
Kenney said Canada applied similar policies by, for example, giving preferential rights to aboriginal fishermen.
He also said that Huntley’ s work experience did not entitle him to lofty aspirations.
“Even if one accepts that the affirmative action policy has limited the career advancement and/or job opportunities for some white South Africans, it is still incongruous that a high school graduate with the respondent’s work experience–a bartender, sales technician, parking-lot attendant and cleaner–has been denied any opportunities commensurate with his qualifications.”
On Wednesday, Judge Yvon Pinard postponed the matter, but did not set a return date.
Huntley’s lawyer did not respond to attempts to contact him.
Before his refugee application, Huntley had made various attempts to stay in Canada, including trying to join the army and marrying a Canadian citizen.