Matt Robinson, Lori Culbert & Stephanie Ip, Vancouver Sun, September 10, 2018
The man arrested and charged with the 2017 murder of Burnaby teen Marrisa Shen arrived in Canada as a refugee from Syria just months before she was killed, say police.
Ibrahim Ali, 28, was arrested without incident Friday in Burnaby, where he lives, and later charged with first-degree murder, according to the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.
Shen was reported missing after she failed to return home by 11 p.m. on July 18, 2017. Police launched a search, using GPS to track her phone. The 13-year-old girl’s body was found in a wooded area in Burnaby’s Central Park early the next morning.
Ali is a Syrian national and a permanent resident of Canada who came to the country 17 months ago, Richardson said. She did not know whether he was a privately-sponsored or government-assisted refugee, but believed he has family in Burnaby and was employed.
A law enforcement source who was not authorized to speak publicly said IHIT has asked the Canada Border Services Agency for more information about Ali. That source confirmed Ali did not arrive at a port of entry in Canada to claim asylum. A spokeswoman for the Immigration and Refugee Board was unable to find records of any public proceedings in which Ali was involved.
Chris Friesen, director of the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., which helps Syrians settle here, said he did not recognize Ali’s name. He said there are about 3,500 Syrian refugees living in 69 different B.C. communities, and he knows of no others who have been in trouble with police.
He called Shen’s murder a “horrific, unfortunate” case, but said it shouldn’t cast suspicion on all refugees.
He said the Vancouver ISS office has a Vancouver police officer who comes regularly to meet with the refugees and assure them that law officials are here to support them in Canada.
“It has been shown that immigrants are statistically less likely to commit crimes than others, but as in everything else, there are always exceptions,” said Olga Stachova of MOSAIC, the Multilingual Orientation Services Association for Immigrant Communities.
The federal Liberals said in 2015 that the government would give top priority to assisting Syrian families, women at risk and members of the LGBT community, and that single men would only be permitted entry if they were LGBT or accompanying their parents as part of a family unit. However, these categories did not apply to privately sponsored refugees, a process that could include single men.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s office did not respond to a request for comment but in a statement, an official with the department said every refugee “undergoes a robust, multi-layered screening before being allowed to enter Canada.”
Each has a medical exam and a security check to ensure they have not committed serious offences, said Shannon Ker.
“Overseas, security screening includes collecting biographical information, and biometrics, such as fingerprints and digital photos, which are checked against immigration, law enforcement and security databases,” Ker said.
About nine months after Shen’s murder, the RCMP’s behavioural sciences group developed a criminal profile of the unknown killer. That person likely lived near Central Park at the time of the murder and they may have started to behave strangely after her death. Perhaps they moved from the area, avoided Central Park, withdrew from activities, missed appointments, made suicidal gestures or attempts, increased drug or alcohol use, or had heavy interest in media coverage of Shen’s murder.