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High court to hear people-smuggling cases

High court to hear people-smuggling casesThe MV Sun Sea is escorted past Fisgard Lighthouse and into CFB Esquimalt in Colwood, B.C., on Aug. 13, 2010. The Supreme Court of Canada will hear three appeals in cases where people were denied refugee status because they were allegedly involved in people smuggling. Two of the cases involve an individual and a couple who were aboard the MV Sun Sea, which carried almost 500 Sri Lankan nationals to Canada in 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada will hear three appeals in cases where people were denied refugee status because they were allegedly involved in people smuggling.

Two of the cases involve an individual and a couple who were aboard the MV Sun Sea, which carried 492 Sri Lankan nationals to Canada in 2010.

The arrival of two ships off the British Columbia coast led the Harper government to enact its so-called human smuggling law to discourage a repeat of the dramatic incidents.

In October 2009, 76 people arrived aboard the MV Ocean Lady. The Sun Sea arrived in August 2010.

The unidentified individual, known only by the number B306, was denied refugee status because the refugee protection board ruled he had engaged in people smuggling by acting as a cook and watchkeeper on the Sun Sea.

The man argued unsuccessfully that he was working under duress and acted out of necessity.

The refugee board determined that the man did not face any impending peril and was not being coerced during the vessel's long voyage across the Pacific Ocean.

In a similar decision, the couple was denied refugee status because the man was recruited to navigate the ship after the Thai crew left the vessel.

The couple, known only by the initials J.P. and G.J., each paid $30,000 to flee. J.P. initially declined to assume the role of assistant navigator after the Thai crew fled.

The man was deemed inadmissible because he had been found to have participated in the transnational crime of people smuggling. His wife, G.J., was also denied refugee status and the two were ordered deported.

The Federal Court allowed an application for judicial review, but the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the decision.

The third case involves a Cuban who came to Canada after he was convicted in the United States of trying to smuggle other Cubans into that country by boat.

Jesus Rodriguez Hernandez and two others had purchased a boat in Florida and returned to Cuba to bring family members to the U.S.

Their boat was stopped about 80 kilometres from the Florida coast, with 48 Cuban nationals on board.

Hernandez was convicted of alien smuggling in the U.S., but managed to flee to Canada, where he claimed refugee status.

The refugee board ruled against him and ordered him deported.

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