Terror suspect Raed Jaser was under a deportation order almost a decade ago, after repeated refugee claims were rejected and he was denied his family’s route to citizenship because of multiple convictions he’d racked up since coming to Canada.
And in August of 2004, he stood in an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing, arguing he posed no threat and no flight risk despite accusations of working illegally under multiple aliases, and should be released until the government was ready to deport him – and had figured out where he ought to go.
Jaser was “stateless,” he told the board at the time: Despite having been born in the United Arab Emirates, “I am not a citizen of the United Arab Emirates, I can’t be. It’s — I am a Palestinian by blood, that does not give me any rights whatsoever in my place of birth.”
Jaser came to Canada with his parents and two siblings 11 years earlier, in March, 1993. His father Mohammed Jaser made a claim for refugee protection on the family’s behalf. It was rejected; he appealed. In 1998, the family was allowed to stay in Canada under the deferred removal order class, and eventually became citizens – all but Raed Jaser: He already had a string of convictions during his time in Canada that made him ineligible. He submitted a new refugee claim; it was denied several months later.
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He was arrested on Aug. 23, 2004 and two days later found himself in a detention hearing, making the case for his release. By then, he had five fraud-related convictions and a conviction for uttering death threats.
But, his lawyer Alex Billingsley pointed out, “He has no citizenship in any country. … Citizenship and Immigration didn’t really know where to deport him to.”
Billingsley also emphasized Jaser’s relatives’ ties to the country: “His entire family is here and they are all Canadian citizens. His parents live here and own a house, there’s evidence of — I mean clear evidence that there’s permanence with his family here.”
While Citizenship and Immigration accused him of working illegally, under multiple aliases, Jaser claimed he’d been paying taxes and believed he was following the rules.
“Did you know you were under deportation?” the presiding board member asked.
“I had no idea, Your Honour,” Jaser, then 26, replied, adding later that he’s “never missed a court date … in my life.”
“If I may, Your Honour. Obviously I’m not, according to Immigration Canada of course, I am not here on legal terms, which is fine,” he said. “If a deportation order were to go through I will obviously appear. I will wait until such time that I am able to come back here legally.”
At this point, it appears, Jaser broke down.
“I can’t continue, Your Honour, I’m sorry,” the transcript reads.
Jaser was ultimately released on a $3,000 bail paid for in cash by his uncle Mahmoud Jaser (his parents were away for a few weeks on vacation). As a condition of his release he was required to tell Citizenship and Immigration if he changed addresses, and to report to an immigration reporting centre every two months.
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It would be about six years before Jaser’s father became worried enough about his son’s religious views to ask others in the community for assistance that apparently never came through, and another two before a Toronto imam approached police through a lawyer, concerned about Jaser’s influence on youth.
By the summer of 2012, he was under RCMP surveillance as part of an investigation that would ultimately see him and 30-year-old Chiheb Esseghaier arrested, accused of terrorist conspiracy and plotting to attack a passenger train. One of the first things investigators told reporters about the two accused was that they weren’t Canadian citizens.
Billingsley, who stopped practising law several years ago to start Mama Earth Organics with his wife Heather, says he doesn’t remember the young man whose case he’d taken on in 2004. “He was in detention, so I must have just gone to the detention hearing. I don’t know if I would have even met with him before or after.”
Jaser’s current lawyer John Norris declined to comment on the deportation review. Norris was reluctant to discuss his client’s nationality, but emphasized Jaser’s family’s ties to Canada when speaking with reporters outside Toronto’s Old City Hall courthouse Tuesday.
“It is a very close-knit family. They are very loving and supportive. They are very concerned for their son,” Norris said. “I will be speaking with them and we will be preparing a bail application.”
Read the transcript of Raed Jaser’s 2004 Immigration and Refugee Board hearing