Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I think that by now I have seen it all in the immigration system....but this is unbelievable.

Convicted hijacker hopes to practise law

Thursday, September 24, 2009


This story appeared today in the National Post, and what I find interesting and puzzling is how an individual who was in the authorities cross hairs for quite some time was able to enter Canada repeatedly without apparent difficulty over a period of several years. Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a person of whom there are reasonable grounds to believe will engage in criminal activities in Canada, or a person who is suspected of having committed crimes abroad, should not be granted entry to Canada. Were the authorities asleep at the switch? The other interesting ( and obvious) question is: why is Canada such a favourite destination for the world's most wanted? The answer lies in our law enforcement of immigration legislation. This is clearly mind boggling.

Suspected Mafia hit man arrested on immigration warrant

Suspected Mafia hit man arrested on immigration warrant

Adrian Humphreys, National Post

A suspected Mafia hit man linked to a savage family feud that claimed dozens of victims in Italy and Canada was arrested on Wednesday at Toronto airport.

Riccardo Gattuso, 39, an Italian national, was arrested on an immigration warrant after returning to Canada following his release from an Italian prison, where he served a sentence for Mafia association.

Italian authorities told the National Post that Mr. Gattuso was suspected of being recruited as a hit man for the Commisso clan in Italy in the 1990s. He was not, however, among those who were eventually charged in any of the many slayings.

Canadian authorities have been interested in Mr. Gattuso for some time as he worked to make Canada his permanent home.

For several years he was living in Woodbridge, north of Toronto, under his own name. The happy news of his son's birth in 2005 was carried in his Catholic parish's public bulletin -- despite him being wanted in Italy.

At the time he was considered a fugitive from justice after a sweeping prosecution against the Commisso clan in 2000 called Operation Bluff, but Italian authorities could not find him.

Giuseppina Latella, a judge in Italy, described the Commisso clan as "a dangerous, bloodthirsty Mafia association."

Under increasing attention by Canadian police, Mr. Gattuso left Toronto on Dec. 19, 2005, and was arrested at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport by Italian authorities who were waiting to meet his plane.

He served a sentence for Mafia association in Italy and promptly returned to Canada upon his release. He soon left again for Italy where he lived with his family before his unexpected return on Wednesday afternoon on a flight from Rome.

Canadian authorities allege his arrival here is illegal because he failed to report his Mafia conviction on his previous arrival in Canada.

Italian authorities allege Mr. Gattuso and some members of his family were involved in a deadly vendetta that serves as a shocking backdrop to Wednesday's arrest. The feud stretched from the seaside town of Siderno in Italy's south to the suburbs north of Toronto.

At the heart of the vendetta was the clashing ambition of two mob clans in Siderno and the unforgiving tradition of the faida -- an institutionalized form of family feud in traditional Calabrian culture where spilled blood demands blood be spilled in return.

The Costa family had seven sons who had spent many of their formative years in Canada; four of the sons became mobsters while three apparently turned their backs on outlaw life.

After the Costa family returned from Canada to Siderno some of the criminally active sons chafed at the constraints of working in the shadow of the town's mob boss, a Commisso. Likely accustomed to the more relaxed mob hierarchy they found in Canada, the Costas failed to pay proper respect in Siderno, where tradition is firmly entrenched.

The most aggressive of the Costa sons was killed on Jan. 21, 1987. It might have ended there if his family had accepted the loss and settled down. Instead, they retaliated against the Commissos and a faida was on.

Three more Costa sons were murdered and by 1991, the tally of victims stood at 26 dead from among the Costas and eight from among the Commissos. A dozen or more bystanders had also died.

The Costa family "was practically wiped out," said Francesco Tripodi, an Italian judge, who colourfully described the clash as "a fight between a flea and an elephant."

As a coup de grace, the Commisso clan moved to finish off their rival's lineage. With no more criminal members of the family within reach -- some were in prison -- any remaining son became a target.

On April 4, 1991, a Costa son who was deaf and mute was killed in Siderno.

Three weeks later, Riccardo "Frank" Rumbo -- Mr. Gattuso's uncle -- travelled from Siderno to Toronto and, with local help, found the last Costa son living peacefully in Vaughan, north of Toronto, with his wife and three young children.

Giovanni Costa, 38, had no criminal record and is not known to have been involved in the mob. He came to Canada shortly after the faida started, likely to dodge its fury.

On June 26, 1991, Mr. Costa was driving near his home when a white car pulled alongside him. Rumbo pushed a shotgun through the window of the moving car and fired, killing him quickly but not quietly. Rumbo then fled back to Italy.

The death was a closing volley. The Commissos claimed success, "thereby imposing monopolistic Mafia power over the population of Siderno," a court in Italy declared in a ruling

Rumbo, however, was arrested in Siderno and in 1996 was sentenced to 30 years in prison by an Italian court for the Toronto shooting after three Canadian police officers testified in Italy.

Italian authorities have also shown an interest in other relatives of Mr. Gattuso, living in both in Canada and Italy.

In Canada, Mr. Gattuso married into the Figliomeni family. The family is well known in Siderno, where his father-in-law, Vincenzo Figliomeni, was reportedly killed in a past Mafia war.

Two of Mr. Gattuso's relatives living in York region, north of Toronto, are wanted by Italian police on Mafia-related charges, according to authorities: His brother-in-law, Angelo Figliomeni, 46, and Tito Figliomeni, 40.

Tito was acquitted of charges in a 2001 trial in Italy that also dismissed charges against Mr. Gattuso's brother, Davide.

Davide Gattuso was described by Italian prosecutors as "a close associate of all the members of the crime group, actively involved in drug trafficking and the possession of firearms."

At the trial the judge noted the notoriety of his brother who was then living in Canada.

"The fact that he is the brother of Riccardo Gattuso, a fugitive from justice associated with the Commisso group, can strengthen the circumstantial elements concerning the defendant's involvement in illicit drug-related activities on behalf of the criminal group, but the real evidence is not sufficient for his conviction," the judge ruled.

The feud between the Commissos and the Costas has since been settled after a provincial board overseeing the various Calabrian Mafia clans was established -- with the help of respected mobsters in Canada who are Siderno expatriates, sources said.

Both groups were clans of the 'Ndrangheta, the name of the Mafia formed in Italy's Calabria region. It is similar to the better-known Cosa Nostra of Sicily.

Authorities say the 'Ndrangheta has become the most powerful crime group in Italy, dominating the drug trade in Europe.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I had the privilege of co-Chairing a session at the Ontario Bar Association today, " Lunch with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada" , attended by over one hundred lawyers from many areas of practice in Toronto. The session was very interesting and informative.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Government of Canada Creates Special Immigration Measures to Recognize Contribution of Afghan Staff in Kandahar

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 15, 2009) - The Government of Canada will offer special measures to facilitate immigration to Canada for certain local staff who face exceptional risk or who have suffered serious injury as a result of their work for the Canadian government in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.

"There are Afghans who face extraordinary personal risk as a result of their work in support of Canada's mission in Kandahar," said Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. "We commend their bravery to help build a better Afghanistan while recognizing the price that they have paid. Their lives and those of their families may be threatened by insurgents, and some have suffered serious injury and can no longer work. To recognize their contribution, we will offer them special consideration if they wish to relocate to Canada."

The government plans to implement these measures in October 2009. In general, applicants must demonstrate that they face individualized and extraordinary risk or have suffered serious injury as a result of their work with the Canadian government. In addition, the applicant must have worked at least 12 cumulative months in Kandahar in support of the Canadian mission.

Spouses of Afghan nationals killed because of their work with the Canadian government will be eligible. All will have to meet standard immigration requirements, including criminal, medical and security screening. The accompanying dependent children of those who qualify would also be eligible.

Canada's approach is consistent with the objectives of similar programs offered by the United States in Afghanistan and the United Kingdom, Australia and Denmark in Iraq.

Successful applicants will receive health-care coverage under the Interim Federal Health Program as well as resettlement services similar to what is currently offered to government-assisted refugees, including up to 12 months of income support upon arrival in Canada. Applicants may apply under this program until the end of the Canadian combat mission in Kandahar in 2011.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Friday, September 11, 2009


This new report is a proven path to failure: increasing resources (which equals more bureaucrats paid by the taxpayers, of course) without real reform. The real problem are the increasing intake numbers, which have risen dramatically in the last two decades and should be limited; the ability of individuals to travel on false passports provided by organized crime rings without consequences; the multiple levels of boards and departments dealing with cases; and the lack of detention facilities for those whose identities are in question. Our refugee system is the laughing stock of human smugglers and bogus asylum seekers because they know that the pace of arrivals far outstrips the pace of deportations, and they know how to play that game very well.

Refugee claims can be fairer and faster: Report

Refugee claims can be fairer and faster: Report

By Norma Greenaway, Canwest News ServiceSeptember 10, 2009

OTTAWA — The unacceptably slow system for judging refugee claims made within Canada can be revamped to be fair, fast and final, says a former chairman of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

In a report released Thursday, Peter Showler proposes reforms that, contrary to what the federal Conservative government is contemplating, do not include fast-tracking claims from people fleeing countries where residents are generally deemed to be safe from persecution.

Showler argues fast-tracking claims from such countries "ignores the human rights reality of many democratic countries."

His proposed reforms would reduce the length of time for removing failed claimants to an average of 13 months, down from the four to six years it takes under the current review-riddled process.

Showler's formula would limit the role of the Federal Court of Canada in reviewing refugee board decisions and tighten the rules under which refugees can try to remain in Canada on "humanitarian and compassionate grounds" or seek an assessment of the risks they face if they were forced to return to their home country.

The report lands as the government drafts legislation that could be introduced in Parliament within weeks to speed the refugee claims process and stem the flow of "bogus" refugee claims clogging the system.

Fast-tracking claimants from "safe" countries is among the measures being readied for the package, which is aimed at tackling the backlog of 60,000 refugee claims.

If Parliament is dissolved for a fall election, however, the Tories' are expected to roll out their proposals for immigration and refugee reforms during the campaign.

The government put the spotlight on the refugee issue earlier this summer by slapping visa requirements on visitors from Mexico and the Czech Republic on grounds refugee claims from those were mushrooming out of control.

Showler rejects the idea of fast-tracking from selected safe or nominally democratic countries as good refugee policy.

"Even claimants from the United States who are deserters from the Iraq war can raise difficult legal issues and exceptions that must be considered," he said in a statement accompanying the report. "These are issues that are most appropriately decided by a fast, fair and final hearing and not by a list that would automatically deny Canada's protection."

Showler's report echoes complaints made by the government and all opposition parties the long delays in handling claimants hurt legitimate refugees, attract fraudulent claimants and damage Canada's reputation for protecting individuals escaping violence, torture and death.

"Removal within 13 months discourages migrants or unscrupulous consultants from using the asylum system inappropriately," it said.

Showler, who was IRB chairman from 1999 to 2002, is director of the Refugee Forum at the University of Ottawa's Human Rights Research and Education Centre.

The Maytree Foundation sponsored his study.

Showler proposes replacing the current IRB, which is staffed with political appointees, with a Refugee Tribunal that would include a refugee claim division and a refugee appeal division.

The members of those divisions would be highly competent experts — at least half of which would be lawyers — selected by an independent committee.

Under the proposed timetable, refugee claims would be decided in six months, reviewed in four months and a failed claimant would be removed within three months of being rejected.

The case would only go to the Federal Court of Canada for review if there were an issue of law at stake.

Refugee claimants currently wait up to 18 months for a first decision from the IRB.


Answer: because they know Canada has weak enforcement and they can linger here for years, then claiming "delays" and " humanitarian and compassionate" grounds. This case seems hardly unique, notwithstanding the claims by his counsel in the article. The better question, however, is what status this individual has in Canada at the moment, and why he has been able to come and go without any apparent action by the authorities despite their concerns. I think we should all feel very safe with the current system :-)

Brother of Mafia boss sues Canada over immigration request

Brother of Mafia boss sues Canada over immigration request

Adrian Humphreys, National Post

The brother of a powerful Mafia boss who was recently deported from Canada to Italy -- and who himself has been suspected of organized criminality - is suing the government for not processing his application to live in Canada with his wife and four children.

From his pleasant, toy-strewn home in Richmond Hill, north of Toronto, Antonio Coluccio claims he is "at wit's end" after waiting five years for immigration officials to approve his permanent residency application.

While he has waited, however, he has seen one of his brothers arrested in Toronto at the request of Italian authorities, who called him one of the country's most dangerous fugitives, and another brother arrested in Italy after being found hiding in a secret bunker.

Both brothers were charged for a vast drug trafficking network and billed as leaders of a powerful clan of the 'Ndrangheta, the name of the Mafia in the southern Italian region of Calabria.

"His brother is very famous - infamous - and I understand the concern of the government," said Antonio Coluccio's immigration lawyer, Mendel Green.

"But [Antonio] has never been arrested. He is not a criminal. He is totally innocent of everything. Is someone responsible for his family's conduct? Not in this country," he said.

His brothers' conduct caused alarm in Italy and Canada.

In 2005, both Giuseppe Coluccio, the eldest of the three brothers, and Salvatore Coluccio fled drug and Mafia association charges in Italy and arrived in Toronto. Salvatore soon left while Giuseppe stayed, living under false names and making waves in the underworld.

Giuseppe was given a seat on the powerful Camera di Controllo, the board of control for local 'Ndrangheta clans, sources said, a sure sign of respect from Toronto-area gangsters. He also forged a bond with the Caruana-Cuntrera clan, a significant Sicilian Mafia group.

In August 2008, Giuseppe was arrested by Canadian police and deported to Italy, where he was imprisoned.

In May, Salvatore was found by Italian police in a secret bunker in the family's hometown of Marina Gioiosa Jonica, on Italy's Ionian coast. The hideout was equipped with a generator, air conditioning and a large supply of food.

He had been on the run for four years after being named as a leading mind in the movement of cocaine from South America to Europe.

Through all this, Antonio Coluccio, 39, shuttled back and forth between Italy and Canada, attracting suspicion but no arrests.

Mr. Coluccio's wife, Melina, is a Canadian citizen and sponsored his application to live here permanently in December 2004.

He still has no answer.

"He is entitled by law to a decision, one way or another," said Mr. Green. "All we are asking them to do is make a decision and make a lawful decision based on actual evidence. It is our position there is nothing untoward about this particular individual."

Mr. Coluccio was born in 1969 in Marina di Gioiosa Jonica two years and 16 days before his father, Vincenzo, was killed during a feud that ravaged competing Mafia clans.

He dropped out of school at the age of 14 and spent a year as a private in the Italian army before working in a family jewellery store, a café and as the owner of a car wash, all in Siderno, five kilometres down the coast.

He met the woman who would become his wife in 1994 at his sister's birthday party in Italy. The next day he called her and asked her out to dinner, according to his residency application.

"After that, we started seeing each other almost every day," he wrote, leading to a marriage proposal eight months later. A Catholic wedding ceremony was held in 1998 with 110 people attending St. Nicholas of Bari church, one of the most important cultural sites in Siderno.

Their reception was even larger, with 1,200 people heading up the road to the beachfront hotel reportedly owned by his in-laws.

The couple visited Toronto on their honeymoon.

Their wedding came the same year his wife obtained her residency status in Canada. Two years later, she became a Canadian citizen. They have since had four children together; the oldest is now 10.

Mr. Coluccio complains in court documents that being in limbo makes it difficult, emotionally and financially.

"My family has been affected very seriously by this lengthy delay in the processing of my application. My wife and our four children live in Canada while I am forced to split my time between Italy and Canada, as I am only permitted to remain in Canada as a visitor," he says in a sworn statement filed in court.

"After four years of processing delays ... my family and I were at our wits' end.

"I do not believe I am inadmissible to Canada and I am unable to understand why a decision cannot be made."

Last year, immigration officials told him that he might be deemed inadmissible on the grounds of organized criminality. His lawyer has been pushing officials to show him their evidence.

Documents show that the government has expressed some concerns.

"Coluccio is certainly a subject of interest to authorities here," says an internal email between Canadian authorities in Rome and Toronto.

"He claims not to be working in Canada yet he and his wife drive some high-end vehicles [Porsche and Volvo]. Huge house. Wife's company made a gross profit of only $16,000 in 2003. Where's the money coming from?" the email says.

Yesterday, after filing his suit in the Federal Court of Canada, the government asked Mr. Green for additional information in the application process.

"They want more information, we'll give it to them," he said.

National Post

Friday, September 4, 2009


As a result of the complaints by activists and the government of South Africa, the government is appealing the decision to grant a white South African refugee status in Canada. That is fine. But what the government should do instead is to rethink the entire refugee system that allows for lunacy such as this one to happen in the first place. How many refugee decisions that make no sense are not being appealed on a regular basis? Why not change the system to one that provides no incentive for manifestly unfounded claims to be made? It is time to do away with the current system and appoint real judges with legal training and tenure to hear cases in an open court.

The Associated Press: Canada reviewing controversial refugee case

Canada reviewing controversial refugee case

By ROB GILLIES (AP) – 21 hours ago

TORONTO — Canadian government lawyers are reviewing a contentious decision by a Canadian immigration board panel to grant refugee status to a white man from South Africa who claimed persecution from black South Africans.

Federal citizenship and immigration department spokeswoman Danielle Norris said Thursday department lawyers are studying the decision and could ask Canada's Federal Court for a formal review.

South Africa has asked the Canadian government to appeal to the court. The ruling has angered many in South Africa where race remains a highly sensitive issue.

A Canadian immigration board panel issued its ruling late last week in the case involving Brandon Huntley.

Huntley argued that whites are targeted by black criminals in South Africa and that the government does nothing to protect them. He claimed he was attacked seven times during attempted robberies and muggings.

Tribunal panel chair William Davis ruled that Huntley would stand out like a "sore thumb" due to his color in any part of South Africa and ruled that Huntley's fears of persecution are justified based on the evidence he submitted.

The Immigration and Refugee Board has refused to comment on the case. Board spokesman Stephane Malepart has said he is barred from commenting on any individual case by privacy provisions.

The board is an independent tribunal that operates at arms' length from the Canadian government.

Norris said the federal department is doing an internal review.

"Our Department's lawyers are currently reviewing the decision," Norris said. "However, a judicial review by the Federal Court will not hear additional evidence, with respect to the facts, for example, conditions in South Africa."

Anesh Maistry, head of the political section at the South African High Commission in Canada, said the Canadian government hasn't made any commitment to a judicial review. Maistry said the Canadian government has maintained that the refugee board is an independent body and that the government doesn't interfere in its work.

Maistry said board's decision is wrong and belies the reality of South Africa. Maistry also said the board never asked for South Africa's views on Huntley's claims nor did it seek to confirm his allegations of repeated attacks.

"This decision is incorrect, it is not factual, it does not represent the facts on the ground. It portrays South Africa in a negative light and it misrepresents the work that has been done in the last 15 years to build a nonracial society in the country," Maistry said.

Dr. Abraham Nkomo, South Africa's High Commissioner to Canada, said the refugee board was taken for a ride in the matter and said it's a crime issue, not a race issue.

"There is no persecution of the white community in South Africa. What crime does happen happens to targets of convenience," Nkomo said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Nkomo met with Canadian officials and expressed surprise Huntley was granted refugee status.

Huntley came to Canada on a visa in 2004 to work as a carnival worker. He returned in 2005 on a one-year visa and stayed for a second year illegally. He went back to South Africa, then entered Canada a third time, and filed his refugee claim in 2008.

Deepak Obrai, Canada's parliamentary secretary to the minister of Foreign Affairs and a Conservative lawmaker in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government, expressed outrage over the board's decision in a statement and said it shows a serious lack of judgment.

"Having grown up in Africa and witnessed the devastating effects of apartheid, in this case against blacks and Indians, it is beyond my understanding how a Canadian institution makes a decision on a racial basis," said Obrai, who was born in Tanzania.