Inadmissibility to Canada because of terrorism

One of the pillars of the Immigration Act (IRPA) is to protect the safety and security of Canadians. Consequently, we have provisions that make some people inadmissible to Canada because of terrorism. These provisions affect both permanent residents and foreign nationals. However, Canadian citizens are immune to the inadmissibility rules.

What is inadmissibility due to terrorism or security reasons

Section 34 of IRPA covers inadmissibility because of security reasons. Terrorism falls under this section. Specifically, subsections (c) and (f) make a person inadmissible because of the following reasons, respectively:

  • engaging in terrorism,
  • being a member of a terrorist organization

According to subsection 34(f), a terrorist organization is “an organization that there are reasonable grounds to believe engages, has engaged or will engage in” terrorism.

Family members of a person who is inadmissible as a terrorist

If a person is inadmissible on terrorism grounds all their dependent family members also become inadmissible to Canada. Unfortunately, the inadmissibility affects both temporary residence and permanent residence applications. Moreover, it doesn’t matter if the inadmissible person is the principal applicant, an accompanying family member, or a non-accompanying family member.

What is terrorism?

Section 83.01 of the Criminal Code of Canada defines terrorist activities in detail. Unfortunately, the definition is too complicated and all over the place for the average Joe. The Government of Canada has published an article titled “Memorializing the Victims of Terrorism.” I highly recommend reading it to understand better how Canada perceives terrorist activities. Even that article does not come up with a clear-cut definition. However, by reading the paper and the Criminal Code, one could posit the following characteristics of terrorism:

  • The act is “in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause.”
  • The intention is to intimidate the public or a government.
  • It targets security or economic security. Alternatively, the terrorist coerces a government or an entity to refrain from an activity.
  • A terrorist activity usually involves death or bodily harm. Consequently, terrorists use “violence; endangering a person’s life; risks posed to the health and safety of the public; significant property damage; and interference or disruption of essential services, facilities or systems.” (source: Government of Canada publications)

Keep in mind that terrorism in other countries could mean different. Therefore, when it comes to inadmissibility issues, we must consider those differences. Moreover, the public expectations and the pop culture could see terrorism differently. The bottom line is that it is tough to have an unequivocal definition for terrorist activities.

Terrorist organizations and terrorism inadmissibility

Membership in terrorist organizations results in inadmissibility. Luckily, despite ambiguities in the definition of terrorism, Canada has a clear list of terrorist entities. You may find the list on the Public Safety Canada website. Canadian authorities revise this list constantly and add or remove entities from the list. Interestingly, in a 2021 Federal Court decision, the Honourable Mr. Justice Manson casts the Court’s stance on the membership of those entities that are not on the list anymore. The case is Saeedi v. Canada. Mr. Saeedi has been a member of Mujahedin-E Khalq (MEK).

Canada considered this organization a terrorist entity between 2003 and 2012. Nonetheless, an officer determined Mr. Saeedi to be inadmissible on security grounds in 2019. Although MEK is not a terrorist entity, Mr. Saeedi was a member when it was a terrorist organization. Justice Manson sided with the officer and affirmed the terrorist inadmissibility. Consequently, just because the entity is not on the list does not mean you are off the hook.

Solutions to inadmissibility because of terrorist activities

Generally speaking, inadmissibility because of terrorism or other security grounds is extremely difficult to resolve. Regardless, some solutions do exist for this group. Keep in mind the idea is not to allow a dangerous person in Canada. I am confident no immigration officer or competent practitioner wants to see this happen. Nevertheless, there are convincing cases out there that reflect one or both of the following:

  • The inadmissible person is no longer a threat to Canadians.
  • The solid reasons for presence in Canada overcome inadmissibility.

If IRCC deems a person inadmissible on security grounds, they may not file a refugee claim in Canada. However, the following options could still exist for them.

PRRA – Pre-Removal Risk Assessment

If the affected person is inside Canada and subject to a removal order, they could apply for PRRA. Of course, some exceptions apply. Read the following article for more detail:

If the affected individual is a designated person, they could face more hurdles.

TRP – Temporary Resident Permit

A successful TRP application could allow this group to stay in Canada temporarily. However, they may never become a permanent resident. Read the following article for more information about TRP applications.

Judicial Review to fight terrorism inadmissibility

Inadmissibility because of terrorism does not prevent a person from filing for Judicial Review at Federal Court. Consequently, the person may do so at the determination time or if IRCC refuses their PRRA or TRP applications.

Ministerial Relief

If a person exhausts all avenues, they could still file for Ministerial Relief. However, the process is time-consuming and prone to failure. Read the following article for more information.

I do not want to give you false hopes. Although you could take these routes, the success rate is meagre.

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    Al Parsai

    This article has been expertly crafted by Al Parsai, a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University. A respected member of CICC and CAPIC organizations, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.