Canada required to respond to IHRP complaint to UN Human Rights Committee

Friday, September 12, 2014

12 September 2014 - Today, the IHRP received notice from the UN Human Rights Committee that it has accepted the IHRP's complaint submitted on behalf of Suleyman Goven. According to the Committee's Rules of Procedure, Canada now has 6 months to respond to Goven's complaint. We are pleased to have passed the first hurdle in ensuring accountability for rights violations against Goven outlined in our submissions to the Committee.

On April 28, 2014, the IHRP filed a petition with the Committee on behalf of Goven, a Canadian citizen who arrived as Convention refugee from Turkey over 20 years ago. Goven who claims that Canada violated his rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights for the mishandling of his application for permanent residence over the course of more than 13 years.  Three law students, Malorie, Malone, Katherine MacDonald, and Marianne Salih assisted with the petition through the IHRP legal clinic.

“As an Alevi Kurd, I suffered discrimination and persecution in Turkey,” said Goven. “I came to Canada to escape torture and because I feared for my life. The Canadian government, however, branded me a security threat for over a decade, even ignoring the finding of its on national security review agency.”

Goven came to Canada in 1991, fleeing persecution and torture in his native Turkey. Though he was recognized by the United Nations as a refugee shortly after his arrival in Canada, he was denied permanent residence status by Canada for over 13 years.

Approximately a year after Goven filed his application for permanent residence, he was interviewed by CSIS, Canada’s spy agency. CSIS agents told him that if he provided information about other members of the Toronto Kurdish community, they would recommend his application for permanent residence be granted. He was asked to identify members of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) living in Toronto – the PKK is a political and militant organization in Turkey involved in the struggle for self-determination of the Turkish Kurds. It has been engaged in armed action against the Turkish government.

Goven was not a member of the PKK and did not know anyone in Canada who was a member. Yet Canada continued to refuse making a decision on his application for permanent residence. With no word on the status of his application for four years, Goven filed a complaint with the Security Intelligence Review Committee (“SIRC”), which is responsible for oversight of CSIS. SIRC held a 15-day hearing into Goven’s complaint. In a report issued in April 2000 – seven years after Goven’s initial application for permanent residence – SIRC concluded that Goven did not pose a threat to Canada’s national security and recommended that he should be granted permanent residence.

Mary Jo Leddy, Founder of Romero House and member of the Order of Canada, assisted Goven with his complaint to SIRC: “The government of Canada ignored SIRC’s findings and recommendation. Instead, the government renewed its investigation into Suleyman and spent another six years trying to prove his ties with the PKK, ultimately without success.”

Goven was finally granted permanent residence in 2006, almost 14 years after his initial application. He put his life on hold for over a decade, unable to obtain travel documents to see his family or to obtain the certification needed so he could resume his career as an engineer. He minimized contact with the Kurdish community in Canada in the hope that he could demonstrate to the Canadian government that he had no ties to the PKK. The psychological toll on Goven has been profound. “The government of Canada, however, has never recognized any mishandling of Goven’s application or the harm he has suffered,” said Katherine MacDonald, a third-year student who assisted with the petition. “Instead, Canadian courts have rejected the idea that individuals like Goven – whose permanent resident applications have languished for years and have been seriously harmed as a result – have any right to a civil remedy.” Goven is asking the United Nations recommend that Canadian courts hear Goven’s claim.

Read IHRP Director Renu Mandhane's op-ed that appeared in the Toronto Star in April 2, 2014, the date the complaint was filed.