Message to journos from Minister Kenney: Call us before writing sob stories from refugees facing removal

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney this evening released what is to me, at least, a remarkable statement that takes direct issue with some reporting in La Presse and also takes on the claims of a refugee — Kenney’s office calls her a fugitive — facing deportation.

Here’s the release in full (the hyperlinks, with more background, are provided by me):

OTTAWA, ONTARIO–( June 12, 2012) – The Office of the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, released the following statement today regarding an article that appeared on Monday in La Presse:

“On June 11, 2012, La Presse journalist Anabelle Nicoud wrote an article about Joanna Martinez. Ms. Nicoud did not approach CIC before writing the article.

“Stories presenting only one side of a story can lead to public distrust of the rule of law. Factually incorrect or incomplete reporting usually leaves the impression that Canada’s refugee determination system is unjust or heartless. In fact, Canada has the most generous and fair refugee determination system in the world. Less than one per cent of the decisions made by the highly-trained adjudicators on the Immigration and Refugee Board are overturned by the federal courts on appeal. That is a remarkable record, and one of which Canadians should be proud.

“In order to ensure that the reputation of our refugee determination system is not tarnished unfairly, we are releasing the full chronology of Ms. Martinez and her interactions with Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Although privacy laws generally forbid us from releasing such information, in this case Ms. Martinez has a long, public record in front of criminal and civil courts in Canada and the United States. We are releasing only the public information, which is still an incomplete picture of the case.

“We are taking the unusual step of writing this public letter in order to remind journalists and the public alike that immigration stories are no different from any other news story: Journalists should present the complete story, and not simply rely on one person’s self-interested and uncorroborated account of events. Misleading stories on important subjects damage the public discourse in Canada.”

“Our request is simple: If you are a journalist writing about someone facing removal from Canada, please get a privacy waiver from the subject of your story so that we can provide the complete file to you. And if the subject of your story or their lawyer is refusing to provide you with a privacy waiver and the written decision from the Immigration and Refugee Board, you may want to ask them and yourself why they are refusing to do so.”

Summary of facts:

  • Ms. Martinez is a fugitive, with a long criminal history in at least three states: New York, New Jersey and Florida.
  • She has used at least 15 (possibly as many as 20) different aliases in the past.
  • She has claimed at least nine different dates of birth ranging from August 8, 1970 to April 27, 1979.
  • She has also claimed various different places of birth.
  • She claimed refugee status in Canada, maintaining that her husband Fernando Suarez-Garcia was kidnapped by the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Force (FARC) and that her life was in danger in Colombia. Ms. Martinez has claimed various dates for the kidnapping, ranging from June 23, 2004 to July 29, 2004.
  • The IRB found that Ms. Martinez was not “credible.” Ms. Martinez could not satisfy the IRB that she and her family were actually in Colombia at the time of the claimed kidnapping.
  • The IRB found that Ms. Martinez could not answer direct questions and was inconsistent in her answers.
  • When asked about her arrival in Toronto on August 2, 2004, Ms. Martinez claimed that she enjoyed Toronto and that she remembers there being snow on the ground.
  • Fernando Suarez-Garcia, the husband of Ms. Martinez, has been found to be a member of a criminal organization specializing in jewellery and money theft in the Montreal area.

Refugee protection division decision available here:

8 thoughts on “Message to journos from Minister Kenney: Call us before writing sob stories from refugees facing removal”

  1. When I click on the first two links you provide, I get the message that my browser is unable to open those links. The last link is OK, though.

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with telling the whole story about refugee claimants. If they try to get into Canada under false pretenses, they deserve to be deported.

    I especially appreciate this part of the letter: “Factually incorrect or incomplete reporting …” which can be applied to many other circumstances. For example, the CBC often calls on experts to “expose” facts about issues but usually omits what I believe to be salient facts about those experts.

    Case in point: former DND Deputy Minister Alan Williams, who has often claimed the F-35 procurement process has been “hijacked” (his description) because there has been no competition, with the project being sole-sourced, has practically become a CBC regular whenever the F-35 purchase is discussed. Yet nowhere has it ever been mentioned by the CBC that Williams was one of the DND people in charge of procuring those 4 British subs which have yet to be operational, and that that purchase was concluded without the benefit of a competitive process.

    Why was it OK for Williams to proceed as he did –with no competitive process and very expensive subs that have turned out to be lemons — yet he is now continuously called upon to criticize the F-35 purchase? Is it not relevant that the former Deputy Minister showed such poor judgment in the sub contract yet his supposedly superior judgment is being used to campaign against the F-35?

  2. Journos: we believe you over anything tainted by the Harper Conservatives. Don’t listen to Kenney. His party is illigitimate liars who embarass our great nation every day.

    The picture they paint on this woman is set up for PR. Her crimes are less harmfull than Conrad Black’s, who’s been let into the country & defended by Kenney himself.

  3. I’m gobsmacked. And you are right. It IS a remarkable statement by Minister Kenney!

    (“If you are a journalist writing about someone facing removal from Canada, please get a privacy waiver from the subject of your story so that we can provide the complete file to you.”)

    I keep hearing references to the 15 signs of fascism with respect to the Harper govt. This current govt press release and other threats to the Fourth Estate seem to be getting us much closer to those signs!

  4. Gabby

    Impressive, you managed in one post to support the government expecting journalists to contact government before posting stories, (how often have governments refused any comments citing privacy? I guess privacy doesn’t matter if it makes Harper look bad.), trash the CBC, support the F-35 and take shots at an expert who opposes the F-35 and side a back hand shot at the Liberals over the subs.

    Since we don’t know all the details regarding the subs, perhaps Williams was “told” by political masters at the time to buy the subs and has seen the “errors of his ways?” I would think anyone being involved in the purchase of those subs would no longer be in support of sole sourcing. Of course remember that British documents are now coming to light that the subs should have never been sold to us. I guess you just can’t trust an ally if it means turning a profit.

    I note however, regarding this story that although they are happy to give us what they claim is public background information to slant the story their way, they leave out all the details in order to make the history seem as bad as possible. “… with a long criminal history in at least three states…” could mean jaywalking in 1990, littering in 1995, spitting on the sidewalk in 2000, extremes? sure however when the details are omitted by design we have to question the motives.

  5. Tom @ June 13, 2012 at 9:17 am, why, thank you for the compliment! It’s not often my comments are called “impressive”. OK, relax, just a bit of sarcasm.

    Actually, what I expect journalists to do is to expose all the relevant facts connected to stories, be it refugee cases or critiques of DND procurements. I do NOT expect, as you imply, to run those stories past some government-censoring agency or the PMO for approval. Despite the fact you’ll probabbly dismiss this web site as mere government propaganda I include it for your perusal.

    You state “… they leave out all the details [of Ms. Martinez’s previous contraventions of the law] in order to make the history seem as bad as possible. I guess this part of the letter eluded you: “We are releasing only the public information, which is still an incomplete picture of the case.”

    As for Mr. Wiliams … I don’t expect him or any other “experts” to cheerlead government policies and/or decisions. He’s entitled to hold whatever opinion he wants. However, the CBC and other news media, which all claim to be completely objective and non-partisan, should make sure they provide their audience with all relevant facts, which includes his part in another expensive procurement of military equipment.

    BTW, it’s really sweet of you to excuse whatever part Mr. Williams played in that procurement of the subs. I’m sure he would appreciate your moral support if he were aware of it. But it’s funny, you scold me for “a back hand shot at the Liberals over the subs” yet you insert several “back hands” of your own, including one directed at the Brits. “Different strokes for different folks”, eh?

  6. Gabby you are so right; when it come to objectively reporting the media
    has a tendency to look for the sensational and eskew the facts: And to cite Alan Williams being used by the CBC as an expert on the F35 lack of competitive bid; was this not the same DND procurement expert who would have known about the original commitment by the Chretien government in the 1990’s to sign Canada on to the Joint Strike Fighter program which did have a competitive bid done by the US defence department; The bidders were Lockheed Martin, Boeing and one other, I believe that third bidder was the Swedish Firm that makes the Grippen, I maybe wrong on the third bidder, but I know that there was three.

    Before Tom, comes back with his partisan attack, I think that Chretien signing onto the JSF consortium was an excellent move for Canada, because it entitled Canada aircraft manufacturers to generate a tremendous amount of revenue because of their participation in this progam: The CPC is just continuing something that was started in the 90’s

  7. The F35 program was a competitive process, the consortium chose it as the best jet for the money.
    It was signed onto by the Liberal government of the day, and makes it the best military decision that party has ever made.
    The F35, contrary to the shrieks of the media and opposition, is on time and the tests flights are ahead of schedule. The cost of the planes is coming down by the month. The nations, our allies, who together chose this plane to take us into the future are unanimous in their confidence in the product.
    The squealing from the opposition and media about the understated costs of the procurement not including the fuel, salaries, and the cost of running the old equipment was a canard.
    Another fabrication by the left loons who would love to see us become Greece without the nice climate.

  8. Fascism is where we are headed. A government minister is ‘correcting’ a newpaper item so his department doesn’t look bad. Seriously! So now I hope all the truths surrounding government spending, procurement, deals, bills, budgets and whatever other b’s they come out with will be the truth, the whole truth , and nothing but the truth from here on in. That would be a nice change. I look forward to always being able to trust whatever my servants in the House of Commons do and say. Up to now the there seems to be some confusion about who needs to know what. Considering they work for us I guess that means we get to know all so we can decide what is best based on real evidence. You know, science and stuff. Real dollars versus speculation dollars. Real jobs versus baseless projections and deflections. The truth about women and pay equity, the environmental cost of the Tar Sands boondoggle and the phony cries of ‘foreign radicals’ and terrorists. That leaves healthcare, childcare and eldercare, veterans care and earth care all waiting for the ‘truth ‘ to be told. Give CONservative Harper an inch and he takes down the Canada sign and hangs up a Harperland one instead. Sad state of affairs we are in with this supposed to be Conservative government. Lies, spies and cries of ‘we have a mandate’ don’t impress me much.

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