Missing the Forest Through the Trees

A photo near Vancouver, British Columbia. By www.metaphysicalplatypus.com

To examine core evidence in a case, piecemeal, each part out of context, not as part of an entirety, is as if a decision-maker examined a forest by looking at each tree and omitted to see the forest as a whole, thus missing the big picture. Where uncontradicted evidence, declared credible, is shredded, piecemeal, said evidence lacks understanding.

It is no different than dissecting a narrative, considered credible, to such a degree that it loses its overall cohesiveness and no part separately then resembles its origin as part of the whole. All of which leads to unreasonable conclusions.

So begins Justice Shore’s analysis in Warnakulasooriy v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2011 FC 830.

The case involved a refugee claimant from Sri Lanka.  The Refugee Protection Division found the claimant to be credible.  Specifically, the tribunal accepted that:

  • In 1992 the claimant was attacked with a sword, causing damage to four of his fingers;
  • In 1994, the Sri Lankan Freedom Party United Front’s supporters filed 11 false claims against the applicant;
  • In 1997, the claimant was again arrested on false allegations;
  • In 2003, the claimant was arrested and detained for 100 days, and only released on the condition that he report once a month.  He was eventually acquitted;
  • In 2008, the claimant began receiving anonymous threats; and
  • In 2009, the claimant was told that if he worked on election day, he would be killed.  Two shots were fired at him.

In determining that the claimant did not face persecution, Justice Shore found that the tribunal analyzed each incident piecemeal, instead of considering the cumulative effect of the alleged persecution as a whole.

The Court also found that the Tribunal erred when it found that the claimant would be able to obtain adequate state protection against the threats while at the same time noting that the degree of protection afforded was at the “whim of the government”. Indeed, the Court noted that documentary evidence suggested that the state may have been involved with some of the attacks.

Finally, regarding the controversial issue of whether the human rights situation has improved in Sri Lanka since the end of its civil war, the court only noted that there was no documentary basis for finding that there had been significant changes in country conditions.


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