Being a war deserter does not in of itself mean that either a refugee claim or an application for permanent residency based on humanitarian & compassionate (“H&C“) grounds will succeed.

On July 6, 2010,the Federal Court of Appeal (the “FCA“) released its decision in Hinzman v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2010 FCA 177 (“Hinzman“)

Hinzman involved an American soldier who for moral and religious beliefs was against “all participation in war.”  In 2004, upon learning that his unit would be deployed to Iraq, Mr. Hinzman fled the United States for Canada. He was AWOL from the US army since his arrival in Canada.  He originally claimed refugee status, a claim which was unsuccessful.

Mr. Hinzman then filed a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (“PRRA“) and an application for permanent residence based on H&C grounds.

A Citizenship and Immigration Canada officer (the “Officer“) rejected the PRRA.  She found that:

[t]he possibility of prosecution under a law of general application is not, in and of itself, sufficient evidence that an applicant has a well-founded fear of persecution. The PRRA application is not an avenue to circumvent lawful and legitimate prosecutions commenced by a democratic country.

Mr. Hinzman did not seek leave to apply for judicial review of the PRRA decision.

The Officer also rejected the H&C application.  Mr. Hinzman sought leave to appeal of this decision.  The Federal Court upheld the Appellant’s decision. However, it certified the following question:

Can punishment under a law of general application for desertion, when the desertion was motivated by a sincere an deeply held moral, political and/or religious objection to a particular war, amount to unusual, undeserved or disproportionate hardship in the context of an application for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds?

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