Carleen Francis, a citizen of St Vincent and the Grenadines, applied for refugee status in Canada on the grounds that, as a lesbian, she faced discrimination in her home country. Homosexuality is still a criminal offence in St Vincent, and Francis had been the subject of physical abuse on account of her sexual orientation. The Refugee Protection Division rejected her claim, not finding the discrimination she faced in St Vincent sufficiently serious; the board concluded that St Vincent does not actually enforce its Criminal Code provisions, the physical abuse seemed to be an isolated incident and Francis didn’t face persecution if she was sent back. Francis challenged that determination, arguing that the decision-maker, a Mr Gallagher, had published a number of academic articles on Canadian immigration and refugee policy, in which he had criticised some aspects of the system for processing refugee claims and suggested that mass immigration had a negative effect on Canada’s social cohesion. He also singled out St Vincent as an example of a country which produced questionable refugee claims.
In the Federal Court, Justice Noel didn’t buy the argument that having expressed views on immigration in previous academic work automatically meant that Gallagher should be disqualified; indeed, his previous experience probably made him a better decision-maker: Francis v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2012 FC 1141. Gallagher did fail, however, to consider all of the evidence on St Vincent’s treatment of gays and lesbians, which attested to the fact that its anti-homosexuality provisions have been enforced as recently as 2009 (the year before Francis made her refugee claim), and didn’t come to a reasonable conclusion on the level of discrimination Francis would face if she returned to St Vincent. A new panel was ordered to hear Francis’s claim.
[Link available here].