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B.C.-based climate activist seeks deportation stay in Federal Court

If approved, the application to the Federal Court would allow Save Old Growth co-founder Zain Haq to stay in Canada as a permanent resident, says his lawyer.
Zain Haq and his wife Sophie Papp are waiting on the results of a permanent residency application carried out through spousal sponsorship. Deportation, says Haq's lawyer, would only serve to delay that process and cause the couple harm.

The lawyer for a Vancouver-based climate activist declared retroactively inadmissible to Canada for failing to make enough progress as a student while attending Simon Fraser University has filed a stay of removal in Federal Court.  

Zain Haq, 23, was scheduled to be deported to his native Pakistan on April 22, while being nearly a year into a spousal sponsorship application with his B.C.-born wife. 

Haq, who co-founded the group Save Old Growth, caught the attention of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in 2022 while protesting and speaking to the press about Canada’s climate policy.

He later pleaded guilty to mischief charges after being arrested 10 times since joining an Extinction Rebellion protest on the Burrard Bridge in 2019. But according to his lawyer Randall Cohn, by the time those charges were heard, CBSA had already begun to carry out Haq's removal based on school attendance.

Cohn said the border agency failed to communicate with the university and carry out a full investigation, a procedural shortcut he worries could intimidate other international students looking to speak up for what they think is right. 

“We are concerned that there is a chilling effect that will result from his deportation,” said Cohn at the time. 

“If they remove him, then what they’re doing is they’re saying they don’t want people like Zain in the conversation.” 

In March, a CBSA spokesperson said the agency could not comment or provide details on specific cases.

“The decision to remove someone from Canada is not taken lightly,” said the CBSA’s Maria Ladouceur in an email. “All individuals who are subject to removal have access to due process and procedural fairness.”  

“Being engaged in lawful protest activities would not, in and of itself, render an individual inadmissible to Canada.”

A CBSA officer with discretion over the case acknowledged in a letter that “criminal convictions were non-violent in nature and I do not believe he currently poses a risk to public safety in Canada,” according to a statement released by Haq and his lawyer Friday.

If approved, the application to the Federal Court would allow Haq to stay in Canada as a permanent resident, but “does not legally prevent removal in the meantime,” the statement read.

“The CBSA could have exercised its discretion by deferring his removal until after the sponsorship application is decided. We now ask the Federal Court to review that refusal…,” Cohn said.

With files from Jeremy Hainsworth