Must post $50,000 bond, present himself to officials if ordered out
Elaine O'Connor, The Province (Vancouver)
Published: Thursday, August 23, 2007
For $50,000, Laibar Singh can return to the Abbotsford temple where he sought sanctuary last month, for the rest of his legal stay in Canada, the Immigration and Refugee Board ruled yesterday at his detention hearing.
Singh, a failed refugee-claimant who entered Canada on a forged passport in 2003 claiming political persecution, suffered paralysis after a brain aneurysm a year ago. He requires intensive medical care, including thrice-weekly dialysis.
He was ordered deported on July 8, but fled to the temple July 7 and escaped deportation. He was arrested Aug. 13 after leaving the temple to seek medical attention and again ordered deported.
But at the 11th hour, on Aug. 18, he was granted a 60-day stay of deportation by Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day. Singh had been detained at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre.
Board member Mark Tessler ruled that Singh could return to the Gurdwara Kalgidhar Darbar Sahib temple that harboured him so long as he met several conditions to ensure he will present himself to Canadian Border Services Agency for deportation when and if the time comes.
Singh must post a $50,000 bond and produce a letter from Gurdwara officials promising to relinquish him when the time comes. Singh must report to the refugee board by phone weekly.
"As Mr. Singh is not about to be removed [from Canada] for 60 days, the imperative to consider alternatives to detention are quite a bit higher," Tessler said. "If Mr. Singh were a person in good health I may be more inclined to continue his detention."
Another Immigration and Refugee Board member had previously ruled that Singh was too great a flight risk to be let out of prison.
Singh's lawyer, Zool Suleman, said yesterday he was "reasonably happy with the outcome."
"We're guardedly optimistic and we are happy that release has been ordered, but we find the terms a bit onerous," Suleman said, citing the high bond amount.
Suleman said he has launched an appeal with the minister of immigration on humanitarian grounds, which means Singh's case could drag on much longer than 60 days.
The counsel for the minister, Gregory Zuck, had asked that Singh not be released from detention because he posed a significant flight risk. If released, he said, Singh should at least be subject to a $150,000 bond.
Many in B.C.'s Sikh community have urged the government to grant Singh citizenship on humanitarian grounds due to his frail health and the lack of adequate health care in India.
He has garnered letters of support from federal and provincial politicians and a number of unions, religious and cultural groups.
It costs the Canadian health-care system more than $146,000 a year to care for the 48-year-old. A medically staffed flight home would cost taxpayers $68,700.
Singh has four children in India.