When he’s finally released from behind bars, the man who entered Canada behind a mask knows what he’s going to do first – pick up the phone and call his worried family.
The man, who made international headlines for boarding a flight from Hong Kong to Vancouver in a mask that made him look decades older, was ordered released from custody on Thursday by the Immigration and Refugee Board. A family friend is expected to pay a $5,000 bond on Friday, after which the young man will move to Ontario while he pursues his refugee claim.
The man boarded an Air Canada flight on Oct. 29 wearing a silicone mask. A Canada Border Services Agency memo that featured images of him with and without the disguise was leaked to the media soon after. In the non-masked photo, his eyes were blacked out.
Daniel McLeod, the man’s lawyer, said his client would have been released long ago had the leak not occurred. The Canada Border Services Agency successfully argued at earlier refugee board hearings the man could be a flight risk under the influence of human smugglers.
But in her ruling on Thursday, adjudicator Anita Merai-Schwartz said any concerns the man would disappear once released could be allayed by the bond and certain release conditions. His name, age and identifying details cannot be printed because of a publication ban.
Mr. McLeod said his client was understandably pleased and relieved he’ll be able to leave the corrections facility where he’s been locked up.
“I asked him, ‘What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get out of here?’ and he said, ‘Talk to my parents.’ And he’s also looking forward to seeing his family friends, the people he’s going to be staying with.”
Mr. McLeod said his client has been “baffled” by the attention his case has received. He said the man has been “stoic” during his time at the jail.
Mr. McLeod said he recently represented another refugee claimant with a similar background to that of the masked man. The two were about the same age and from the same region. But the other refugee claimant’s case wasn’t leaked to the media, he said, and the person was released from custody as soon as his identity was established.
The man did not appear at Thursday’s hearing, but listened in via teleconference.
At a hearing last week, he told the refugee board he was coached to lie about his journey to Canada by the human smugglers who organized his trip. Eight people linked to the smuggling ring were arrested last month. The man’s family has already repaid his debt to the “snakeheads.”
In her ruling, Ms. Merai-Schwartz said the family friend with whom the man will stay could be a positive influence on him. She said it’s unlikely the man will go into hiding, since he now owes a debt to the family friend. She added “family honour” could be at stake.
Ms. Merai-Schwartz added there’s no evidence of criminality against the man.
“I do find that the proposed bondsperson, along with this offer of a $5,000 bond, constitutes a tie for you to the community of Canada and is a suitable alternative to detention,” she said. The man must also report to CBSA officials once he arrives in Ontario and register his address. He must report to CBSA once a week.
In its leaked memo, CBSA called the man’s arrival an “unbelievable case of concealment.”
“The passenger in question was observed at the beginning of the flight to be an elderly Caucasian male who appeared to have young-looking hands,” the memo said.
A woman who was on the flight said Air Canada flight attendants ignored her repeated warnings about the man.
Wonderful! This is an advertisement to the rest of the world that anybody who wants to illegally enter this country is free to do so without much to worry about in terms of the justice system. Not only is it a slap in the face to people who legally enter Canada, but this guy will probably never be heard of again. It's no wonder the US has been chattering about visa regulations for Canadians.