A black man seeking refugee status in Canada, claiming that he feared for his life due to police brutality in the United States, has had his application denied.
The Immigration and Refugee Board said that they did not believe that Kyle Lydell Canty had a well-founded fear of persecution under the UN guidelines.
Vice News reports that the board's Ron Yamauchi wrote that "harassment and discrimination don't merit refugee protection unless 'they're serious or systematic enough to be characterized as persecution,' which is serious harm, or an interference with a basic human right. Being subjected to laws and being arrested without injury or brutality is not persecution, he wrote."
Canty has since returned to the U.S., and has decided not to appeal the decision.
"All of this is political and has nothing to do with refugee law," he wrote in an email to Vice News. "I was planning on appealing the case until I found out what was really going on with the Canadian government (Syria) everything is not what it seems ... This time I will pick America's Enemies, I still hate America just like I wrote and said."
Police brutality remains one of the most divisive human rights violations in the United States. In fact, it has taken the form of an epidemic, creating a huge rift and air of mistrust between law enforcement authorities and the African-American community.
Following the violent arrests and deaths of black teenagers and unarmed men and women over the past couple of years, members of the minority community have not only come to be wary of the officers, but have also begun to dread them. This fear runs so deep that in one of the rarest incidents ever, a U.S. citizen has asked Canada for refugee because of his race.
Kyle Lydell Canty, who was born in New York, crossed into Canada earlier this year after telling border agents that he was in the Lower Mainland to travel and take photographs. However, once he reached Vancouver, he decided to apply for refugee status.
Appearing before Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board, Canty argued that he was fleeing the discrimination and state violence plaguing his country. He said that belongs to a vulnerable minority that is “being exterminated at an alarming rate.”
To validate his argument, he also cited the killings of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York.
“I'm in fear of my life because I'm black,” the 30-year told the board member Ron Yamauchi. “This is a well-founded fear.”
In order for someone to become an asylum-seeker in Canada, they must prove they fear of persecution in their own country, based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular group, according to IRB member Melissa Anderson.
By those standards, Canty actually appears to be a perfect candidate for refugee status. He even submitted an evidence package to the board that included videos, media reports and the UNHCR's handbook on determining refugee status.
“When I see the police coming in the U.S., I cross the street,” he added.
Canty has lived in six states across the country, and he claims the police have harassed and profiled him in every single one of these places. He also acknowledged his criminal charges in the U.S., which include disorderly conduct, issuing threats and resisting arrest.
“I got bothered because I’m black,” he alleged, adding that he is more than comfortable interacting with Canadian authorities. “This is a history of false arrest. My name is ruined because of the false arrest.”
Canada rarely grants refugee status to American citizens. In 2013, they only accepted three applicants, while in 2014, only one was granted the status. However, since the board apparently does not keep statistics on the claims it hears, Anderson said she could not say if someone has ever presented an argument similar to Canty’s.
“Every case is unique and every story is unique and it's decided on its own merits and the evidence that’s produced," she said.
Meanwhile, Yamauchi has reserved his judgment on Canty's case. If it is approved, he can apply for permanent residency, but Canty says if he does not get a favorable result, he will appeal again.
The applicant is currently living in a homeless shelter in Vancouver, though he aspires to own a photography business and open a training center for martial arts.