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Fighting Human Smuggling or Criminalizing Refugees? Regimes of Justification in and around R v Appulonappa

  • David Moffette (a1) and Nevena Aksin (a2)
Abstract

Following the arrival of the MV Ocean Lady in 2009, four men were charged with human smuggling under s. 117 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act for having helped Sri Lankan asylum seekers reach Canada. Section 117 made it a criminal offence to aid and abet the unauthorized entry of asylum seekers, including when this was done for humanitarian reasons, to help family members, or as a matter of mutual aid. The case made its way to the Supreme Court and, in 2015, the court ruled in R v Appulonappa that s. 117 was too broad, potentially criminalizing humanitarian workers and family members who help transport asylum seekers, and should be interpreted in a strict manner. This article draws from pragmatic sociology to study the regimes of justification mobilized by various actors involved in, and around, R v Appulonappa between 2009 and 2015. It focuses on two sites of contestation that crystalized around divergent conceptions of fairness and safety, discussing how competing regimes of justification were used to advance stakeholder’s positions.

À la suite de l’arrivée, en 2009, du navire MV Ocean Lady, quatre hommes furent accusés de trafic de personnes, en vertu de l’article 117 de la Loi sur l’immigration et la protection des réfugiés, pour avoir aidé des demandeurs d’asile sri-lankais à entrer illégalement au Canada. Selon l’article 117, le fait d’inciter, d’aider ou d’encourager l’entrée non autorisée de demandeurs d’asile constituait un acte criminel, même lorsque celui-ci était réalisé à des fins humanitaires dans le but d’aider des membres de la famille ou de fournir une aide mutuelle. En 2015, la présente affaire s’est rendue en Cour suprême du Canada où cette dernière a statué, dans l’arrêt R. c. Appulonappa, que la portée de l’article 117 était excessive dans la mesure où son libellé était susceptible de criminaliser des travailleurs humanitaires et les proches parents d’un demandeur d’asile, et que, par conséquent, il devait être interprété de façon plus étroite. Ancrée dans la sociologie pragmatique, l’article se penche sur les stratégies de justification mobilisées par les divers acteurs de l’affaire R. c. Appulonappa entre 2009 et 2015. Il porte notamment sur deux espaces de contestation qui se sont formés autour de conceptions divergentes de l’équité et de la sécurité. L’article illustre les façons dont ces stratégies opposées furent utilisées pour faire valoir les intérêts des parties intéressées.

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Canadian Journal of Law and Society / La Revue Canadienne Droit et Société
  • ISSN: 0829-3201
  • EISSN: 1911-0227
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