by Aimable Mugara
A few weeks ago in Canada, the Federal Court sided with Canadian immigration authorities by ruling that a Rwandan medical student intern was a war criminal simply because he survived the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. A Canadian immigration official had previously ordered Jean Leonard Teganya to be deported from Canada on the grounds that he had interned in a Rwandan hospital where several patients were massacred by armed militias that invaded that hospital.
The immigration official reasoned that since the militias did not kill the medical student intern, this was proof that the intern was a war criminal. The long legal details of the court proceedings can be found on Canada’s Federal Court web site. A summary of Mr. Teganya’s case can be found in The National Post, a Canadian newspaper.
I have lived through a civil war and witnessed many people who survived only because they received medical attention from the few medical professionals who stayed behind. A lot of the time the medical professionals stayed at the risk of losing their own lives.
That is why I personally find it atrocious that some officials would dare brand a medical student intern as a war criminal simply because he survived the massacres in his hospital. This is such an assault on war victims all over the world.
When we start telling medical professionals that by virtue of not being killed, we will find them guilty of siding with the murderers, the real murderers have won. Such perverted reasoning blurs the line between murderer and victim; it blurs the line between hostage and hostage-taker. In the process, everyone becomes a murderer. Therefore, murderers feel like they are normal, that they are not alone, because all normal people are branded as murderers.
When we start telling medical professionals that by virtue of not being killed, we will find them guilty of siding with the murderers, the real murderers have won.
As you will find in Mr. Teganya’s court proceedings on Canada’s Federal Court web site, no one accuses him at all of killing anyone. No one accuses him of ordering that someone be killed. No one accuses him of showing the militias where the victims are hiding. No one accuses him of being in any position of authority to stop the killings.
No one accuses him of anything at all that a reasonable person would consider aiding or abetting the murderous militias. The only accusation brought against him was that he did not flee the hospital and he did not die. Never mind that a medical professional who stays behind to continue treating patients who survive should be thanked. Never mind the fact that in his case there was nowhere to flee as the whole country was at war.
Mr. Teganya’s case is unique because usually in the case of Rwanda it is the current dictatorial Rwandan government that works hard to extradite Rwandans and take them back to Rwanda, where Human Rights Watch has documented several cases of abuses, imprisonment and mysterious murders of both the existing population and the returnees. However, in Mr. Teganya’s case, the Rwandan government has never even accused him of anything and they have never asked for his extradition.
According to Mr. Teganya, his troubles began in 2001 when one of the immigration board members in charge of his refugee case took the trouble of personally informing him that she would do her best to make sure he does not get refugee status in Canada. Apparently she mentioned to him that once she makes her recommendation to deny him the status, the immigration board would side with her and it would be virtually impossible to overturn that decision.
Mr. Teganya asserts that in his conversations with the Rwandan community in Canada, he found out that this specific board member had taken a personal interest in Rwandan cases and had made it a habit of making negative recommendations during immigration hearings for Rwandans.
The negative decision by the immigration board in Mr. Teganya’s case was overturned after the first judicial review and the case sent back to them. The immigration hearing came back with the same decision the second time. But this time around the Federal Court of Canada has unfortunately sustained this decision.
Mr. Teganya’s two young boys are now at risk of becoming orphans if he is forcefully returned to Rwanda, where even the Canadian Federal Court agrees in its ruling that “detainees have been abused by security forces; there are arbitrary arrests; the conditions of detention are difficult; and people are held for long periods of time without charge.”
You can make a difference by writing an e-mail to the Canadian immigration minister now to bring Mr. Teganya’s case to his attention before it is too late. Below is a sample e-mail to the minister where you could simply add your name and address and send it.
If many of us express to the Canadian immigration minister how unfair this decision is, there is no doubt that the minister will act to save Mr. Teganya’s life. For the sake of all medical professionals who stay behind in war situations to treat patients, let us together save Jean Leonard Teganya’s life.
You can help save Teganya’s life by sending this email
The Honorable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
As a former Chair of the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights, you are in a distinguished position to step up and properly use your discretion as Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to help Mr. Jean Leonard Teganya’s family come out of its current ordeal. In case you have not heard about it yet, it is with great disappointment that I learned from a Canadian newspaper, The National Post, that a Rwandan national was refused asylum in Canada and ordered to be deported to Rwanda based on the fact that he used to be an intern at a hospital in Rwanda, where many patients were killed by a militia that invaded the hospital. The paper says, “A medical student who witnessed a Tutsi massacre at hospital in Rwanda was declared a war criminal and ordered deported from Canada by a Federal Court, which upheld a ruling that the fact he didn’t flee the hospital and wasn’t slaughtered himself was proof he was a genocide supporter.”
Honorable, it is indeed a noble goal to keep war criminals out of Canada. However, when unarmed civilians in no position of authority who are caught in a terrible war situation are labeled by the Canadian government as war criminals, then the real war criminals who actually butcher people win. When powerless bystanders whose only crime is that they survived are forcibly returned into a situation where their life is at risk, the real war criminals win. Today, I write you to bring to your attention Mr. Jean Leonard Teganya’s case, a clear case that requires your intervention.
Canada’s legacy for doing the right thing is known the world over. You have the power to do the right thing in Mr. Teganya’s case. You have the power to make sure his young Canadian children do not become orphans. You have the power to make sure his Canadian wife does not become a widow.
Please take action to save Mr. Jean Leonard Teganya’s life by halting these deportation proceedings immediately. It is the right thing to do.
Thank you for your consideration!
<insert your name and address>
Visit Aimable Mugara’s website, http://www.rwandahumanrights.org/. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. A Rwandan now based in Toronto, he said in a previous story in the Bay View that Rwandans, both Hutus and Tutsis, “want to live together in a democratic society where every single article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies to every Rwandan citizen.”