Immigrants legal rights

lawYou speak English pretty good, where are you from? No actually I speak English quite well (all dressed in a Ugandan accent) but it’s a long story. I am Rwandese but I was born and raised in Uganda, so that’s where I am from and yes I had as many pet lions as you do pet polar bears. Excuse my sarcasm, what I am aiming to elaborate upon is my journey to Canada and what I needed to know as a new immigrant. First things first, you may answer  stupid questions with the most intelligent stupid answer you could conjure up on such short notice. Secondly once you have figured out the general population is not just treating you like a zoo animal and that they are simply trying to find out more about you, ask them to take you to places such as the YMCA where you will find resources that assist new immigrants settle in. Once you are there, you may use the go online to Govt of Canada to complete a few questions that will narrow down your particular needs and aid you in getting the necessary documentation to become a person from “outside countries” of Canada.

For this particular piece let’s cover your legal rights as a new comer. First and foremost, refer to the Canadian Charter of Human rights and freedoms. Often times, we as new immigrants assume that Canadian laws are there to protect Canadians, but that is completely wrong. I will go ahead and present to you particular articles of the Charter that will aid you to move with confidence and a sense of security.

Sections 15 (1) states that “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.” Section 7 of the charter gives you more confidence as it states, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” The first word in sections 7 and 15 say “every individual and everyone” is guaranteed the above listed rights. In these particular sections, the charter does not state that these rights are limited to those people with a particular legal status. It states that everyone regardless of legal status is guaranteed security. Security addresses you as a person; that you may not be harassed or assaulted while you are exercising your rights to liberty. Liberty is the right to move freely without deterrence that is within legal limits.

At this point you may ask how we establish what the legal limits are. These limits are also defined in sections of the Charter following section 7. Section 8 states that “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.”  The most important part of this section is that anyone, be it police or peace officer decides to attempt to search you, you have the right to say no. The important thing to remember here is that the police or anyone have no legal right to search you. This will also extend to the point where you can refuse to show them identification if you have no reason to believe that they have a legal basis to search you; so when do they have a legal right to search you? Only when your under arrest! To keep it safe, in order to determine what unreasonable search or seizure is, the Charter provides more help in section 9 where it states that “Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.” While the words detention or imprisonment, sound like such serious words, they are not. By law, precedents state that a person is detained the minute the police stops them to speak with them. You may have proof of this for example when the police stops you for a traffic offence and the first thing they ask is “do you know what I am stopping you for”. This questions is a part of legal protocols allocated to policing so that your section 9 right not to be arbitrarily detained is not infringed upon. It is therefore your right when stopped by any figure be it police or anyone to ask why you are being detained.

Now that you feel safe walking down the street knowing that the law will protect you, you may proceed to live your life in Canada. While living here, you may have a dream to also bring members of your immediate family to Canada. The Immigration Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) allows you to claim immediate family members to join you in Canada within a year of you being in Canada. IRPA is designed to make every effort to reunite family members and therefore if you have a member of your family, be it immediate or maybe adopted or partner you may claim them to reunite with you in Canada as you go through the process of becoming a Canadian resident and citizen.

I will refrain from providing too much information as this article is meant to inform the reader that the resources are available to you. And that the law is put in place with good faith to protect you. Having said this, I will vigorously counsel everyone to be more educated on their rights and privileges in Canada. There are legal aid clinics that will provide more in-depth information that will be peculiar to each individual’s circumstances.

To sum it up, let me tell a short story. Two years after I arrived in Canada, I received my citizenship card. But ignorance of my rights left my ignorant of the French language. I was denied the right to study French as I had never taken French language courses before. I was placed in a class where at best I completed my homework and at worst thought of devious ways to escape the class.

When I arrived I was not aware that I had every right guaranteed in section 15 to pursue my rights to learn French as stated in section 23 which states  that “Citizens of Canada (a) whose first language learned and still understood is that of the English or French linguistic minority population of the province in which they reside, or  (b) who have received their primary school instruction in Canada in English or French and reside in a province where the language in which they received that instruction is the language of the English or French linguistic minority population of the province, have the right to have their children receive primary and secondary school instruction in that language in that province. However, as a result of not being informed of my guaranteed rights, jai ne parle pas francais.

By Eli Ndatuje

Eli Bagirishya Ndatuje Rugege is a son of Rwanda and the world. Born and raised in Uganda, Eli moved to Canada at age 14 and has since made a home in Ottawa. As a proud Rwandan, his very much involved in his community; a former communication officer for the Canadian Association Of Rwandan Youths (CARY) Ottawa. Eli is also a graduate of Carleton University with a major in legal studies and a minor in psychology.

Although the rights mentioned above are specific to the Canadian law, most nations have similar stipulations within the laws that govern them… make sure you know your rights and if you know of a new immigrant, help them walk with confidence.