Ottawa, June 12, 2012 — The Office of the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, released the following statement today regarding an article that appeared on Monday in La Presse:
On June 11, 2012, La Presse journalist Anabelle Nicoud wrote an article about Joanna Martinez. Ms. Nicoud did not approach CIC before writing the article.
Stories presenting only one side of a story can lead to public distrust of the rule of law. Factually incorrect or incomplete reporting usually leaves the impression that Canada’s refugee determination system is unjust or heartless. In fact, Canada has the most generous and fair refugee determination system in the world. Less than one per cent of the decisions made by the highly-trained adjudicators on the Immigration and Refugee Board are overturned by the federal courts on appeal. That is a remarkable record, and one of which Canadians should be proud.
In order to ensure that the reputation of our refugee determination system is not tarnished unfairly, we are releasing the full chronology of Ms. Martinez and her interactions with Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Although privacy laws generally forbid us from releasing such information, in this case Ms. Martinez has a long, public record in front of criminal and civil courts in Canada and the United States. We are releasing only the public information, which is still an incomplete picture of the case.
We are taking the unusual step of writing this public letter in order to remind journalists and the public alike that immigration stories are no different from any other news story: Journalists should present the complete story, and not simply rely on one person's self-interested and uncorroborated account of events. Misleading stories on important subjects damage the public discourse in Canada.
Our request is simple: If you are a journalist writing about someone facing removal from Canada, please get a privacy waiver from the subject of your story so that we can provide the complete file to you. And if the subject of your story or their lawyer is refusing to provide you with a privacy waiver and the written decision from the Immigration and Refugee Board, you may want to ask them and yourself why they are refusing to do so.
Summary of facts:
- Ms. Martinez is a fugitive, with a long criminal history in at least three states: New York, New Jersey and Florida.
- She has used at least 15 (possibly as many as 20) different aliases in the past.
- She has claimed at least nine different dates of birth ranging from August 8, 1970 to April 27, 1979.
- She has also claimed various different places of birth.
- She claimed refugee status in Canada, maintaining that her husband Fernando Suarez-Garcia was kidnapped by the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Force (FARC) and that her life was in danger in Colombia. Ms. Martinez has claimed various dates for the kidnapping, ranging from June 23, 2004 to July 29, 2004.
- The IRB found that Ms. Martinez was not “credible.” Ms. Martinez could not satisfy the IRB that she and her family were actually in Colombia at the time of the claimed kidnapping.
- The IRB found that Ms. Martinez could not answer direct questions and was inconsistent in her answers.
- When asked about her arrival in Toronto on August 2, 2004, Ms. Martinez claimed that she enjoyed Toronto and that she remembers there being snow on the ground.
- Fernando Suarez-Garcia, the husband of Ms. Martinez, has been found to be a member of a criminal organization specializing in jewellery and money theft in the Montreal area.
Refugee protection division decisions are not normally publicly disclosed but, as this one was the matter of proceedings before the Federal Court of Canada, it is on the public record.
For further information (media only), please contact:
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Building a stronger Canada: Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) strengthens Canada’s economic, social and cultural prosperity, helping ensure Canadian safety and security while managing one of the largest and most generous immigration programs in the world.