A deportation appeal is underway in Calgary Thursday for a convicted drug trafficker alleged by police to be a dangerous gang member.
Tran Trong Nghi Nguyen, 26, who goes by the name Jackie Tran, has been fighting a removal order by immigration officials since April 2004.
The order came after Tran, a permanent resident in Canada since 1993, racked up a criminal record in Calgary that includes two convictions for drug trafficking and one for assault with a weapon.
Tran has been in and out of custody in recent months and in the headlines because of police concerns that his freedom would endanger him as well as bystanders due to previous attempts on his life by rival gangs.
At an appeal hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board in Calgary on Thursday, Tran denied being part of a gang.
"I am not a gang member. I never threatened anyone," he said.
Tran told the hearing that he started dealing drugs because he had no supervision and no money.
"I feel regretful, but I didn't have any guidance to talk me away from those kinds of things," he said. "I blame that lacked guidance but ultimately I blame myself."
He said he has changed since then because of his longtime girlfriend's positive influence.
In previous hearings, Tran has pleaded his case as a hard-working glass cutter who earns $26,000 a year and has been paying taxes for the past seven years.
Government lawyer Dan Davidson told the hearing about 13 of Tran's friends who are alleged gang members have been shot, stabbed or killed.
But criminal convictions and alleged associations are not the only evidence that the IRB will consider, said spokeswoman Paula Faber. She said the board also looks at a person's established ties in Canada
Tran also outlined how his mother and sister, 9, will suffer if he is deported.
"Housework is difficult. She [his mother] is not able to drive, and would probably have to go back on social assistance," he said.
Tran told the hearing that officials from Child and Family Services removed his nine-year-old ister from the family home because police told them he was considered a danger.
Thursday's hearing was held over until Dec. 10.
If the removal order is upheld, Tran is allowed to appeal that decision to a federal court. If successful in that arena, the process of hearing his appeal would begin anew.