Alleged Calgary gangster Jackie Tran has been ordered out of the country after fighting deportation for five years, but his immigration battles are not over.
In a written decision dated April 7 and released on Friday, the Immigration and Refugee Board dismissed Tran's appeal to stay in Canada.
Tran, 26, had argued his deportation would cause his family significant difficulty because he is the primary provider for his mother, who cannot work, and the main caregiver for his nine-year-old stepsister.
Board member Renee Miller ruled that there were not "sufficient humanitarian and compassionate considerations" to allow Tran to stay in Canada. She accepted police evidence that Tran is a member of an organized crime group, despite never being convicted of such an association.
Miller noted that Tran's ongoing gang links hinder his rehabilitation, and also create a danger to public safety.
"He's obviously disappointed," said Ram Sankaran, Tran's lawyer. "His family's disappointed and you know, he wants to know what legal recourses are available to him."
"We certainly have issues with both the ongoing association findings as well as the methodology by which people are being labelled as gang member."
He said he is examining the decision for any errors in law that would support an application for a federal judicial review.
Immigration battle began in 2004
A removal order was issued for Tran in April 2004 after he was convicted on two counts of trafficking cocaine. He also has a conviction for assault with a weapon. Tran, whose birth name is Tran Trong Nghi Nguyen, moved to Canada from Vietnam and became a permanent resident in 1993.
'He's not going to be on the next plane, but it is one big step forward.' —Kelly Sundberg, criminologist
Calgary police gang investigators allege that Tran is a high-ranking member of the FOB Killers (FK) and poses a risk to the public because of at least two previous attempts on his life by a rival gang called Fresh Off the Boat (FOB).
"The appellant has made a conscious decision, as an adult, to continue his association and membership with FK," wrote Miller. "That decision aggravates the seriousness of his criminal convictions … undermines his efforts at rehabilitation and results in an ongoing danger to the Canadian public."
She said that Tran's professed efforts of rehabilitation contradicted evidence that he had been in recent contact with gang associates.
Investigators have testified that at least 13 of Tran's friends or associates have been killed or hurt in gang-related attacks. Police believe at least 12 homicides in the city since 2002 — many of them escalating to public areas — are linked to the gang feud.
"Our biggest concern, which we've maintained all along, [is] that Mr. Tran presents a risk to public safety in our community and as long as he's present in our community, that risk will be present and so we look forward to the day when that is no longer an issue," said Calgary police Insp. Guy Slater on Friday.
'Not going to be on the next plane'
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), which enforces deportation orders, welcomed the ruling Friday, but noted it can remove people from the country only after they have exhausted all levels of appeal.
"He's not going to be on the next plane, but it is one big step forward," said Kelly Sundberg, a criminologist at Mount Royal College.
Click here for a timeline of Jackie Tran's deportation fight, and a chart of his avenues of appeal
Sankaran said that Tran can ask a federal judge for a judicial review — which he has successfully done before and was awarded a new appeal hearing.
If that review is denied, Tran can also appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal and subsequently to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In addition, any subject that Canada wants to return to another country needs to be authorized by that government.
"The Tran case in itself really is just an example that we can see that we have a system that's quite flawed in the fact that someone can be ordered deported in 2004 and today in 2009 still in Canada," said Sundberg.
Second removal order pursued
Tran's original removal order was based on "serious criminality" — for a conviction of a Criminal Code offence that carries a prison sentence of at least 10 years.
The CBSA has initiated a second immigration hearing that pursues a removal order based on its argument that Tran is a member of a criminal organization. If a panel agrees, an automatic deportation would ensue with no appeal option.
"The organized crime allegation is a higher threshold. It's more serious and that's one of the reasons we're pursuing that," said the CBSA's Lisa White.
That proceeding is set to resume on May 1.