A detention review hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board to decide whether a young Asian man, who boarded an Air Canada plane in Hong Kong disguised as an elderly Caucasian, will remain in custody has been adjourned.
Proceedings for the unidentified man, who made a claim for refugee status after he was taken into custody in Vancouver on Oct. 29, were bogged down Monday because his lawyer is trying to ban the media, including the Chinese media, from the courtroom.
Dan McLeod argued Sing Tao, Ming Pao and the World Journal are controlled by China's government, which he said has a bad track record on human rights.
"This is an extremely unusual case in that there has been an extremely serious and potentially dangerous leak about a refugee claimant by an unknown Canada Border Services official," McLeod told the adjudicator.
Reporters for all three Chinese-language media outlets opposed the ban and denied their organizations have any ties to the government. Canadian media also opposed an overall ban on the hearings.
McLeod said if the immigration adjudicator refused his requests for either a full media ban or a ban on the Chinese media, then the board should at least take steps to protect the man's name and anything else that could identify him or his family.
The adjudicator said she would release her decision about allowing media access on Wednesday, the same day the Asian man is expected to be back before the board for a hearing.
Lee Rankin, the lawyer provided to the man when he was first taken into custody, said it's unlikely he would be released from custody until his genuine documents arrived in Canada and were evaluated by Canadian security officials, which could take as long as one month.
Rankin also told CBC News on Sunday the man might have used a fake U.S. passport to board the plane but that information was "very preliminary."
"He probably had somebody else's passport or inauthentic identification, and that method is being used every day to get people on planes to Canada," he said.
"What it shows you is a large part of the security apparatus that's been set up is for show and doesn't appear effective in preventing people from entering Canada not using their own proper identification, identities and passports."
During the 12-hour flight, Air Canada security alerted the Canada Border Services Agency to a passenger who "was observed at the beginning of the flight to be an elderly Caucasian male who appeared to have young-looking hands," the agency's statement said.
"During the flight, the subject attended the washroom and emerged an Asian male that appeared to be in his early 20s."
On Monday, CNN reported that a female passenger on that flight tried to warn the crew about the man's disguise three times but said she was rebuffed. But Air Canada said the crew took the necessary measures to ensure border security officials met the flight on arrival.
Rankin accused Canadian authorities of "playing dirty" with the man, violating his privacy and potentially jeopardizing his safety.
Rankin said revealing the man's photo, even with his eyes blacked out, could expose him to risk in China, a country that "doesn't appreciate its nationals embarrassing them."
In another development, the CBSA is investigating how news about the masked man was leaked.
An internal agency alert about the incident was leaked last week to CNN, which broadcast photos of the man in his elaborate silicone mask and another undisguised photo with part of his face blocked out.