Former Halifax consultant fights passport restrictions
Passport officials cite human trafficking and illegal migration as limits imposed on Ziad El Shurafa
A former Halifax immigration consultant now facing charges is battling the federal government in court after authorities placed significant restrictions on where he can travel with his Canadian passport.
In the last four years, Ziad El Shurafa has travelled 50 times to 17 countries, largely on business trips. But in the summer, that jet-setting ended abruptly when he went to renew his passport.
A letter from Passport Canada suggested the restrictions placed on Shurafa's passport were in part prompted by the federal government crackdown on human trafficking and illegal migration.
Shurafa has lived in Dubai since 2009, but has previously called Halifax and Dartmouth home.
In 2012, he was charged with eight counts under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. He's accused of helping immigrants make misrepresentations in order to stay longer in Canada or to gain Canadian citizenship.
Canadian passport authorities eventually issued him a new passport, but one that only allows him to travel between Canada and the United Arab Emirates.
On Tuesday, his lawyer urged a Federal Court of Canada judge to lift the limitations, calling the "spectre" of human trafficking a "smokescreen."
Christopher Robinson, Shurafa's lawyer, said it was "highly offensive" and "stigmatizing" to suggest the immigration charges faced by his client are anywhere near the severity of human trafficking.
Shurafa was released from custody after he was charged. A condition of his freedom is to continue living in Dubai as the case works through the Nova Scotia court system. He must return to Halifax to attend court.
Robinson said while law enforcement sought no conditions on his travel, passport officials decided to impose limitations.
But the lawyer for the federal government says officials can revoke, refuse to renew, or place restrictions on the Canadian passport of anyone charged with an indictable offence.
Melissa Grant, the lawyer for the federal government, told the court that officials chose restrictions and tailored the travel limits so Shurafa could still return to his family and current home in Dubai.
"Other countries rely on Canadian passports as a document that has integrity, a high degree of integrity," she told the court.
Shurafa said in court documents the restrictions are a major impediment to his business. He said he's already missed "a number of critical business related meetings, conferences and events that I was scheduled to attend abroad."
Justice John O’Keefe has reserved his decision in the case.