A Libyan man fighting to stay in Canada despite his ties to a terrorist group has had his appeal rejected by the Supreme Court.

Muhsen Ahmed Ramadan Agraira arrived in Canada in 1997 on a fake Italian passport and was denied refugee status when the Immigration and Refugee Board didn't believe he was in danger because of his ties to the Libyan National Salvation Front.

He married a Canadian woman who sponsored his application for permanent residency, which was then denied on the basis he was a member of the LNSF, which is listed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada as a terrorist organization.

Agraira appealed to the immigration minister in 2002, saying he had exaggerated his connections to the LNSF in his original refugee application, an appeal that was ultimately passed to the public safety minister's office. Officials recommended in 2006 that Agraira be granted ministerial relief, saying there wasn't enough evidence his presence in Canada was "detrimental to the national interest."

In 2009, then-minister Peter Van Loan rejected that recommendation and Agraira's request, citing the "national interest."

Agraira launched a judicial review of that decision and won at the Federal Court, where the judge found the minister took a  "simplistic view" that the presence in Canada of someone who may have belonged to a terrorist organization abroad at some point in the past "can never be in the national interest."

But that victory was set aside by the Federal Court of Appeal, which ruled the minister's decision not to grant ministerial relief was reasonable and set aside the application for judicial review.

'Justifiable, transparent and intelligible'

In a unanimous decision Thursday, the Supreme Court agreed with the appeal court's decision, writing that the minister's reasons were "justifiable, transparent and intelligible" and that his decision was "valid" — although the court did draw attention to the government's "inordinate delay" in delivering that decision in Agraira's case.

"[The minister] reviewed and considered all the material and evidence before him," wrote Justice Louis Lebel in the decision. "Having done so, he placed particular emphasis on contradictory and inconsistent accounts of his involvement with the LNSF, a group that has engaged in terrorism; the fact that [Agraira] was most likely aware of the LNSF’s previous activity; and the fact that [Agraira] had had sustained contact with the LNSF."

On a final question of whether the minister's decision was "fair," the court ruled that "there was no failure to meet the appellant's legitimate expectations or to discharge the duty of procedural fairness owed to him."

The definition of "national interest" is one of the key issues in the case. The minister's decision not to let Agraira stay in Canada referred only to national security and public safety, but the court found that Agraira didn't prove the minister didn't take into account other issues.

National interest, the court found, isn't limited to security concerns, but includes obligations stemming from international human rights law.

The Supreme Court ruled Agraira could still apply to stay in Canada under humanitarian and compassionate grounds — but a law passed this week eliminated those grounds of appeal for people denied citizenship for reasons of national security.

C-43, which the government called the "Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act," got Royal Assent on Wednesday. It's not clear whether that eliminates Agraira's only remaining appeal before being deported to Libya.

Agraira's lawyer told CBC News he and his client are still absorbing the decision and deciding what to do next.

Corrections

  • This story has been edited from an earlier version that incorrectly identified Vic Toews as the minister of public safety at the time Muhsen Agraira's request for ministerial review was denied. In fact, it was Peter Van Loan.
    Jun 20, 2013 12:20 AM ET
With files from Laura Payton