Black U.S. citizen Kyle Lydell Canty seeks refugee status in Canada
"When I see the police coming in the U.S., I cross the street"
A U.S. citizen has argued before Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board in Vancouver that he should be granted refugee status over fears that he will be killed in his home country by police because he is black.
Kyle Lydell Canty, 30, crossed into B.C.'s Lower Mainland in early September of 2015, telling border agents that he was here to visit and take photographs, but once in Vancouver decided he would apply to remain as a refugee.
"I'm in fear of my life because I'm black," he told IRB member Ron Yamauchi in a hearing on October 23rd in Vancouver. "This is a well-founded fear."
Canty argues that black people are "being exterminated at an alarming rate" in the U.S. and included examples such as the shooting of Michael Brown in Missouri and the death of Eric Garner in New York City at the hands of police.
Canty represented himself at the hearing, which he applied to have made public, and was commended by Yamauchi at its conclusion, who said Canty had put together a "well prepared case ... and argued it as well as it could be."
Canty submitted a significant evidence package to the IRB including videos, media reports and the UNHCR's handbook on determining refugee status.
In order for someone to be called a refugee in Canada, they must prove they are in danger in their home country, "that you're someone with a well-founded fear of persecution in your country, based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group." said Melissa Anderson. who speaks for the IRB.
Born in New York, Canty has lived in six different states before arriving in Canada, a country he says he's never been to before.
Claims police harassment
He told the IRB that in every state he resided, police have harassed him and targeted him because of his race.
As part of evidence submitted to the board, Canty edited together multiple point-of-view videos of his interaction with police, including one where he was arrested for trespass in Salem, Oregon, when he spent two hours talking on the phone and using free Wi-Fi at a bus station.
"I got bothered because I'm black," he said. "This is a history of false arrest. My name is ruined because of the false arrest."
He described another video submitted to the IRB that shows a police car driving past him and then stopping.
Two officers emerge. Canty asks them why they are stopping. The officers reply they believed he was flagging them. When Canty says no, they depart without incident.
Yamauchi questioned Canty over whether or not this could be considered a negative, threatening interaction with police.
Canty admits that he has several outstanding charges in multiple states for things including jaywalking, issuing threats, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest but says he has no intention of returning to his home country to face those charges.
"I'm in fear of my life," he said. "I already know the outcome."
His goal is to stay in Canada where he says he feels safe and even comfortable enough to talk to police.
Canty wants to own a photography business and open a training centre for a martial art that he practises. Currently he is residing at a homeless shelter in Vancouver.
U.S. refugee seekers rare
No more than 10 U.S. citizens are granted asylum by the IRB in Canada each year. In 2013 there were only three.
Last year, the case of Denise Harvey made it all the way to Federal Court after an appeal by the government. She was convicted in the U.S. of having sex with a 16-year-old boy, but broke no Canadian laws and was granted asylum because the IRB agreed her punishment in the U.S. was cruel and unusual. The government appeal was unsuccessful.
IRB member Yamauchi has reserved his judgment on Canty's case.
If it is approved he can apply for permanent residency. If denied, removal from Canada is a possibility, but Canty says if he does not get a favourable result he will appeal.