Somali asylum seeker deported for previous 'serious criminality'

A Somali asylum seeker charged with assaulting a Canadian border guard last April, has been deported — but it wasn't those charges that had him removed. Ahmed Aden Ali was deemed inadmissible to Canada because he had been earlier convicted of grand theft auto in the U.S.

Ahmed Aden Ali deported for grand theft auto in U.S.; charges of assaulting CBSA officer dropped

Ahmed Aden Ali, 37, denied he assaulted a CBSA officer at the Emerson border crossing April 8. He hoped Canada would give him another chance to stay here, but he's been deported. (Karen Pauls, CBC News)

A Somali asylum seeker charged with assaulting a Canadian border guard last April has been deported — but it wasn't those charges that had him removed.

Ahmed Aden Ali was deemed inadmissible to Canada because he had been earlier convicted of grand theft auto in the U.S. It's considered "serious criminality" under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which classifies any crime with a maximum of at least 10 years in prison as serious. Motor vehicle theft is punishable by up to 10 years in prison in Canada.

"Mr. Ali, who had every hope to stay here, his pending criminal charges didn't even prevent Canada from removing him," said his defence lawyer, Amado Claros.

"The deportation was not because of those criminal charges. They ended up staying or dropping those charges as a result of him actually being removed from Canada. ... From our perspective as defence, there are considerable trialable issues on the charges he was facing. Unfortunately, we were not given the opportunity to flesh out the evidence in court because he was removed."

Ali's Canadian legal troubles began after he walked over the border at Emerson, Man. on Apr. 7, 2017.

Ali, along with members of his family, had been living in Minneapolis as government-sponsored UNHCR convention refugees since 1999. Most of his family members are still in the U.S.

He had landed immigrant status but didn't become a U.S. citizen — so he lost his status after being convicted of auto theft and other crimes in 2010 and 2013.

Ali served his time but was then sent to immigration detention. He was eventually released on a deportation order, but soon after, paid a driver $200 US for a ride to the border.

"I was fearing getting deported. I was thinking, coming over here, I could start over," Ali told CBC News in May 2017.

However, Canada Border Services Agency officers at Emerson, Man., determined Ali was not eligible to remain in Canada because of his criminal record.

They detained him and said he was going to be deported.

Ali admits he got mad at that point. He swore at the officers and deliberately set off the sprinkler system in the detention room, but insists he didn't threaten or assault anyone.

"I cussed them out. I said some bad stuff to her but I did not threaten," he said.

Ali was charged with two counts of uttering threats, mischief over $5,000 and assaulting a peace officer.

He was living in Winnipeg when he was charged again, on June 24, with two counts of failing to comply with his bail conditions to not have contact with alcohol.

Back in May, Ahmed Aden Ali told CBC News he's not violent. However, he does suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and flashbacks from a violent incident in Somalia when he was 14. He took medication for stress and anxiety. He was also trying to kick an alcohol addiction and deal with the after-effects of a brain aneurysm he suffered in 2013. (CBC News)

On Aug. 2, he was sent to immigration detention at Headingley Correctional Centre.

At two detention reviews held by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, the lawyer representing Canada didn't want him released.

"Upon his arrival to Canada, he [Ali] was charged with several criminal offences, stemming from his behaviour at the Emerson port of entry, and after being released, he acquired additional charges, involving giving a police officer a false name and violating his court-ordered conditions, which was also a breach of the conditions of his release ordered by this tribunal," the minister's counsel, Philip Andres, said in a transcript of the Nov. 3 detention review. 

Andres said Ali's flight risk was increased because "he's expressed a strong desire to avoid" being deported.

"If released, he would be more likely than not to repeat his past behaviour and complicate, delay or frustrate removal efforts, by failing to appear for his removal, attempting to evade authorities, and/or engaging in activity that would result in additional criminal charges," Andres said.

Ali argued he wasn't a flight risk because he didn't even have a passport — there was nowhere for him to go. He asked to be released to "arrange my stuff" before being deported.

"Before, I was thinking about like, 'Oh, man, it's bad to go to Somalia.' But now that I'm talking about it ... it's not like the end of the world," Ali said at the detention review.

In the end, IRB member Paula Faber detained Ali for another 30 days.

He was deported to Somalia the week of Nov. 26.

"He was afraid about the deportation," Claros said, adding he hasn't heard from his client since he returned to Somalia.

"The plight of people returning to Somalia aren't that good. He stayed in the United States for a good number of years and they consider you an infidel out there if you're coming from the western world. So the risk to his life is there and it's great."

Ahmed Aden Ali's defence lawyer, Amado Claros, says he was ready to argue the Canadian charges against his client, but he never got the chance because Ali was deported. (Gary Solilak/CBC News)

Government pays for most deportees to leave Canada

New data from CBSA reveals less than half of the foreign nationals deported from Canada last year did so voluntarily and paid their way home.

Last year, 8,200 people were ordered to leave Canada — either because they outstayed their visas, had their refugee claim denied, or were considered a risk to public safety.

While 3,639 voluntarily complied, the rest were forced to leave with escorts or had transportation costs paid by the government.

Claros said he doesn't know specifically what happened in Ali's case, "but if you have either in-Canada criminality or outside Canada criminality and you have a removal order, their usual procedure is they escort you out of Canada and even into the country of deportation just to make sure you get there and don't wander off, evading removal."

"If your removal is based on criminality, it's not only to ensure that you make it out of Canada but also far more important of that, is the protection of the public. ... It's twice the cost, it's costing the government money to send representatives out there but I guess you have to ensure your order is respected and executed properly."

More than 15,000 foreign nationals are on Canada's deportation list, but some can't be removed because their home country won't take them back.


  • We initially reported that auto theft is punishable by at least 10 years in prison in Canada. In fact, it is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
    Jan 23, 2018 1:28 PM CT


Karen Pauls

National reporter

Karen Pauls covers Manitoba stories for CBC national news. She has worked across Canada, U.S. and Europe, and in CBC bureaus in Washington, London and Berlin. Some of her awards include the New York Festivals for coverage of the Greyhound bus beheading and a Quirks & Quarks question show, and from the Radio Television Digital News Association for stories about asylum seekers, the Michif language, the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy, live elections and royal wedding shows. In 2007, Karen received the Canadian Association of Journalist’s Dateline Hong Kong Fellowship and did a radio documentary on the 10th anniversary of the deadly avian flu outbreak. Story tips at