By The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says no one asked him whether a former U.S. soldier who leaked thousands of classified military documents should be deemed inadmissible to Canada because of her convictions.
But Goodale suggested he’d think hard before overruling a border officer’s decision that saw Chelsea Manning turned away from Canada last week.
“No such request has been made to me with respect to that matter,” Goodale said.
“And, when a Canada Border Services officer has exercised appropriately within their jurisdiction the judgment that they are called upon to make, I don’t interfere in that process in any kind of a light or cavalier manner.”
Manning is a 29-year-old transgender woman who was known as Bradley Manning when she was convicted in 2013 of leaking the trove of classified material.
On Monday, she posted a letter from Canadian immigration officials to her Twitter account that said because she was convicted of offences that are deemed equivalent to treason in Canada, she’s inadmissible to this country for what’s known as “serious criminality.”
The notice Manning posted said she tried to cross at the official border office at Lacolle, Que., on Friday.
Attempts to reach her were not immediately successful, though she told Reuters that she was hoping to travel to Montreal and Vancouver during her visit here.
She did disclose to border officials that she was convicted of charges and released from prison in May.
Manning had been sentenced to serve a 35-year sentence at the maximum-security military facility but as one of his last acts as U.S. president, Barack Obama commuted her sentence to the time she’d served since being arrested in 2010.
Whether she should have been convicted at all was the subject of much debate in the U.S., where some argued that she should be afforded protection as a whistleblower.
Among the materials she was credited with releasing was footage of the death of civilians at the hands of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, files related to prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay and thousands of diplomatic and state cables that shed new light on international relations.
Manning said she will challenge the Canadian government’s decision during an admissibility hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board. There are currently extensive delays for hearings with their immigration appeal division thanks to a shortage of judges.
People whose criminal records make them ineligible to enter Canada aren’t necessarily out of luck.
They can apply for what’s known as a “temporary residency permit,” either before trying to enter the country or at the border. To be eligible, the person has to prove that their need to enter or stay in Canada outweighs any risk they might pose to Canadian society.
Whether Manning attempted to apply for such a permit is unknown.
Immigration lawyer Peter Edelmann said either the minister of public safety or immigration could also step into allow her to enter Canada, perhaps on humanitarian grounds.
“Both ministers could make an exception if they wanted,” he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to comment on the case, saying he also wanted further details.