AGRAIRA v. CANADA (PUBLIC SAFETY AND EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS) 2013 SCC 36

The term “National Interest” is broader than public safety and national security.

The appellant in the present matter Muhsen Ahmed Ramadan Agraira is originally a citizen of Libya and has been resident of Canade since 1997. The appellant made an application for permanent residency in Canada but was denied the same due to his relations with the Libyan National Salvation Front (“LNSF”) which is considered to be a terrorist organization as per the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”). Provision of Permanent residency to the Appellant was considered to be against the national interest of the Country. According to a briefing note prepared by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in the year 2006, it was submitted that the organization could not gather appropriate evidence to say that appellant’s presence in Canada would be detrimental to the national interest in any manner. The appellant then applied for ministerial relief in 2002 under s. 34(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001, c. 27 (IRPA) but the same was again denied in 2009. The concerned Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (“Minister”) concluded that it was not in the national interest to admit individuals who have had sustained contact with known terrorist and/or terrorist-connected organizations.

The most important question dealt by this appeal was the interpretation of the term ‘National Interest” in Section 34 (2) of the IRPA. The Court identified that the meaning of the national interest relates mostly to national security and public safety but it also includes other factors including the preservation of the values that underlie the Charter and the democratic character of the Canadian federation. The court then applied Driedger’s modern approach model for the statutory interpretation of the term by way of which the court implied that the term “national interest” in the sense used by the minister is fair and reasonable.

In furtherance of the above mentioned question this court also delved into the fairness of the decision of the Minister in the context of denial of application on ministerial relief, whereby it was concluded that since the Minister’s implied interpretation of the term national interest related to national security and public safety but did not exclude other important considerations, the interpretation was eminently reasonable.

Another important question which came in for evaluation by the court found its origin in the standard of review applied by the minister. The court held that the minister had applied a reasonable standard while making a decision on the application of the appellant, and is an expert in the matter of sensitivity in terms of public policy.

The matter was put to rest by the court and the appeal was dismissed by the court and the decision of the Minister was upheld.