"The task of separating the devout from the fraudsters among those claiming refugee status in Canada for religious persecution cannot be divined by peppering someone with "trivia" questions, the Federal Court has ruled.All of the above is messed up.
The judicial chastising of the way an Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator tried to ferret out bogus refugees stems from the case of a man who fled China saying he fears persecution for being a Roman Catholic. He was refused because of his answers to questions about Catholic tradition.
The Federal Court of Canada expressed dismay at the level of knowledge expected from the recent convert, who knew Mary was the mother of Jesus but didn't know Jesus' grandmother's name; and who knew Jesus was baptized by John but didn't know John's mother's name.
(The answers are Anne and Elizabeth, respectively.)
"He had little knowledge of the Bible's characters," Rose Andrachuk, an IRB adjudicator who previously was chairwoman of the Toronto Catholic District School Board, concluded following the quiz she gave Mao Qin Wang, prior to the court's intervention.
Mr. Wang, 26, says he turned to religion after his father was seriously injured in an accident and a friendly Catholic said he was praying for him. When his father improved, he started attending his friend's underground church in 2007, he says.
When he was a lookout at an illegal service in 2008, Chinese police raided the gathering, he told Canada's immigration officials. He fled, but the next day police went looking for him, accusing him of engaging in illegal religious activities, he says.
He came to Canada in 2008 after paying a smuggler $30,000, settled in Toronto and filed for refugee protection, claiming he fears arrest, jail and maltreatment because of his religious beliefs if returned to China.
At his hearing before the refugee board, Mr. Wang was asked several questions about Catholic liturgy and history, through a translator.
Ms. Andrachuk was dissatisfied with his answers.
"The claimant was asked whether the consecrated wafer or the bread represents the body of Jesus or whether it is the body of Jesus. The claimant responded that it represented the body of Jesus, which is incorrect," she wrote in her IRB decision.
She continued: "The claimant was asked to tell the panel what happens at Mass from the beginning to end. The claimant listed introductory rites, liturgy of the Word, liturgy of Eucharist and conclusion rites, which is correct. The claimant was asked to explain introductory rites. He replied that it is sprinkling of water and priest's blessing. Neither are essential parts of introductory rites."
He knew Mary was Jesus' mother and that John baptized him but not the names of Mary and John's mothers; correctly answered questions about the rosary and the seven sacraments; named books of the Old Testament but was uncertain what they were about; failed to note that 2009 was dedicated to St. Paul by the Catholic Church, and gave other answers that fell short of Ms. Andrachuk's expectations.
"I find, on a balance of probabilities, that the claimant is not and never was a genuine practising Roman Catholic," she wrote. "I find that the claimant's level of knowledge of the Catholic faith is not commensurate with someone who has been a Roman Catholic for three years."
The case was appealed to the Federal Court of Canada, where Justice Michel Beaudry overturned the decision, declaring Mr. Wang was held to "an unreasonably high standard of religious knowledge.
"The board erroneously determined the applicant's knowledge of the Catholic faith by way of 'trivia,'
" Judge Beaudry wrote, adding Ms. Andrachuk wrongly expected Mr. Wang to know as much about the Catholic faith and tradition as she did.
Mr. Wang will now have another hearing before a different IRB adjudicator.
Shelley Levine, Mr. Wang's Toronto lawyer, said the arcane test would exclude many lifelong Catholics in Canada, let alone a recent convert from an underground church in China, where the communist government restricts religious practice.
"What they really ought to be determining is an issue of faith rather than an issue of knowledge. There are some people who sit in the front row of church every Sunday all their lives but probably couldn't tell you very much about where to find things in the Bible," Mr. Levine said.
"The questions got so detailed that, really, only someone in the business of studying the religion may be familiar with them."
He said a better approach to determining genuine faith would be to ask more abstract questions, like: Tell me how you lead your life on a daily basis as a Roman Catholic?
"It is never an easy task, I concede that," Mr. Levine said.
The IRB declined to comment on the case, but spokeswoman Anna Pape defended the board's record.
"The IRB makes approximately 56,500 decisions each year and takes pride in the fact that less than 1% [are] overturned on appeal by the Federal Court," she said.
"Refugee protection division members are highly qualified and extensively trained in the performance of their duties."
Ms. Andrachuk was appointed to the IRB in 2008, before which she worked in a legal and mediation practice and, from 1999 to 2000, chaired the Toronto Catholic District School Board."
My question is this: What religion is the Judge who determined that understanding whether the Blessed Sacrament is representative of the Body of Christ or is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ is "trivial" to Catholic teaching?
As for being a Catholic for three years. I will say this, Ms Andrachuk is looking at it from the point of view of someone who went through RCIA, and was accepted as a Catholic and continued going to mass here for three years. That's not how he was formed in the faith.
I can understand, the refugee, might get things wrong. He was assisting at mass, most probably in someone's basement. The priest isn't going to have time to catechize his flock. Somethings can get missed.
But I don't think a federal judge should be the one to determine, whether or not certain questions are trivia.
Wouldn't it make sense to have questionnaires developed by the various faith groups, that the IRB personelle could use to determine how much they know about there catechism? Wouldn't it make more sense to find out where he worships here in Toronto? Wouldn't it be even good to get a letter from his parish priest here in Toronto?
But hey, I'm just asking?