March 22, 2015 – Reported by The Star – Every day Francisco Rico, co-director of the FJC Refugee Centre in Toronto, gets calls from undocumented migrants wondering how to get to Canada. Some have tracked his organization down on the Internet; others heard about it through friends. Their constant refrain: ‘We want to come to Canada and we don’t have any papers.’
Rico advises them. It’s not in his nature to turn away a request for help. “Our mandate is to help and protect refugees,” he explains.
But in offering advice, he could be committing a crime under a controversial section of the 2002 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that critics say is written far too broadly and puts people who legitimately help refugees at risk of prosecution.
Section 117 makes it illegal to “organize, induce, aid or abet the coming into Canada of one or more persons knowing that, or being reckless as to whether, their coming into Canada is or would be in contravention of this Act.”
The possibility of being charged doesn’t worry Rico. “I’m dedicated to protecting human rights and I will continue doing it,” he says. “It’s not defiance. It’s part of who I am and the work I do.”…story continues below…