Canadian government lawyers recently invited US whistleblower Chelsea Manning to travel to a hearing in Montreal – so that border agents could then physically remove her from the country.
The bizarre request, which was eventually denied by an adjudicator, was made ahead of an immigration hearing set to begin on Thursday for Manning, whose previous attempts to enter Canada have been denied.
Manning, a former US intelligence analyst who leaked thousands of sensitive government documents and diplomatic cables about the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to WikiLeaks, was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013.
Her sentence was commuted in 2017, but she was recently denied entry into Canada because of her conviction.
Border officials can deem persons ineligible for entry into Canada if they have been convicted of crimes abroad that would have led to a jail sentence in Canada of 10 years or more.
Last week, lawyers for the government asked that she travel to the country so that if the government won its case, she could be removed. Manning’s lawyers had said she would attend the hearing virtually, from her home in the United States.
“The purpose of a removal order is to compel an individual who is found to be inadmissible to leave Canada. Should the [Immigration Review Board] issue a removal order against an individual who does not attend their hearing from a location in Canada,” the government told the IRB in documents obtained by the National Post, arguing it would “be impractical for CBSA to enforce the order”.
But that line of reasoning made little sense to the IRB adjudicator Marisa Musto, who dismissed the government’s motion on Monday.
“If she were physically in Canada when the order was made, the requirement would be that she leave Canada. Given that she is already outside Canada, a fact which is not in question, it can be said that the ‘objective’ of [immigration laws] … would, de facto, be fulfilled,” Musto said in her ruling, calling the government’s request “confounding”.
Manning’s lawyers have fiercely contested the ban on her entering Canada, arguing that an attempt by the country’s federal government to block “one of the most well-known whistleblowers in modern history” from entering the country would offend constitutional and press freedoms.
The hearing is expected to last two days, with a judgment issued in the coming weeks.
This article was amended on 7 October 2021 to correct a city name that was misspelled.