The reaction of the Canadian government via Stockwell Day contrasts sharply with that of the the Uighr refugee who escaped from a Chinese jail but was granted refugee status.
American fugitives seek refugee status in Canada
* * * Sandra McCulloch, CanWest News Service; Victoria Times Colonist
Published: Sunday, February 11, 2007
VICTORIA -An American couple arrested in Zeballos, on Vancouver Island, in January 2006 on warrants from their home county in Colorado are immersed in a legal quagmire as they fight extradition charges and pursue refugee status in Canada.
They spent seven months in jail on immigration holds but they're out now, and for that at least, 36-year-old Lori Romero and Michael Welch, 33, are thankful. That freedom came at a price - the cost of the both of them being fitted with electronic ankle monitors was $16,000. They borrowed the money from family in the U.S.
The Fort Collins, Colo., prosecutor declined last week to comment on the case other than to say through an assistant that the extradition process will go ahead.
The warrants stem from a November 2004 standoff in Fort Collins which ended when Michael Welch's father was shot by a sheriff's deputy.
Welch and Romero are wanted for first-degree assault of a peace officer, and menacing. The state says Welch is wanted on weapons offences and cultivation of marijuana, but Welch and Romero claim those charges were thrown out in U.S. federal court.
The dispute over these charges is what led to the standoff. They maintain the U.S. police are framing them and they can't get a fair trial in Colorado. They have applied for refugee status in Canada.
Vancouver lawyer Shepherd Moss is representing the couple on both the extradition and the refugee-claim processes.
Canada doesn't usually accept people as refugees who've committed or are even just accused of committing serious crimes in other countries, said Moss.
"It's a very low standard of proof," he said in a telephone interview.
Stockwell Day, the minister of public security, has deemed the couple unworthy of refugee status because of the warrants from the U.S., said Moss.
The Immigration and Refugee Board is considering Day's opinion as it ponders the couple's refugee application.
As for the couple, they don't want to go back to the U.S. and face the charges, saying the police fabricated evidence against them.
"We went through all of that back home before we came here," said Romero. "My husband won his federal court case -but we saw multiple cops take the stand and lie."
Their next court date is March 5 in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
Victoria Times Colonist