Sanctuary seeker Jose Figueroa speaks during a press conference in Victoria, B.C., Monday, November 28, 2016. Figueroa, an El Salvadoran who spent two years in a British Columbia church to avoid deportation from Canada on alleged terrorism links, is appearing before the Federal Court of Appeal Thursday where he will represent himself in an effort to clear his name. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Man who lived in church fights to clear name

Granted special order to stay in Canada

VICTORIA — An El Salvadoran man who spent two years in a British Columbia church to avoid deportation over alleged terrorism links is fighting the federal government in court even though he was granted a special order to stay in Canada.

Jose Figueroa, who is studying law at the University of Victoria, said Tuesday he’ll be in court this week appealing a decision last year that dismissed his request for a certificate from the foreign affairs minister stating he is not on a terrorist list.

Last March, the federal court dismissed Figueroa’s application to compel the minister to provide the certificate based on a United Nations regulation that allows a person to claim not to be a listed terrorist.

Figueroa said he will represent himself Thursday in Vancouver at a Federal Court of Appeal hearing.

“I was categorized to be a member of a terrorist organization, which is unfounded,” he said in an interview. “My name has been tarnished and it needs to be cleared.”

Figueroa, who is a permanent resident of Canada, said he believes his name is still flagged as a person with alleged links to a terrorist organization in government databases. He said the alleged flags must be removed.

“The struggles I am having to clear my name, they are always going to be showing up in their computers,” he said. “My name is linked with a terrorist organization. You look at my name on the computer, all of this information comes up.”

Figueroa said he was a member of a student union that supported the Farabundo Marti National Liberal Front in El Salvador, which is now the country’s elected government.

Figueroa arrived in Canada with his wife 20 years ago and claimed refugee status. He said his alleged past links in El Salvador remain on his government files and affect his quality of life.

He was in Federal Court on a separate application in November asking the federal government to rescind a report that concluded he was inadmissible to Canada due to his past membership in the Salvadoran political group.

Figueroa also asked the court to force Canada Border Services Agency to quash a deportation order. Figueroa said he is concerned that if he wanted to cross the border he would be interrogated as a terrorist.

Lawyers representing the federal attorney general, the ministers of both public safety and immigration, and the Canadian Border Services Agency, argued successfully that the debate around Figueroa’s inadmissibility to Canada were no longer significant after the man was given the ministerial exemption.

The exemption in December 2015 allowed Figueroa to leave the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in Langley, B.C., and smoothed the way for his for permanent residency application.

But Figueroa said he will argue Thursday that the foreign affairs minister had a legal obligation to issue the certificate that cleared him of any terrorist allegations within 15 days of his original application in July 2014.

Officials at the Foreign Affairs Ministry could not be immediately reached for comment.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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