Haitian ex-official out of Ontario jail after arrest at border
Former member of Aristide government to proceed with asylum claim in Canada

A former official in deposed Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Lavalas Party government is now free after being detained last month at the Windsor, Ont., border crossing as he tried to make a refugee claim.

Jean Candio was released Dec. 28 after spending 15 days in a Windsor jail and is planning to proceed with his bid for asylum, according to his lawyer, Paul Copeland.

He now faces an admissibility hearing in front of the Immigration and Refugee Board, which will determine whether he is eligible to make a claim.

Citing privacy, neither the board nor the Canadian Border Services Agency would comment on Mr. Candio, who was elected as a deputy in the Haitian parliament in May of 2000.

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 However, according to the Canada Haiti Action Network, a Haitian activist group, Mr. Candio was initially detained by the border agency because Ottawa says he had been a senior official in a government that engaged in “terrorism, systematic or gross human rights violations or genocide.”

James Morrell, director of the Washington-based Haiti Democracy Project, said Mr. Candio and his supporters are alleged to have used violence to break up a church meeting in November of 2000 in the southern Haitian town of Pliché. A local Haitian human-rights group documented the incident, which Amnesty International also cited in a 2001 report.

However, Mr. Candio’s supporters with the Canada-Haiti network say the former politician has documents showing he has a clean police record in Haiti and has witnesses willing to testify that he was not even in Pliché that day.

“If Canada criminalizes Mr. Candio’s association with Lavalas, it will have criminalized Haiti’s poor majority,” the network wrote in a release.

Mr. Aristide, a populist champion of the poor, was forced into exile Feb. 29, 2004, under pressure from the United States and after an armed rebellion of thugs and former soldiers. Mr. Candio also fled the country at that time, first going to the Dominican Republic and then to the U.S.

He lived in the U.S. with his wife until he was detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service in March of 2006. He was held for a month and then released after negotiating a voluntary departure; he then fled to Canada, leaving his wife and newborn behind.

Mr. Copeland, his lawyer, declined to comment.

Those found to have committed a crime, to have violated international human rights or to have been in the service of a government that committed crimes against humanity — even if there was no foreign conviction — could be disqualified from seeking asylum in Canada.

Mr. Candio is not the first former Aristide associate to turn up in Canada. Oriel Jean, his former security chief, was placed in immigration detention after he and his wife flew to Toronto in March of 2004.

During his immigration hearing, he was served with a U.S. extradition warrant on charges of conspiracy to traffic in drugs. In 2005, he was sentenced in Miami to three years in prison for his involvement in a cocaine-smuggling operation.