Case in Brief

Mason v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration)

The Supreme Court quashes immigration decisions that found two foreign nationals inadmissible to Canada.       

Earl Mason and Seifeslam Dleiow are foreign nationals in Canada. In 2012, Mr. Mason was charged with attempted murder and discharging a firearm following an argument with a man in a bar. The charges were eventually dropped because of delay. In Mr. Dleiow’s case, he was alleged to have engaged in acts of violence against intimate partners. Some of the criminal charges from these incidents were dropped and he pled guilty to three others.

Following these incidents, officials at the Canada Border Services Agency prepared reports alleging that both Mr. Mason and Mr. Dleiow were inadmissible to Canada pursuant to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). Section 34(1)(e) of the IRPA says that “a permanent resident or a foreign national is inadmissible to Canada on security grounds for engaging in acts of violence that would or might endanger the lives or safety of persons in Canada”.   

The reports led to admissibility hearings before the Immigration Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, an administrative tribunal responsible for deciding immigration and refugee matters. In Mr. Mason’s case, the decision was appealed to the Appeal Division. The two men were ultimately found inadmissible to Canada. In their cases, the immigration bodies interpreted “acts of violence” under section 34(1)(e) in a broad sense, without requiring there to be a link to national security or the security of Canada. This meant that the violent conduct of both men, despite posing no threat to national security, could justify finding them inadmissible in Canada under section 34(1)(e).   

Mr. Mason and Mr. Dleiow disagreed. They asked the Federal Court of Canada to review these administrative decisions. In Mr. Mason’s case, the Federal Court concluded the Appeal Division’s interpretation of section 34(1)(e) was unreasonable because “security grounds” under section 34(1)(e) needed a link between the alleged facts and national security. It applied the same reasoning to Mr. Dleiow’s case.   

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal, which allowed the appeals. It said the immigration boards had reasonably interpreted section 34(1)(e) as not requiring a link to national security. Mr. Mason and Mr. Dleiow appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Supreme Court has allowed their appeals.     

A person can only be found inadmissible to the country under section 34(1)(e) of the IRPA if they engage in violent conduct linked to national security or the security of Canada.  

Writing for the majority, Justice Jamal applied this Court’s framework in Vavilov to decide the appeals. According to that framework, the appropriate standard of review of these administrative decisions is reasonableness. Upon review of the decisions, he concluded both were unreasonable.

Justice Jamal said there was a “single reasonable interpretation of [section] 34(1)(e) – a person can be found inadmissible under [section] 34(1)(e) only if they engage in acts of violence with a nexus to national security or the security of Canada”. As neither Mr. Mason nor Mr. Dleiow were alleged to have engaged in acts of violence with a link to national security or the security of Canada, section 34(1)(e) of the IRPA does not provide a legal basis for the inadmissibility of either person.

Cases in Brief are prepared by communications staff of the Supreme Court of Canada to help the public better understand Court decisions. They do not form part of the Court’s reasons for judgment and are not for use in legal proceedings.