B.C. man begs to return to Canada after wrongful conviction, deportation
A Surrey man deported to India for eight years before his conviction was thrown out is begging the Canadian government to let him back into the country and see the teenage daughter he was forced to leave behind.
Former mill worker Gurdev Dhillon told CTV News via Skype from a remote village in the Punjab region – where he makes $200 a month as a subsistence farmer – he wants to come home.
“I miss my daughter. I love my daughter. I want to see her grow up and I miss that,” Dhillon told CTV News. “I want to come back to Canada.”
On Tuesday, Dhillon’s Canadian lawyers applied in B.C. Supreme Court for an injunction requiring the Canadian government to restore Dhillon’s permanent residency status and process his application for Canadian citizenship despite a 19-month delay.
“It’s an outrage that Mr. Dhillon still has to wait to come to Canada,” said lawyer Jason Gratl. “There’s no excuse for these shenanigans. The man should be returned to Canada immediately.”
Gratl said he has heard of people being released from prison after wrongful convictions in Canada, but never a wrongful conviction that has resulted in a man being sent out of the country and not being allowed to return.
“It’s on the minister of citizenship and immigration, who is refusing to deal with the horrible implications of the deportation,” Gratl said.
Minister of Immigration John McCallum refused to discuss the case with CTV News, citing privacy grounds.
But court documents show the authorities are continuing to accuse Dhillon of sexual assault.
“HMTQ specifically denies the allegation that he did not commit the sexual assault and puts him to strict proof thereof,” reads the response to the claim by the province of B.C.
Dhillon was arrested after a sexual assault in 2005 that happened in his basement suite. Police found him passed out and unconscious and naked on his own floor after the attack, court documents say.
The victim first told police she was attacked by two men who brought her to the suite, but at trial identified Dhillon as an attacker, Dhillon’s lawsuit claims. The RCMP claim in their filings the victim said she was attacked by three men.
Dhillon was convicted and lost his appeals. After serving prison time, Dhillon was deported to his native India in 2008.
Police took DNA samples at the time and found evidence relating to two men. But it wasn’t until after the conviction that the samples were compared to Dhillon. That was in 2006 – and the RCMP found Dhillon wasn’t a match.
It took four more years for one DNA sample to be matched to another man, Muhammed Ukhttar, the lawsuit claims.
The next year, authorities asked a special prosecutor to look into the case, who concluded that a miscarriage of justice had occurred. By 2012, police had matched the other DNA sample to a third man, named Sital Bhatti, a co-worker of Dhillon, the application says.
Re-testing also discovered a third man’s DNA profile, which didn’t match Bhatti, Ukhttar, or Dhillon.
“Mr. Dhillon’s DNA matches none of these profiles. It’s clear he is not the assailant,” Gratl said.
In 2014, the British Columbia Court of Appeal set aside Dhillon’s conviction. In June 2016, Bhatti pled guilty to the sexual assault and the charge against Ukhttar was stayed, the lawsuit claims.
In India, Dhillon wasn’t told of much of this. He regularly called his family in Canada, the lawsuit says, but eventually stopped trying when the phone number connected to another person. He married another woman and had a son.
When he learned his conviction had been overturned he applied to return to Canada with his new family.
“Everybody in my village knows about my conviction and I have suffered under this conviction for many years. When I got this news I was so happy,” Dhillon said in an affidavit.
But the minister refused the application.
“No mention is made in the letter, dated Sept. 24, 2015 of Mr. Dhillon’s wrongful conviction, wrongful deportation, or the miscarriage of justice,” Dhillon’s application claims.
Other responses from the Canadian government in the 19 months since the application has been refused have just been “form letters,” the application claims.
Dhillon’s lawyers blame the RCMP for “intermeddling” in communications with border guards and the ministry.
“The RCMP commenced a campaign of intermeddling that has the effect of prejudicing Mr. Dhillon’s repatriation… It is to be reasonably inferred that the effect of the RCMP’s communications has been to cultivate baseless suspicion and skepticism about Mr. Dhillon and his request for repatriation and other relief within government bodies and agencies,” the application reads.
Gratl said Dhillon has the connections to start work in Canada when he arrives.
“He’s a hardworking man. He was gainfully employed here. This particular aspect of the injustice must end immediately.”
The hardest part, said Dhillon, has been losing access to his daughter.
“I missed her birthday parties and Christmas,” he said. “For many years I have not seen my daughter.”