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Thursday, April 25, 2024  
16 Shawwal 1445  

Pakistani student in Canada pays for engaging in climate activism

Zain Haq is facing deportation despite marrying a local national

A Pakistani student forgot his studies and engaged in climate activism in Canada. Now he is facing deportation from the country, despite marrying a local woman, CBC reported.

Zain Haq is a well-known climate activist in British Columbia and a co-founder of Save Old Growth.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has determined that he violated the study permit.

Haq was enrolled at Simon Fraser University (SFU) with history as his major. However, he was attracted to climate activism and joined BC Climate Alliance, a non-profit advocacy.

Haq was on academic probation and paused his studies, resuming them late by enrolling again, and the university has supported him in this process. 

But his activism warranted an investigation by CBSA.

“They were more aggressive than I think the circumstances justified at the time,” Haq said on CBSA.

Haq’s immigration lawyer, Randall Cohn, believed that CBSA officials initiated his investigation when Haq was arrested for violation of an injunction order linked to the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Cohn remarked that Haq has not yet been convicted regarding any charges. Haq was not found guilty, so the officials went after the study permit violation.

“It has a chilling effect. It’s not a chilling effect that’s a misapplication of the law, but it’s a chilling effect that’s the result of a discretionary application of the law,” the lawyer stated.

The CBSA would not disclose any details of the case, protected under the Privacy Act.

“Being engaged in lawful protest activities would not, in and of itself, render an individual inadmissible to Canada,” the CBSA spokesperson said in a statement.

Haq has pleaded guilty to five counts of mischief that Cohn and Haq believed to be the basis for making him inadmissible to Canada but were not the reason for the deportation order, with a deadline of April 22.

Haq arrived in Canada in 2019 on a study permit from Pakistan. CBSA started an investigation into his visa in 2022, and later it was decided that he violated his permit by failing to make sufficient progress in his studies, he said.

Haq and Cohn are hoping that CBSA will delay their deadline after Haq applies for a spousal sponsorship application for permanent residency.

Zain married a Canadian, Sophie Papp. The couple applied a year ago, hoping to be granted humanitarian and compassionate considerations. 

Zain Haq with his wife Sophia Papp
Zain Haq with his wife Sophia Papp

“The government has the opportunity to make a different choice. CBSA has discretion about whether or not they’re going to enforce this removal,” he said. 

Papp launched an online petition that has more than 2000 signatures to delay the deportation of Haq. 

Haq has prepared for his return to Pakistan, as he has booked a flight for April 21. 

“It feels like being separated from a place that I consider home,” he expressed.

Haq also expressed that his return to Pakistan can be uncomfortable; however, for his wife, it will be a huge cultural shock. 

He mentioned that he was engaged in civil disobedience and did not plan on a long-term stay. However, his marriage changed his plans for the future. 

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