Canada rejects refugee protection bid by S'porean exempted from NS

Servicemen from the Singapore Armed Forces participating in a military exercise on Pulau Sudong on Aug 2, 2011, which was part of a two-week-long drill to test the battle-readiness of Singapore’s air force, navy and army units.
Servicemen from the Singapore Armed Forces participating in a military exercise on Pulau Sudong on Aug 2, 2011, which was part of a two-week-long drill to test the battle-readiness of Singapore’s air force, navy and army units. PHOTO: ST FILE

A Canadian judge has turned down a Singaporean's bid for refugee protection in Vancouver, finding his claims of alleged potential persecution in Singapore to be unfounded.

Jedidiah Ian Tan, 23, who was exempted from national service on medical grounds after serving two months, had claimed the exemption was revocable and that he had no redress in Singapore except military justice.

"A refugee claimant must adduce clear and convincing evidence that is both relevant and reliable, and sufficient to convince the tribunal that state protection is inadequate," said Justice Cecily Y. Strickland in decision grounds last week.

The Canadian Federal Court judge noted that the Singapore authorities had "acted reasonably and expeditiously" in exempting Mr Tan from national service.

" The documentary evidence indicated that the safety of conscripts is taken seriously and failures to do so often receive considerable public scrutiny," she said.

"Additionally, evidence concerning similarly situated persons demonstrated that Singapore has measures in place to deal with physical and mental incapacity of national service members and their mistreatment by others in the military."

Mr Tan had applied to the court in British Columbia for a judicial review of the decision last year by the Refugee Appeals Division (RAD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, which had rejected his case for protection as a refugee.

Entering Canada in January last year, he had first successfully applied in May last year to the country's Refugee Protection Division (RPD) to qualify as a refugee in need of protection. He claimed that he faced persecution in Singapore as a male who was granted medical exemption from military service.

But that decision was quashed on appeal by the RAD, which led to the present court application.

The RAD was not convinced that "Singapore would not be reasonably forthcoming with adequate state protection should (Mr Tan) seek it".

He was medically diagnosed as suffering from spinal curve problems. He suffered back pains, had difficulty walking and could not sit down for long periods of time.

But he was found fit for service and reported for training in December 2013.

He claimed the training was difficult and caused him to suffer psychologically and physically. After a series of medical consultations, he was notified on May 23, 2014, that he had been exempted from service.

He claimed he was exempted on psychological grounds. But subsequent to his exemption, Mr Tan claimed that he and his father received phone calls and text messages from several SAF officers of his former platoon threatening to have him returned to continue military training.

Mr Tan also claimed he feared his exemption would be revoked and he would face job discrimination as he is required to disclose his military history when applying for jobs here.

The RAD, in rejecting Mr Tan's claim, found that as he is no longer a serviceman because of the exemption, he was entitled to redress from the civilian authorities should the military authorities consider revoking his exemption.

Documentary evidence also showed that Singapore "had effective mechanisms in place to address abuse and corruption in the police and armed forces," noted Justice Strickland.

She ruled that there was no procedural unfairness on the part of the RAD just because it viewed some of the same evidence differently from the RPD. The RAD had pointed to potential avenues of protection in Singapore against job discrimination and had not been unreasonable, she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2016, with the headline 'Canada rejects refugee protection bid by S'porean exempted from NS'. Print Edition | Subscribe