Judge prevents deportation of convicted criminal because of wrong pronoun usage
Judge prevents deportation of convicted criminal because of wrong pronoun usage

A judge has stalled the deportation of a U.K. man accused of “serious criminality” because of the wrong pronouns used in a document. 

One day before being scheduled to be deported back to the UK over a conviction of assault causing bodily harm, Colin James Ewen was allowed to extend his stay in Canada by a judge in a surprise decision. 

Justice Richard Bell ruled that the government had referred to Ewen using the gender-neutral pronouns “they/them” instead of “he/him” which potentially violated his rights. 

“One of my questions is this: is gender identification a protected right under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Bell. 

“If one reads the social science literature on this whole issue of gender identity, some authors go so far as to call this, this misnaming of identity as being a violence committed towards somebody, which is quite shocking to me, but that’s what some of the social scientists say.” 

After questioning Ewen, he stated that the use of the wrong pronouns “kind of” affected his sense of dignity. 

Justice Bell then adjourned the court hearing and asked for representations regarding whether the use of wrong pronouns violated Ewen’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms rights by both parties. 

Ewen will be allowed to remain in Canada until the issue is resolved. 

According to immigration lawyer Stéphane Handfield, he has never seen a case where a judge intervened to bring up a legal argument that neither party raised beforehand. 

“In 31 years of practice, I have never been confronted with a situation where the judge, during a hearing, brought up an argument that neither of the parties had raised in their memorandums,” Handfield told the National Post. 

Government lawyers have since appealed Justice Bell’s ruling saying that the issue was irrelevant to the matter at hand. 

Crown lawyers said that the Federal Court “exceeded its jurisdiction by raising a new Charter issue (and it) does not arise from, and is unrelated to, the matters which were under review.” 

“Any subsequent attempt to remove (Ewen) will require a new removal process and a new date for removal, which would be subject to a fresh application for judicial review and stay motion, should (Ewen) so decide,” they wrote.

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