Pubdate: Wed, 24 Jul 2002
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Page: A7
Copyright: 2002, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Kim Lunman
Note: With a report from Colin Freeze


OTTAWA -- Pot-smoking political asylum seekers from the United States are 
unlikely to receive refugee status in Canada, immigration experts said 

At least three Americans living in British Columbia are arguing that they 
have been persecuted in their homeland because of their attempts to grow, 
cultivate, or use marijuana for medical purposes.

But, despite a long history of Canada accepting U.S. fugitives, such as 
British loyalists and draft dodgers, today's marijuana fugitives will have 
a tough time finding a welcome north of the border.

As many as 90 Americans claim asylum in Canada each year, among them are a 
number who are fleeing prosecution rather than persecution.

But no U.S. citizen has ever been granted refugee status in Canada -- the 
two cases that were initially successful were overturned on appeal -- and 
the cannabis cases are unlikely to make a breakthrough, said Raoul 
Boulakia, president of the Refugee Lawyers' Association of Ontario.

"I would be really surprised," he said. "The refugee board members aren't 
likely to be that radical. No one from the U.S. has ever been successful in 

The marijuana users seeking refugee status in Canada are three 
Californians, Steve Kubby, Ken Hayes and Renee Boje. They were embroiled in 
high-profile court cases in the U.S. and have made persecution allegations 
as a result. All three are fighting extradition orders from the U.S. to be 
tried on drug charges.

There have been reports that hundreds of U.S. citizens have moved to Canada 
in recent months, after U.S. Attorney-General John Ashcroft ordered law 
enforcement officials to clamp down on medicinal marijuana clubs.

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said 
she doubts the persecution claims will be successful.
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