By TOM GODFREY
An eight-year-old boy who claims he was beaten and tormented in his native St. Lucia because his mother is a lesbian may be accepted in Canada as a refugee.
The child, who lives in Toronto, cannot be identified because he is a minor, according to a Federal Court of Canada decision that was released last week.
The boy was initially turned down with his mom as refugee claimants by an Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), but his case was appealed to the Federal Court, which granted him another hearing in the landmark ruling.
The child will be among one of the younger claimants to be granted refugee status in Canada if accepted.
The Court heard the child testified before the Board that he was verbally and physically assaulted in St. Lucia because his mother is a lesbian, which is illegal in the eastern Caribbean country.
The child’s claim was tossed out by the Board, whose members did not believe his mother is a lesbian, according to the three-page ruling.
Federal Court Judge James O’Reilly said the child did not receive a proper hearing.
O’Reilly in his decision said the Board “erred in its treatment” of the boy’s testimony and failed to treat his claim independently from that of his mother.
His mother was refused refugee status since the Board found she lacked credibility.
O’Reilly ordered a judicial review and another hearing of the case by a new panel. His decision said the child testified that he suffers from nightmares after witnessing domestic violence against his mother and being taunted daily at school due to her sexuality.
“Based on his age and his lack of understanding of the proceedings, the Board did not give his evidence much weight,” O’Reilly wrote. “The Board also discounted the significance of a letter, which described beatings he had received at school.”
O’Reilly said the child’s testimony was discounted because the Board doubted his mother’s credibility.
“The Board reasoned that, if his mother is not a lesbian (or bisexual), then he could not be subjected to any mistreatment arising from his mother’s sexual orientation,” his decision said.
O’Reilly wrote the mother may be “perceived to be a lesbian (or bisexual) and that, in an overtly homophobic country such as St. Lucia, he may suffer adverse consequences as a result.
“There was some evidence supporting that possibility which, in my view, the Board dismissed without adequate explanation,” he wrote.
The decision said the Board failed to “consider the value of the boy’s evidence independently from that of his mother”.
The child is expected to be granted protection in Canada. No date has been set for a new hearing.
The IRB provides a child-friendly environment for young claimants at its hearings.
The boy, if allowed to stay, will at some point be able to sponsor his mother so she can remain in Canada.
Homosexuality is a crime in St. Lucia and offenders can face imprisonment. The island is not recommended as a gay-friendly destination on Internet travel sites.
The family’s Toronto lawyer was not available for comment.