Canadian Immigration Officials Block Citizenship Grant for Russian Immigrant Because She Was Convicted of the “Crime” of Speaking Out Against Russia’s War of Aggression Against Ukraine

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Maria Kartasheva, a Russian migrant in Canada may be denied citizenship and potentially be deported because she was convicted of a “crime” back in Russia. What was her heinous offense? She wrote blog posts condemning Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and war crimes committed by Russian troops there:

Federal officials are blocking a pro-democracy activist from Canadian citizenship because a Russian court convicted her for blog posts opposing Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Maria Kartasheva is appealing the decision by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and says she fears being deported to a Russian prison.

Kartasheva left Russia in 2019 because of rising authoritarianism, and is now a tech worker in Ottawa who co-founded a grassroots activist group for democracy in Russia….

Kartasheva, 30, learned via her family that in late 2022 she was charged by Russian authorities with a wartime offence of disseminating “deliberately false information” about Russia forces. The charges related to two blog posts she wrote while living in Canada.

Kartasheva notified Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada about the charges and uploaded translated court documents last May. Days later the department gave her an invitation to her citizenship ceremony.

On June 7, 2023, she logged into the ceremony alongside her husband. In the pre-interview that takes place before someone is allowed into the ceremony room, they were asked if anyone had been criminally charged, as part of a list of standard questions.

When she explained what had happened, an official pulled her out of the ceremony, though her husband went ahead and was given his citizenship…..

Last month, the department sent her a letter, saying that her conviction in Russia aligns with a Criminal Code offence in Canada relating to false information.

Kartasheva’s blog posts condemning the invasion of Ukraine and atrocities committed by Russian forces ran afoul of new draconian Russian laws criminalizing dissent on the war. A Russian court convicted her in absentia, and sentenced her to an eight-year prison sentence. Ironically, Elena Lenskaya—the judge who sentenced Kartasheva—is under sanctions by Canada, for her role in perpetrating human rights violations. Yet Canadian immigration authorities are relying on her decision in this case as a reason to deny citizenship.

There is much stupidity and downright evil in US immigration law and policy. But if Canadian authorities don’t reverse this decision, it would be up there with some of the worst of ours.

If anything, Kartasheva’s conviction for speaking out against the war should help her cause, not hurt it. Like the US, Canada has a law granting refugee or asylum status to people who have a “well-founded fear of persecution” for their political views. If anyone has such a “well-founded fear,” it’s a person who faces a lengthy prison sentence for speaking out against her government’s war of aggression and atrocities.

Last year, Canada granted refugee status to a young Russian fleeing conscription into Putin’s war. Kartasheva’s case is at least equally worthy. And the idea that her conviction is a crime meriting denial of citizenship in a liberal democratic society is absurd.

Since the start of the conflict, I have been making the case that Western nations should open their doors to Russians fleeing Putin’s regime, on both moral and strategic grounds. For some of my writings on this topic, see here, here, here, and here. But even those unwilling to go as far in this direction as I advocate should at least be open to accepting Russians who face persecution and imprisonment for speaking out against the war.

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