Update: Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board has denied Kyle Lydell Canty's claim for refugee status. A decision issued by the board late Friday concluded that Canty's claim "has not established that he faces a reasonable chance of persecution because of his race." Returning to the United States, the board found, "would not subject him personally to a risk to his life or to a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment." "I find that the claimant is not a Convention refugee in that he does not have a well-founded fear of persecution for a Convention ground in the United States of America," board member Ron Yamauchi wrote. Canty told Refinery29 via email that the outcome "was expected from the beginning." "The negative decision was not based upon refugee law, in fact, this is all politics," he wrote. He added that that he feels he is the "mastermind" and "winner in this situation." "Canada and The United States are both being exposed," he wrote.
This story was originally published on October 28, 2015.
For months, stories of refugee families risking everything to flee conflict and violence in their home countries have dominated the headlines. Their journeys are dangerous and sometimes deadly, as in the case of the family of Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian toddler who drowned as his family sought to make it to Canada. But one man seeking asylum in that same nation is now citing a tragic trend that's all too familiar for those in the United States: cases of police brutality against Black Americans.
Kyle Lydell Canty appeared in front of Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board last week to ask for refugee status, according to CBC News. The 30-year-old reportedly cited the deaths of Michael Brown, the unarmed teen fatally shot by police in Ferguson, MO, last year, and Eric Garner, who died after he was placed in a chokehold by a New York City police officer, to argue that his life was in danger back in the United States. "I'm in fear of my life because I'm Black," Canty told the board, according to the CBC. "This is a well-founded fear." Canty, who visited Canada for the first time in September, said he has been the victim of police harassment in all six states he has lived in across the United States. Reached by phone and email, Canty declined to answer questions from Refinery29. He disputed the CBC's report that he had admitted that there are charges outstanding against him in the United States, saying he has been the victim of false arrest, but he chose not to elaborate. Melissa Anderson, an IRB spokesperson, confirmed to Refinery29 that Canty's case had been heard by the independent board. While appeals for refugee status are typically confidential, Canty, who represented himself, requested and was granted a public proceeding that was open to the media, she said. That means a decision on his case, which typically is rendered within six weeks, could be publicly released as well. Canada's IRB hears claims from people seeking protection based on parameters outlined under several United Nations conventions, including the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees. That document defines a refugee as someone with a "well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country." It is very rare for Canada to grant refugee status to an American; just one appeal from the U.S. was accepted in 2014, according to IRB statistics, which can include children born in the U.S. to parents seeking refugee status based on persecution fears in a different country of origin. Because the board does not keep statistics on the substance of the claims it hears, Anderson said she could not say whether an argument like the one Canty presented has ever been heard before. “Every case is unique and every story is unique and it's decided on its own merits and the evidence that’s produced," she said.