Federal Court overturns US transgender woman’s asylum claim based on persecution

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The Federal Court of Canada has overturned a decision granting refugee status to an American transgender woman who successfully argued that the combination of gun culture and growing transphobia put her at risk of persecution in UNITED STATES.

In a decision handed down this weekJudge Christine Pallotta said the Refugee Appeal Division erred in concluding that Colorado authorities were unable to protect Daria Bloodworth from a roommate she accused of stalking her — and that her safety was not could be guaranteed elsewhere in the United States.

Bloodworth – who now lives in Whitehorse – says she plans to appeal the decision to the Federal Court of Appeal in hopes of reinstating the October 2022 decision confirming her status as a Convention refugee.

“It was clear from the start that this was going to be an uphill battle: win this case, or even stay in Canada a little longer and not get murdered in the United States,” Bloodworth told CBC.

“I was incredibly happy to have won at the (Refugee Appeal Division) level. And it also increased my confidence in my ability to win this case permanently, because I know from the evidence that I have submitted, that I have a solid file.”

“The general climate of anti-trans hatred”

Bloodworth arrived in Canada in 2019, seeking asylum amid allegations that she was the target of threats and violence from a former roommate, her former landlord and a debt collection agency. receivables.

According to court documents, Bloodworth complained to police after her ex-roommate at Colorado State University threatened her with a gun. He was initially charged with threats and Bloodworth was given a protection order.

But the charges against the roommate were dismissed a few months later and a judge refused to maintain the protection order. Bloodworth claimed the ex-roommate continued to stalk her and police failed to respond to her calls for action.

The 36-year-old’s initial application was unsuccessful, but in 2022, Dilani Mohan, a member of the Refugee Appeal Division, concluded that Bloodworth had a legitimate fear of persecution.

Daria Bloodworth at the Vancouver airport on her way to Federal Court hearings.
American Daria Bloodworth plans to appeal a Federal Court decision quashing her refugee claim due to her fear of persecution as a transgender woman. (Daria Bloodworth)

Although Mohan said the police’s initial response seemed reasonable, she criticized the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) – where applications are first heard – for not considering that Bloodworth had denied police protection for his subsequent complaints.

Mohan also studied a patchwork of US state laws regarding the right to equal treatment before concluding that offshoring to the US was not an option.

She noted high rates of “discrimination and violence” in Maine, New Jersey, Illinois and Nevada and said that while New York City might be an option, the move would push Bloodworth into poverty – which constitutes a risk factor for violence in the United States itself. .

“The DPR failed to consider how Colorado’s gun laws, combined with the general climate of anti-trans hatred growing in the United States, could make her perpetually vulnerable and put her life in danger,” Mohan wrote.

“I further find that she has no possibility (of internal flight) in the United States because relocation for a person with her profile, in her situation, would be unreasonable.”

“Honestly, I feel like this is my home.”

Bloodworth, who joked that she has become something of a “prison lawyer,” has represented herself at every level of the proceedings thus far. Mohan praised her for doing “an impressive job in gathering evidence to support her claims.”

Vancouver immigration lawyer Zool Suleman – who is not involved in the case – said Bloodworth’s narrow victory at the Refugee Appeal Division was remarkable.

“It is unusual for cases from the United States to be approved as refugee cases in Canada. Generally speaking, the United States is not considered a refugee-producing country,” he told the CBC.

“In this specific case, the Federal Court clearly felt that more thought needed to be given to the types of protections available to the claimant. And we will have to keep an eye on this to see whether this develops into an area of ​​increasing persecution claims. UNITED STATES.

Mohan stressed that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration did not intervene “in any way” in the proceedings of the Refugee Appeal Division.

But this changed with the granting of refugee status.

The minister argued in federal court that Mohan erred by “imposing a perfect state protection standard” and failing to identify “any gaps in Colorado’s laws, which include state-level laws.” the State to protect transgender people.

Pallotta agreed, finding that Mohan failed to assess whether Bloodworth had “demonstrated with clear and convincing evidence that she had exhausted reasonably available avenues of action, without success.”

The Federal Court ruling also says the Appellate Division failed to determine that domestic flight was impossible – saying it took “more than evidence demonstrating hardship and disadvantage” to remove the city from New York from the list.

Bloodworth — who is currently studying biological sciences at Yukon University — said she hopes to stay in Canada, either by convincing the Federal Court of Appeal to overturn Pallota’s decision or by arguing for refugee status before a new Refugee Appeal Division tribunal.

“Honestly, I feel like this is my home. I’m not going to say Canada is perfect, but at least since I moved here I haven’t been threatened with a gun or with a knife. I haven’t been discriminated against because I’m transgender,” she said.

“I feel like I could actually live here – if I was allowed to live here.”

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