Behind the Scenes in the Hearing Room: Risk and Confidentiality

By Patrick Rocca | July 7, 2014

Toronto immigration lawyer Karen Kwan Anderson: The following case is an example of an instance where, as a lawyer, you’re sometimes faced with a dangerous situation:

A gang associate wounded in a January restaurant shooting was ordered deported from Canada Wednesday because of his criminal history.

Nebojsa (Nick) Kljajic, 37, admitted through his lawyer Dennis McCrea that he was ineligible to remain in Canada because of his previous convictions for conspiracy and trafficking marijuana.

Immigration and Refugee Board member Laura Ko ruled that Kljajic, who came to Canada from Croatia, is “inadmissible on grounds of organized criminality.”

“I am issuing a deportation order against you. A deportation order means you would lose your permanent residence status when it comes into force,” Ko said. “It means that if it is enforceable, you would be required to leave Canada and you would not be allowed to return at any time unless you first receive written authorization to do so.”

She told Kljajic that because he has refugee status, the government would be in touch about whether it intends to kick him out of Canada.

As an immigration lawyer, it isn’t every day that you represent someone who is the target of criminals. But it does happen. The government is aware of such situations, and does its best to keep legal personnel, clients, and the public as safe as possible.

As counsel, normally I just walk in without going through any search. I simply show my credentials to the Registrar and wait for my client’s case to be called. Not this time.

The other day I was at the Immigration Division in Rexdale. The moment I got there, I could tell that enhanced security measures were in effect.
As counsel, normally I just walk in without going through any search. I simply show my credentials to the Registrar and wait for my client’s case to be called. Not today.
This time, I was met by three security personnel who put me through an airport-style screening. They searched my bag and belongings, and used a wand to search for metal objects. This is similar to what happens when I go to visit a client in jail.
security camera
Heightened security at the Refugee Board (Pic: Free images)
When I walked to the hearing room, I saw two Toronto police officers. Out in the parking lot, there was another police officer in a cruiser. One of the exits was padlocked, and another exit was blocked by a security vehicle.
Obviously, something was up. There was a case being heard – not mine – that required high security.
While a person in detention likely poses no threat, potential witnesses, bondspersons, family, friends, and members of the public may be considered security risks in the reception and hearing rooms. Though cameras are allowed, I don’t know if there’s audio available or not. I err on the side of the walls having ears.
I always treat the hearing room and reception area as risky, not necessarily for physical safety, but for confidentiality. During recesses while in the hearing room, I talk to clients about mundane topics such as the weather and uncontroversial current events. However, if clients wish to speak with me about anything substantial, I ask that we go outside the room and even outside the building to hold a private and confidential discussion.
The crux of the solicitor-client relationship is the protection of private and confidential information in order to foster open discussion and communication. While the security staff may help to keep us physically safe, it’s counsel’s job to make sure things stay confidential.

Karen Kwan Anderson is an immigration lawyer with Pace Immigration, an immigration law firm in Toronto, Canada.