TORONTO — An immigrant doctor doing medical training in the United States can keep his Canadian citizenship even though he had spent far fewer days in Canada than normally required to become a citizen, Federal Court has ruled.
In rejecting an appeal from the federal government, Judge Susan Elliott found no reason to undo an earlier decision to allow Irfan Saddique to become a Canadian.
Court records show Saddique declared only 177 days of physical presence in Canada when he applied to become a citizen, well short of the required 1,095 days. Normally, that would have disqualified his application.
However, Saddique argued successfully before a citizenship judge in January that he had been forced to move to the U.S. for his medical residency so he could earn the credentials he needed to work as a doctor in Canada.
After examining the case, the citizenship judge found that Saddique had maintained his "centralized mode" of living in Canada and allowed him to become a Canadian.
The minister of citizenship and immigration appealed to Federal Court, arguing the judge's decision was unreasonable.
Among other things, the government faulted the judge for failing to analyze whether Saddique had already established residence in Canada before he left for the United States to continue his training, and said the evidence he provided about his ties to Canada was inadequate.
"As I understand the minister's position, it is akin to an adequacy-of-reasons argument and, despite protestations to the contrary, there are elements of asking the court to reweigh the evidence," Elliott said in her ruling. "By reason of their special knowledge and expertise, citizenship judges are owed a degree of deference in the application of the test they choose and the assessment of the evidence placed before them."
Saddique, who is from Pakistan, in turn argued the judge had considered his circumstances carefully, and correctly applied the legal test for residency.
He maintained he would have preferred to do his medical residency in Canada but had been unable to obtain a position, and therefore had no choice but to go to the United States.
He said he had as many as 50 relatives in Ontario, including a Canadian wife, maintained a home in Brampton, Ont., and planned to live permanently in Canada as soon as his medical-licensing process was done.
In siding with him, Elliott said the citizenship judge had taken into account several factors in determining Saddique's residency, including that he had tried for a medical position in Canada, had maintained strong family ties in this country, and returned whenever he could.
As such, the judge who saw and heard Saddique applied the facts to the law, using the expertise she had gained, Elliott said.
"I am satisfied that the decision is intelligible and transparent," Elliott ruled. "The outcome is supported by the evidence in the record. It is defensible on the facts and law."
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
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