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Canadian Immigration Turns its Back on Afghan Translator

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AFGHANISTAN
AP File

Last July, the Toronto Star's Paul Watson reported from Kandahar that an Afghan translator who had worked courageously and dangerously for Canadian troops, was denied entry to Canada.

As a result of Watson's story (he's an excellent reporter), Canadian Immigration reviewed the case of Sayed Sharifi -- and has again rejected him as an immigrant to Canada.

Apparently, on review, they found Sharifi's story inconsistent with his account of the risks endured, exaggerated and unlikely. He "was therefore deemed not to be credible." Again.

To find this young man not credible verges on the incredible.

To anyone with even marginal understanding of Afghanistan today, and the Taliban "enemy" that oppose our soldiers, this bureaucratic reaction is what isn't credible.

Arguably, the most dangerous job for an Afghan since allied troops ousted the Taliban regime, is to work for foreign soldiers -- especially translators. Many are hunted down and disappear.

That's what happens in that part of the world.

Canadian officers who used Sharifi have been lavish in praise of his work. Educated, with multi-linguistic skills, at age 23, Sharifi was brave, trustworthy and immensely useful. He didn't play it safe and was committed to helping the Canadians.

There's got to be a better reason to reject him coming to Canada to build a new life, than a bureaucratic, off-the-cuff decision that somehow he isn't deserving or credible. Surely, Sharifi's "credibility" has been repeatedly established by the soldiers he'd worked for an with over the past three years.

Canada has a duty to make it easier for Afghan translators and such to enter Canada. Otherwise we are probably sentencing them to death. Remember, the Taliban specialize in revenge.

One person in Ottawa who knows better than anyone the foibles and cultural mores of Afghanistan is Chris Alexander, former ambassador to that country and now MP for Ajax-Pickering, and Parliamentary Secretary to Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

Now that Canada's combat role in Afghanistan has ended and is evolving into a training and reconstruction mission, it is tempting for some to turn their back on what went before. That's both foolish and wrong. Ask Chris Alexander.

The war is not over, it has just moved to a new phase.

It would be encouraging, even reassuring, if DND were to get involved in Sayed Sharifi's case, and other cases like his. To all accounts he has the makings of a valuable citizen, who has already helped the country more than most who were born here have.

We've also benefitted by Afghan-Canadians who have returned to Afghanistan to work as translators -- but they are already Canadians, and can come home. They, too, risk their lives.

Heaven knows we have plenty of people entering Canada who have no right to be here, but who finagle the system to stay. To lower the boom on someone like Sharifi is a bit like the guy who lost his wallet on a dark stretch of street, but searches under the streetlight because it's easier to see there.

Sharifi is no threat to Canada, and is one of the rare ones who has proved his courage and dedication, and deserves our gratitude. Paul Watson sees it. So should we all.

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