Jose Figueroa, El Salvadoran refugee who sought sanctuary in Langley church, fights to clear his name
Sanctuary-seeker Jose Figueroa speaks during a press conference in front of the Fraser Building, Faculty of Law, at the University of Victoria in Victoria B.C., Monday, November 28, 2016 prior to a federal court hearing examining a CBSA decision labelling him a terrorist. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Jose Figueroa will get his day in court. Again.
The native El Salvadoran who has lived in B.C. for 20 years, has a date with the Federal Court of appeal on Thursday morning in Vancouver over a motion that was dismissed by a Federal Court last year in which Figueroa wants the federal government to issue him a certificate that would basically declare him innocent.
"It's very important to me," he said over the phone from Victoria. "The issuance of this certificate would certainly mean a big step to clearing my name.
"A certificate for me has a lot of significance because it would prove allegations against me were not founded."
Figueroa applied in 2014 to the Minister of Foreign Affairs for a certificate stating he is not "listed" as a person with ties to individuals or organizations deemed to be terrorists, but he has neither received one nor had his application rejected for two and half years.
"My impression is the Canadian government doesn't want to set a precedent," he said.
Figueroa is a permanent resident of Canada, but has not yet applied for citizenship.
Now a law student at the University of Victoria, he lived in Langley for 13 years before moving into the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in 2013 to avoid deportation.
He had applied for refugee status in 1997, and acknowledged his ties to Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, a leftist guerrilla group which fought against the military junta that ran El Salvador before a peace accord in 1992.
The FMNLF became one of two major political parties in democratic El Salvador, but in 2010 Canadian immigration officials said it was a terrorist group. Figueroa, who by this time was married with three children, was ruled inadmissible and told to leave Canada.
When an arrest warrant was issued by the Canada Border Services Agency in October, 2013, he sought sanctuary in the church, where he slept in a room that measured about two by three metres.
He stayed there until then-Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum said there were compassionate and humanitarian considerations and granted Figueroa a rare deportation exemption.
Figueroa moved out of the church on Dec. 23, 2015, on his birthday and in time for Christmas with his family.