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Finally, Canada expels Indian pizza-man

It is all over for Harjit Singh. He will be put on the plane back to India on February 2.
PTI | By Gurmukh Singh, Vancouver
UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2005 08:07 PM IST

It is all over for Toronto pizza-man Harjit Singh. He will be put on the plane back to India on February 2.

The man, who created a political storm for Prime Minister Paul Martin by toppling his immigration minister Judy Sgro with allegations that she had promised him immigration status for free pizzas and workers for her June poll campaign, was read the expulsion order today.

This was decided after a detention review of his case in Toronto.

Singh was arrested three weeks ago after he failed to show up on December 6 as part of his daily appearance before immigration authorities, made mandatory after his immigration application was rejected on November 28. 

Singh had come to Canada in 1988 on a visitor's visa with his wife and later sought refugee status, falsely claiming that he faced torture in India because of his links with terrorists.

He managed to stay on in this country for 17 years by exploiting loopholes in the immigration system. His application for permanent status was denied five times!

He was to leave for India today but his earlier hearing for Wednesday was adjourned by federal court on the request of the justice ministry, which sought more time to go through his complex case.

In today's hearing on his December 6 'absence' from reporting to the authorities, Singh appeared by video from his detention centre as immigration officials testified whether he reported on that day.

In her testimony, enforcement assistant Elaine McPherson-Porter said that on December 6 a man approached her at the counter and gave a log sheet to sign as proof of having reported at the immigration reporting centre.

She said she signed the sheet and gave it back to the person. But when she checked the name on her lists, she said, she found Singh's name was 'highlighted'. Which meant he had to meet a removals officer for interview on that day.

However, when she looked at the man standing in front of her, she said, she found he was not Singh.

The person who impersonated for Singh on December 6 was later identified from immigration records as Singh's son, Surinder Pal Singh, who had been jailed in the $1 million credit-card scam.

When it was proved that Singh had not personally come to the reporting centre on December 6, he was arrested even though Singh and his friend, who stood $30,000 surety for him, had filed sworn affidavits to say that Singh had reported on December 6.

At today's hearing when Singh's lawyer called his detention 'punitive' and 'improper' and sought his release from the detention centre, government lawyer Stephanie Echlin said 'there is a definite end to that detention' with his removal date set for February 2.

His detention hearing takes place on Friday.

Echlin said the authorities had a videotape of December 6 from the reporting centre and it was being reviewed for 'privacy concerns'.

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