OTTAWA — A U.S. soldier convicted of leaking thousands of classified documents poses no security threat to Canada and ought to be allowed into the country, advocates said Monday.
Chelsea Manning tried to enter Canada last month to travel to Montreal and Vancouver, but was turned away at the Canada-U.S. land border when officials determined her crimes were akin to a violation of Canadian treason laws and made her inadmissible.
Her case was referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board for a hearing, but advocates want Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen to step in, using his authority under immigration and refugee law to waive the original decision.
More than forty organizations and individuals wrote to the minister late last week, including academics, civil liberties organizations, Canada's association of Quakers and activists Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, among others.
"Ms. Manning's case is an exceptional one. It's exactly the kind of one where the minister should be exercising his direction," said Lex Gill, a technology law researcher and advocate.
"There are very strong public interest reasons to allow Ms. Manning to come into Canada and there is no public safety risk in allowing her to do so."
A spokesman for the minister said Hussen had no comment.
"As this matter has been put before the courts it would be inappropriate to comment on this matter," Hursh Jawal said in an email.
No hearing date has been set yet for Manning's case before the immigration appeals division.
There's a lengthy backlog before that section of the Immigration and Refugee Board; as of the end of September, there were more than 10,000 cases waiting for a decision and hundreds of new ones are filed each month.
The 29-year-old transgender woman was known as Bradley Manning when she was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison after turning over hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks that exposed previously withheld details of the U.S. military effort in Iraq and Afghanistan.
She is appealing her conviction and technically remains a member of the U.S. military while those court proceedings are underway.
But she was released from military prison in May after serving seven years; in his last days in office, President Barack Obama commuted the rest of her sentence.
Shortly before she was turned away from Canada, Harvard University reversed its decision to name her a fellow after the nomination caused an uproar.
Both Canadian academics and civil rights groups said in their letters they'd welcome the chance to have Manning speak at their institutions, not just about the material she released but on her work as an advocate in her own right for government transparency and LGBT rights.
"Letting Chelsea enter Canada would affirm Canada’s values of dialogue, freedom of expression, and human rights," wrote Christopher Parsons from the University of Toronto.
"More than that, letting Chelsea in is simply the right thing to do."
Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press