Friday, May 22, 2020

Hassan Ahmad

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has found that the Province  discriminated against refugees by not allowing experienced drivers from war-torn countries exemptions to the one-year waiting period before their final driving tests — an option available to other newcomers in Ontario as well as refugees in other provinces.

“Refugees will be on an equal footing with anybody else when they come to Ontario – with respect to obtaining a full driver’s licence in a timely manner,” says Hassan Ahmad the lawyer for Shyesh al-Turki, a refugee from Syria and the applicant in the case.

Read the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) press release

Hassan is also a doctoral candidate (SJD) at the Faculty of Law. Ahmad says the tribunal’s decision in Mr. Al-Turki’s complaintis an important step forward in Ontario’s human rights laws.

"Before this decision, the government was arbitrarily requiring newcomers from developing countries to fulfill additional requirements to obtain a full license,” he says.

Ahmad's doctoral thesis, supervised by Professor Mohammad Fadel, examines the legal and political dynamics informing how powerful corporations behave in the developing world and the ways in which the law functions when multinational corporations commit human rights and environmental violations abroad. He draws upon the work of comparative law scholars as well as legal historians and proponents of what is known as Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL). Professor Karen Knop is also a member of his doctoral committee.

Prior to commencing his doctoral research, Ahmad was a civil litigator appearing before trial and appeal courts as well as administrative tribunals. In addition, he worked at the International Criminal Court where his research contributed to the court's first decision on command responsibility and also served as a judicial extern for Judge Marsha S. Berzon of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Alongside his human rights advocacy, he has supervised law students in applications to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

"I was only as good as my team in this case, which was composed of students and research associates from the IHRP, lawyers from Borden Ladner Gervais and the Ontario Human Rights Commission, refugee advocates, and professors with a specialty in refugee-related issues.

Ahmad asks us to consider what refugees have already sacrificed by coming to Canada.

“Effectively telling refugees their foreign driving experience is seen as lesser than people from other countries is simply wrong. They come to Ontario wanting to contribute to our society. The government's discriminatory policy not only inhibited them from that contribution, it made it nearly impossible for them to support their families with a respectable wage."

Ahmad says he looks forward to the government amending its discriminatory policy after the pandemic is over.