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 Whistleblowers Need Protection




On October 4, 1989, Canadian Airlines international flight #043 touched down at Edmonton International Airport. The long line up to the passport control area was moving slowly as usual and weary passengers shuffled along with their hand luggage, looking over the heads in front of them to see how much longer they had to wait.

At the end of the line, a tall, dark-haired man was supporting a visibly pregnant woman. She looked pale and exhausted; she was staring at the crowd ahead with eyes anxious and tense. From time to time, she would ask a question of her partner, who would answer in a low voice with a gentle pat on her shoulder. The man approached the immigration officer first, pulling her tenderly behind by the hand.

"We are refugees. We are asking for political asylum," Paszkowski said to the officer. "Political refugees," he repeated, pointing at the woman and himself.

The passport control officer, whose shift would soon end, swore softly under his breath. These two meant nothing but trouble for him; lengthy interviews and reports. He was probably looking forward to a quiet evening watching the ball game and sipping a beer. Now those pleasures would have to wait. He sighed and went to get an immigration officer. "Wait here, I'll be back in a minute," he said.

Silently, the couple watched him cross the hall to the Airport Immigration Office. The man nervously fidgeted with a strap on his hand luggage, while the woman's eyes suddenly filled with tears which she quickly brushed away with a finger.

The passport officer returned with two immigration officers. Paszkowski repeated his request to the newcomers, "We're asking for political asylum."

They were asked to follow the officers into an examination room where the questions began. "Home? Country of origin? Motivation for seeking asylum?" The officials left the room after taking down the personal data of the two refugees. One of them punched the material into the computer and when further data came up, printed out a page. They returned to the room where the couple waited patiently.

"Hi, Mr. Fisher," one of them said, addressing the man. "Long time no see."

"My name is not Fisher, but Paszkowski. Ryszard Paszkowski," I said. The officer smiled knowingly.

The two officials kept going back and forth between the room where we were held and the one next door. Each time they came back, they seemed to be more agitated and nervous looking. I feel sure they called Ottawa about us and were probably told to get rid of us by forcing us to get on a flight back to Europe. The poor guys were ill-at-ease and not sure how to execute their orders. They knew perfectly well that the moment we applied for political asylum and gave our reasons for asking, they couldn't legally deport us without a review of our applications and a hearing.

When asked for our passports and plane tickets, I told them I had destroyed them on the plane and they didn't believe it. Our luggage was searched and we were both checked. Nothing was found.

One of them, Greg Doherty, continued making calls requesting further instructions. After a few trips to the room next door, he came back looking very serious and threatened to use force to get us on a plane leaving shortly for Europe. I laughed in his face. Upset, he rushed out of the room again and when he returned he asked more calmly and almost politely that we leave Canada on the next flight for Europe at the expense of Canada's taxpayers, of course. When we landed there, we could then apply through the Canadian Embassy for a visa.

"The Canadian officials tricked me once," I laughed. "It's not going to happen again. We're not leaving Canada until our asylum hearing."

Doherty shuffled out once again, returning shortly and beginning the official questioning. He wrote everything down. My English proved to be inadequate to understand some of the more complicated terms; nor was I able to explain in English fully and clearly what I wanted to say. They requested an interpreter - an airport employee - whose English was almost as bad as mine.

After the interrogation was over, it was Ela's turn. I was afraid the interpreter would really mix things up for her, which might be to her disadvantage, but couldn't help much because of my own limitations then with the language. By the time they finished with Ela, it was 2:00 a.m. She was so tired that she put her head on my shoulder and fell asleep. Fatigue from the long trip and our escape from Germany combined with her pregnancy took over.

The immigration officers appeared to be waiting for something. At 3:00 a.m., three RCMP members appeared. The female one took Ela to a motel and stayed in the room with her all night.

The two remaining told me to follow them. I was not handcuffed and walked quietly behind one of them, who didn't look back even once to be sure I was following. The second seemed to lag far behind us. We took the elevator to an upper level and walked through to the parking lot.

The lead RCMP constable kept walking briskly, not checking at all to see if I followed, while the other had disappeared from sight entirely.

When we got to the car his radio sounded, "Where is Paszkowski?" the voice asked.

"He's with me by the car," he answered.

"Did he move?"

"No, he didn't."

"Shit!" the voice seemed upset. "I'll be right there."

I got into the car and he shut the door. Soon the second RCMP member showed up and we drove away. The whole thing seemed rather clear. They were disappointed that I hadn't attempted to run away. They were hoping that I'd try to bolt - that's why they hadn't put the handcuffs on me. If I had tried to escape, they presumably might have shot me. All in the line of duty, of course, for "attempting to escape custody" and the whole problem my arrival presented would be gone. My return to Canada would embarrass quite a few people in high places, including some politicians in Ottawa. They would be only too happy to hear I'd had an `accident'. "I won't give you the satisfaction, you bastards," I thought in my then exhausted state of mind.

They drove me to the RCMP office and detention centre in Leduc near Edmonton. I was searched carefully and they took away everything I had in my pockets and locked me in a cell. By then, I was so tired that I immediately fell asleep.

Immigration officer Leroux filed his report on October 4, 1989 to a supervisor, who in turn advised the Immigration office in Edmonton that "the subject arrived at this port on the 4th of Oct. `89 off flight 043 Canadian seeking admission to Canada as an immigrant. The immigration officer conducting the examination is of the opinion that it would be contrary to the Immigration Act or Regulations to grant admission to the above subject."

A communication regarding the arrival of the couple went to Immigration headquarters in Ottawa/Hull; the next day, October 5th, Chief of European operations, Gaudet, sent a classified memo to the Canadian Embassy in Bonn advising on the arrival of Paszkowski and Ela and asking for confirmation on a top priority basis of the status of Paszkowski and his girlfriend in Germany. The grounds for a 5-year-long battle to have Paszkowski removed from Canada have been laid.

The next morning, I was awakened early. This time, I was handcuffed and my feet were shackled for the first time in my life. I was then driven back to the immigration office at the airport where I found Ela waiting. When she saw me in my shackles, she burst into tears. The RCMP removed my chains and left us in the care of the immigration officials. We sat there and waited to see what this new day would bring.

Doherty asked if we wanted anything to eat. I wanted to give him the money to buy us some breakfast - we were both starving by this time - but he refused and said all the expenses, such as meals, motels, etc., would be covered by the airlines. Apparently the airlines were responsible as they brought us over without proper documents and valid entry visas to Canada.

We spent the entire day at the airport office. Ela, despite her condition, was holding up bravely. Doherty showed me the Edmonton Journal where an article about us by Don Retson appeared. I wondered how he'd found out about us so quickly.

Late that night, the female guard again took Ela to the same motel and I was escorted back to the Leduc detention centre by the RCMP - this time in handcuffs. The next day we were again returned to the airport immigration office where they let us move freely around the airport, either to the washrooms or just to stretch our stiff legs. Nobody seemed concerned that we might escape, so I had trouble understanding the daily performance with my legs and hands being manacled. Why would I want to escape? To where? We came to Canada so that we could live here as legal citizens. Not to escape from it!

Later that day, we were put in a car and taken to the Immigration Office in downtown Edmonton. They escorted us to a cell-like room and kept us waiting without telling us what was going to happen.

After an hour or so, a young woman appeared and introduced herself as defense counsel Tita DeRousseau. Her first question was, "Do you seriously wish to apply for refugee status in Canada?" I thought I was going to hit the roof! What in the world did they think I came here for? Beaver hunting? Ela and I had risked a lot to come here to live in peace and these people continued to pretend they didn't know why. I realized my unannounced arrival was an embarrassment to CSIS, but I couldn't understand why my own lawyer would ask such silly questions.

DeRousseau tried to convince me that even though Ela had a credible case to receive refugee status in Canada, I didn't stand a chance because I had already been granted political asylum in West Germany. If one of us was granted status, the other one could not hope to get it too since we were not married and couldn't prove a `common law relationship'. She also told us that we would be treated as two separate cases to be reviewed independently of each other. She informed us that we would be brought before an adjudicator who would determine if we had good basis to apply for refugee status in Canada, and who would also decide if we could be released from detention. This was the first time we had been officially informed that we were detained. No one prior to this had mentioned it - they just kept us locked up.

I was uncomfortable about the way DeRousseau was handling our case and asked her who sent her to us. She was assigned to our case, it turned out, by the local Immigration office and I soon felt she was trying to please both sides. I didn't like it at all, but we didn't know any other lawyer in Edmonton; nor could we afford one. I told DeRousseau to tell her bosses that I had no intention of withdrawing my request for refugee status and I was going to fight for it to the end. She didn't seem to like that and left angry.

Ela was to appear first before the adjudicator. She was scared and felt defenceless to be taken without me. I tried to reassure her that everything would be okay and she left. I kept my fingers crossed for her.

An hour or so later DeRousseau reappeared, all smiles, saying the adjudicator had recognized Ela's case as having a credible basis to apply for refugee status. Now it was my turn.

Two immigration officers accompanied by my lawyer took me into the hallway, which led to the elevator to the hearing room. Outside there was a crowd of cameramen, flashing lights, and reporters asking questions. I was surprised to see this media invasion and wondered how they knew about me.

In the room where my hearing was held, there were a number of journalists and a Polish interpreter, Janina Muszynski, waiting. I understood most of what was said to me except for the legal terms but to express myself clearly in English, I then needed assistance. Janina was a real help.

The adjudicators, George Wojtowicz and Sherry Makarewicz, were on the panel which would determine if I had a credible basis to apply for refugee status in Canada. The Case Presenting Officer, Bud Winchester, represented the Immigration Department and would oppose my right to apply, while Tita DeRousseau would defend me. Should the panel, after hearing both of them and my testimony, decide that I did not have a credible basis to apply, a deportation order against me would be issued. If the panel decided in my favour, I would receive a full refugee hearing.

Winchester began with an aggressive attack, describing me as a dangerous and violent terrorist who, if released from custody, would escape and not report for the hearing. As such, he claimed, I had no basis to apply for refugee status. He seemed so agitated and personally hostile to me that I wondered what had ticked him off so badly. He also claimed that it was me who tipped off the media. This was completely untrue. However, after DeRousseau's presentation and the questioning of me, the panel left for deliberation and upon its return, the adjudicator, Wojtowicz, announced its decision: I was found to have a credible basis to apply for refugee status and would get a full hearing.

At an inquiry starting October 6, 1989 and concluding October 12th, a Credible Basis Tribunal comprised of an adjudicator and a member of the Refugee Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board found that Paszkowski had a credible basis for his claim as a convention refugee and referred his claim to the Refugee Division.

The Edmonton Immigration Case Presenting Officer, Bud Winchester, did not do his homework properly. He claimed, for example, that Paszkowski was arrested in 1982 by the Polish police for illegally transporting a printing press and that he escaped custody and took off to Bulgaria. This was a confusion of the real doings of Paszkowski and the invented ones of Robert Fisher, the alias provided by the RCMP in Rome. One possible explanation of how a Case Presenting Officer working on a high profile case would make such fundamental mistakes is that he was provided with material that originated with CSIS. Among his material was Paszkowski's hand-written copy of the letter brought by the lawyer to the West German prison and subsequently mailed to Nick Maduck in an attempt to protect Maduck in his outrageous handling of Paszkowski. Another explanation is that Immigration and CSIS officials were totally unprepared to face Paszkowski back in Canada and were simply not prepared to deal coherently with his case.

Adjudicator Wojtowicz, in fact an employee of the Immigration department, in his summation at the first level hearing, concluded: "Your history, Mr. Paszkowski, is almost a unique one. You have demonstrated throughout your history a skill and resourcefulness that is rarely found, and indeed you have achieved successes that are rarely encountered." Considering Paszkowski's release from detention during the credible basis hearing, Wojtowicz decided against it saying: "Your history, Mr. Paszkowski, is that of a skilled, perhaps gifted man when it comes to eluding the authorities, and given the demonstration of this over the last six years or so, not one or two isolated cases but essentially a continuum of giving the authorities the slip in some way or the other, I'm satisfied that you would have to be kept in custody to ensure your availability for the continuation of this inquiry, and as such your detention will continue."

Sherry Makarewicz on behalf of the Board announced the decision: "We heard evidence by you today that was referred to by Mr. Winchester as a spy story, but in essence, intelligence work by nations is linked to their political ideology in order to further their own internal and external political agendas. Mr. Winchester, representing the minister, had an opportunity to challenge your plausible story and he chose not to do so, and since the evidence went unchallenged, our finding is that the essence of the testimony is based in fact. We do find a credible basis for your claim to be a convention refugee and we refer your claim to the Refugee Division for a determination of your refugee status."

Winchester wanted Paszkowski kept in custody while awaiting his second level refugee detention hearing, claiming he would disappear as "he is very apt at changing identities and moving about very freely." The adjudicator Wojtowicz, who earlier in the hearing dismissed the claim that Paszkowski was a danger to the public, said: "...The fact that you hijacked an aircraft some years ago does not necessarily make you a danger to the public today." He released Paszkowski from custody: "It is your intention to remain in Canada. You would be a fool, I can't think of a better word, to compromise your own efforts."

I was a free person at last. Ela and I hugged each other, happy to be together. The two immigration officers who had escorted me to the hearing left after learning the adjudicators' decision.

I was released from custody with some conditions imposed: report personally at the Immigration office every week; don't leave Edmonton without special permission from immigration officials; be available to report at Edmonton Immigration for removal when required; and, report any change of address within 48 hours. There were limits to my liberty, but it was liberty nevertheless. My pleasure at being freed was short-lived.

Tita DeRousseau objected to me leaving the building, saying there was a detention warrant for me issued by the RCMP and I could be arrested at any time. She didn't know why the warrant for my arrest had been issued, but knew there was one. She called the Edmonton City Police to come and escort me to the remand centre. They refused, saying they had not heard anything about any warrant. She then asked the immigration guards, who also refused. After a number of calls, DeRousseau announced that two immigration officers would escort me to the remand centre.

Ela was left all alone in the middle of a city she didn't know and containing not one soul she could call a friend, filled with people who didn't speak her language. Again, I was indebted to the Polish interpreter, Janina Muszynski. She took Ela to a Polish church in Edmonton and the priest there gave her a room to stay in at the church building. I worried about her, knowing how abandoned she would feel alone among so many strangers.

At the remand centre, I phoned my friend, Ryszard Fryga, and asked him if he could take care of Ela. Immediately after the call, Ryszard and his wife, Teresa, went to get Ela and brought her to their home. Now she would feel more secure, being among friends, and she wouldn't be left alone to fend for herself.

A week or so later, I received a copy of the written detention order and it turned out they were holding me on the charge that upon first arriving in Canada on December 11, 1984, I concealed my criminal conviction for hijacking. There was no mention of the fact that I had used a false name (Robert Fisher). The warrant was issued in my real name, Ryszard Paszkowski, but the date of birth was the one for Robert Fisher, May 5, 1957. My date of birth is March 4, 1955. They couldn't even get these few facts straight. They must have been in quite a hurry in order to get everything so mixed up. What really proved that both CSIS and the RCMP were acting moronically was the fact that the RCMP officer who delivered my detention order included a photocopy of the application in the name of Robert Fisher for a travel document back in 1986 which I needed to go to Rome on the CSIS-sponsored mission. In fact, the application was filled out in Nick Maduck's handwriting. Now the RCMP was giving a copy to me as a basis for their charges. It all seemed absurd. Was the RCMP providing me with damaging proof against CSIS? Perhaps the two departments weren't getting along too well!

In the meantime, the Immigration department appealed the decision to grant me the right to a full refugee hearing. Their appeal was rejected and I continued to languish in custody waiting for my day in court. The Canadian jail was a gloomy affair in comparison to the European prisons in which I had spent time before. The rules and regulations governing the life of prisoners in the Edmonton facility seemed at least twenty years behind those in Europe. The guards were both abrupt and provocative towards inmates, showing off their control over us like `generals' over their soldiers. If the prison guards in Germany or Italy behaved towards inmates the way I observed them to do in the Edmonton jail, inmates would rebel.

At first, I was in Section 2B of the jail, lumped together with petty hoodlums who treated the jail as a place to shower, eat and rest. They would then return to the streets until the next time they were caught for some minor infraction. After a few days in Section 2B, they moved me to Section 6C - the high security zone where offenders were kept for more serious crimes like aggravated assault and murder. When I asked if I was considered as dangerous as the inmates charged with murder, the director replied that I was moved to 6C because I had a "high profile".

Lawyer Tita DeRousseau was supposed to get me out on bail, but each time she went to a bail hearing she would return saying that the judge wouldn't listen to her and had refused to let me out on bail. I began to feel that she simply wasn't aggressive enough to deal with my case effectively. As an inexperienced counsel, she presumably hadn't yet built up a reputation. The judges perhaps felt they could ignore both her and her clients. It appeared to me that the Canadian justice system required a tough and pushy lawyer who could manoeuvre through the labyrinth of legal rules and regulations. This was what I needed to get me out of jail and defend me later in court.

In the meantime, I was trying to make arrangements to marry Ela while in jail. I knew her pregnancy was quickly progressing and she would feel embarrassed and shamed to have a baby while unmarried as her small town upbringing was still strong. We had planned to get married anyway, so I asked the jail authorities if they would let us have a wedding ceremony in the jail. I was told that as long as the immigration office did not oppose it, they would allow the ceremony to take place. However, my nemesis, Bud Winchester, wouldn't allow us to marry, claiming that they were not sure I was Ryszard Paszkowski. I filed a sworn affidavit stating my identity as Ryszard Paszkowski after which it seemed it was okay to go ahead with the ceremony. Ela went to the Vital Statistics office in Edmonton with an interpreter to get a marriage license. They all came to the jail to get my signature on the license, but weren't allowed in.

After a few hours of waiting, the Vital Statistics employee was told she couldn't see me because Immigration wouldn't allow it. I made a few telephone calls and got the run around from Winchester, from the Department of Justice, from the Attorney General of Alberta's department, and from the Director of Vital Statistics. Nobody could help and I soon understood why. It was apparent Ela had very good chances of being recognized as a convention refugee. As her husband, I would automatically have to be recognized too. They had to prevent the wedding so her case, now being heard, would be under her maiden name and remain separate from mine.

I remained in jail and was taken to the hearings in leg chains, which I found most humiliating. In West Germany when arrested for hijacking, I wasn't even handcuffed. Only after I declared to the media that I would refuse to testify while shackled were they taken off.

My counsel, DeRousseau, and I had in the meantime parted. I simply didn't think she was handling the case adequately. Moreover, I was quite sure that her dependence on the Immigration Department as her real client made her less effective as my counsel. I contacted Brian Beresh, who, as the grapevine in jail had it, was the kind of lawyer I needed. He soon delivered a small miracle. On January 9, 1990, I was released from custody after having spent three months and four days in jail.

Outside, the Edmonton media were waiting, hungry for sensational news. Ela, who was still staying with our friends, waited for me with a delicious Polish dinner.

With the help of our friends, we soon moved out to live on our own and were married on January 19, 1990 in a simple but moving ceremony. Ela took a big leap of faith when she took me for better and for worse. A month and a half later, our beautiful son, Patrick, was born. Now I had a family to protect and think of.


Chapter 13

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