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Re: CIC 5788-5448

IN THE MATTER OF an application for protection pursuant to s.112 of the Immigration


and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001, c. 27 by Masoud HAJIVAND (IRAN):

________________________________________________________________________

STATUTORY DECLARATION OF
MASOUD HAJIVAND
_________________________________________________________
I, MASOUND HAJIVAND, in the City of Lindsay, in the Province of Ontario, hereby
MAKE OATH AND SAY AS FOLLOWS:
1.

I am the Applicant in the above-listed matters and, as such, I have personal

knowledge of the matters discussed below.

2.

I was born on August 24, 1976 in Ahwaz in what is now the Islamic Republic of

Iran. I am a citizen of Iran and no other country.


3.

I am swearing this affidavit in support of my application for Pre-Removal Risk

Assessment (PRRA) as the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will soon be
scheduling my removal to Iran where I am at immediate risk.
4.

Since coming to Canada, I have become strongly connected to Christianity a

religion in which I have found some true peace and understanding. In December 2013, I
formally converted from Islam to Christianity along with my Canadian common-law
partner. But my conversion puts me at very serious risk in Iran. Apostasy is a serious
crime in Iran which carries the possibility of the death penalty. Christian converts and
those who assist them as arrested every day in Iran. Moreover, my conversion has been
published on the internet as my family and church colleagues attempt to rally public
support to stop my deportation. These on-line campaigns began after I was detained by
CBSA but now that I have learned of them, I am every worried how they will affect my
safety in Iran. I am certain Iranian authorities would have seen this material and it will

remain accessible when I return to Iran. As I am being returned to Iran without a


passport, I will be arrested upon arrival and my apostasy will become known.
5.

My only request is that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) review my case and my new evidence of risk
and grant me the protection I so desperately need. I know I have made mistakes in the
past with immigration authorities and I accept these. But my failure to appear for
removals has been motivated by my fear of returning to Iran. I have been in Canada for
seven years. All I want is to remain in this country with my Canadian common-law
partner and with my church community. I sincerely hope that CIC will review my PRRA
and grant me protection before CBSA books my removal.

i.
6.

Immigration history:
I fled Iran in 2007, arriving in Canada on January 29, 2007. I was forced to flee

after I had become involved in land protests in my home region. Our family are of the
Sunni Vahabi sect, a persecuted minority in Shia-dominated Iran. In the mid-2000s, the
Iranian government seized many of the lands in our community for oil exploration
without providing any compensation. In response, peaceful protests were organized in
front of the state capital and the governors office in Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province. As
with so many protests in Iran, these were brutally repressed by the regime and many
people were killed. In one protest in January 2007, my young brother was killed; his
body was only released to us by authorities a few weeks later. In another protest around
the same time, some of my friends were arrested; I was also stopped but I managed to
escape. That night, the Iranian authorities came looking for me at my home. I assumed
that my friends had given them by name. I was already in hiding at the time and, fearing
losing another son, my father arranged for me to be smuggled out of Iran.

7.

Upon arrival, I immediately made a claim for refugee protection in this country.

My claim for protection was refused heard by Member Sterlin of the Immigration and
Refugee Board (IRB) on February 24, 2009. Regrettably, it was refused on March 16,

2009. I did not seek leave and judicial review of that decision as my lawyer said that
there was no purpose to doing so. I was also working as a superintendent of a
residential building and so I had very little money at the time but still made too much to
qualify for Legal Aid Ontario funding.
8.

On January 18, 2011, I submitted my first Pre-Removal Risk Assessment

(PRRA) application in Canada. At the time I had started attending the Christian
Evangelical Fellowship of Christ Church in Toronto for a little over a year. My
experiences in Iran including the death of my brother, being forced to leave my family
had caused me significant trauma as had my time navigating the refugee system in
Canada. I wanted to reach out to find comfort in a community that would accept me.
When I started attending Christian services, I was first drawn to the friendliness of the
people and how welcoming they were. Everything about Christianity and Christian
people was the opposite of Islam. From the part of the world I am from, Muslim peoples
are always at war and are always killing one another. There seemed to be little room for
compassion or acceptance in my old faith. But Christianity and Christian people seemed
very accepting and Christian countries like Canada were so peaceful.

9.

In these very difficult times in Canada, I found a sort of home at church. From

more sporadic visits, I started attending church for more frequently and eventually
every Sunday. At first I came for the company and the community but I quickly found
myself drawn to the message of Christs forgiveness and acceptance and of the
promise of being redeemed through believing. I began to let Jesus Christ into my heart
and to seriously begin considering to convert to Christianity. I had approached Pastor
Petrosian in early 2011 about making this important decision. He informed me about the
Bible study and preparatory classes that were required of converts a process that takes
several months to complete. I had hoped to get baptised by mid-2011.
10.

I mentioned all of these facts in my first PRRA application. Since I had not yet

converted, I could only explain to CIC my intentions of being baptised and become a
Christian. After submitting my PRRA application, I continued to attend the Christian

Evangelical Fellowship of Christ Church. But there were many times that the pastor
there was unable to attend our Bible studies and preparatory classes and they had to be
cancelled. Sometimes, he had to even cancel the church services. While I liked the
congregation, I was increasingly unhappy with the clergy there. By the time mid-2011
came I truly felt like a Christian but I had still not completed my baptism.
11.

My PRRA application was refused on June 9, 2011 and I was provided the

decision on July 13, 2011. On July 28, 2011, I was served with a Direction to Report for
removal to Iran on August 23, 2011. I was terrified to go back to Iran and I was at a loss
about what to do. I knew that I was a Christian in my heart but I would be unable to
practice my religion in Iran. The Iranian government does not recognize the right of
Muslims to convert; apostasy is a capital offence. If I was forced to return, I would not be
able to attend church or to even tell people that I was a Christian or I would be putting
my life at risk. At the time, I was in a common-law relationship with Salma ARSHADI
since April 2008 but we had never thought of putting in a sponsorship. My lawyer had
told me that my risk application would likely be accepted and we did not have money to
pursue both options. But after I received my Direction to Report, I knew I had no other
option. Salma submitted an In-Canada Spousal Sponsorship on my behalf on August 11,
2011 but it was not possible for it to be decided before my removal date.
12.

I decided to contact my refugee lawyer, Stephen Morris, to help me challenge my

removal. On July 27, 2011 he filed an application for leave and judicial review in respect
of my PRRA refusal (IMM-4829-11). And on August 23, 2011, another lawyer that Mr.
Morris referred me to brought an emergency motion to stay my removal. But because
the motion was brought so late, the Honourable Justice Zinn declined to schedule a
hearing to have by motion heard.
13.

At this point, I was in a complete panic. I felt like I was being asked to choose

between maintaining my connection to Christ (and staying in Canada) and following the
immigration law (by appearing for removal). To be honest, it felt like I had no choice. In
fear for my life as an apostate, I made the very difficult decision not to report for
removal. I know that my conduct was wrong; I am not trying to excuse my actions but I

am trying to explain them. How is someone supposed to react when they really feel their
life is in danger? As a result of my failure to appear for removal, an immigration warrant
for my arrest was issued by CBSA on August 24, 2011.
14.

For nearly two years, I was living underground in Canada. It was a very

difficult time as I was always under constant fear of being arrested and deported to Iran.
But I did not know what other options I had. I continued to live at my reported address
with my spouse. But when CBSA came to look for me, my wife told them that I had
moved. During this time, I continued to attend my church but many of us in the
congregation were not happy with the interruptions in the service schedule due to our
pastors absences. I spoke with another friend at church and she told me of another
church that she also attended: the Revivaltime Tabernacle Worldwide Ministries Church
on Dufferin Street in Toronto. She asked me to attend with her and I did.
15.

I first attended at Revivaltime Tabernacle Worldwide Ministries Church in the

beginning of 2012. I was immediately drawn in to the community there as they were
very warm and inviting. Over the next year, my relationship with Christ grew closer and
closer especially as I was facing new problems in my personal life. My relationship with
my common-law partner, Salma, was slowly breaking down. We would fight more and
more about trivial things; she seemed unhappy and I did not what I could to change
things. I felt so alone in the world and I had only my church and my friends to turn to
for support. Our In-Canada Spousal Sponsorship was approved-in-principle on
September 11, 2012 but throughout that time and after, my relationship with Salma felt
like it was unravelling.
16.

By the end of 2012, I felt comfortable enough at Revivaltime Tabernacle

Worldwide Ministries Church to ask to be baptised into the congregation as a full


Christian. I wanted to undergo conversion earlier but the church does not let anyone
convert who states an interest; you have to prove your knowledge of and devotion to
Christ by being part of the church community for a while. Baptism was a very important
step for me since my family in Iran are Sunni Muslims, which is a minority religion
there. Islam was important to my family both spiritually and in terms of our identity. I

knew that if I converted that I would not be accepted back into my family. I also knew it
would cause serious problems with the Iranian authorities. But I felt that I had no choice
in the matter I was drawn to Christ and I knew I needed to be baptised to be a genuine
Christian.
17.

In 2013, I began to take the Bible study and preparatory classes for religious

converts. But things began to completely fall apart in my life in May 2013. On May 24,
2013, I was arrested by CBSA under a warrant and placed in immigration detention. The
arrest put tremendous stress on what was my already very troubled relationship with
Salma. Salma suffered from several medical issues, including anxiety, depression and
nervous breakdowns. I was hoping that I could alleviate her suffering but it was not to
happen. I had taken upon myself the financial responsibility of running her household
as she was unable to work and I looked after her and her son. However, her mental state
overtook her feelings for our relationship and our relationship broke down.
18.

When I was arrested, Salma refused to assist me. Instead, my friends helped me

in that situation and I swore to myself that I would never return to Salma. On May 27,
2013 I was released from detention without any bond three days after my arrest. On
June 13, 2013, Salma withdrew her sponsorship, which marked the end of our
relationship. On June 21, 2013, my In-Canada Spousal Sponsorship was refused.
19.

I knew at this point that I needed to submit my own immigration applications

explaining why I needed to remain in Canada. At this point, I had been in Canada for six
years and I had converted to Christianity in my heart and was about to convert on
paper. I thought that these would be important circumstances to explain to CIC and to
ask for relief. After I learned that my sponsorship had been withdrawn, I went to go see
Mr. Michael Crane, the lawyer who was referred to me by a friend. I brought him my
entire immigration file and spoke to him about my history and my need to remain in
Canada. He explained that I needed to submit an application for permanent residence in
Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds (H&C). He also said that I
should submit a second PRRA application since I was now more involved in a new
church.

20.

On June 19, 2013, Mr. Crane submitted my H&C application. I think that this

consisted of just the immigration forms and payment. I think it was then updated a
month or so later. On August 19, 2013, Mr. Crane submitted my second PRRA
application. I do not know why Mr. Crane waited so long to do so since my affidavit
was signed on July 12, 2013 and no other evidence except my first PRRA decision and
the US Department of States Interreligious Freedom Report on Iran were included. And
Mr. Cranes cover letter amounts to essentially two paragraphs of submissions so
preparing the submissions was not the reason for the delay.

21.

Around the time that I was preparing my H&C and PRRA application, I moved

into the home of Poopak Pam Shiraldini, a citizen of Canada. Pam and I had been
introduced in June 2012 by our mutual friend Yones Yahyavi. He had invited both of us
along with other friends to a party at his home. Pam and I became acquainted and spent
most of the time at the party together. We exchanged phone numbers and decided to
keep in touch. I had turned to her for support during the breakdown of my marriage.
And I could tell we had a connection that went beyond friendship but I tried to suppress
these feelings while I was still with Salma.
22.

When Pam offered to let me live with her, however, our relationship changed.

We began to speak about our true feelings for one another and we entered into a
conjugal relationship. As part of our evolving relationship, Pam became more involved
in the Church. It started when she starting accompanying me to church so we could
spend more time together. But eventually Pam formed her own connection with
Christianity. By early Fall 2013, Pam decided to join with me in my decision to formally
convert to Christianity and become baptized.
23.

For a few months before and after our baptism, Pam and I were attending bible

study at our church. Sometimes, we attended for 1.5 hours before church began every
Sunday. At other times, we attended classes on Wednesday nights. After a while, the
time came to pick a date for our baptism. We decided to become full Christians on a

special day New Years Eve. On December 31, 2013, Pam and I were formally baptized
as Christians by the Revivaltime Tabernacle Worldwide Ministries in front of the
congregation. It was a beautiful ceremony and I knew right away that I had made the
right choice in following my conscience.
24.

I brought a copy of my baptismal certificate to Mr. Crane. He did not ask for any

other information. For example, he did not say that I should bring in photographs of the
ceremony or swear an affidavit about what the ceremony meant to me as a Christian.
Mr. Crane submitted the certificate alone to CIC without any submissions or any other
evidence on February 12, 2014.
25.

Over the next couple of months, Pam and I continued to live our normal life. We

went to work, we took care of Pams Canadian daughter, and we went to church. We
were confident that had done what we needed to gain me protection in Canada. But my
whole world came crashing down on May 16, 2014. On that day I was called in CBSAs
office at 6900 Airport Road to receive my PRRA and H&C decisions. Both were refused.
CBSA informed me that I would have to leave Canada in a few weeks. I was eventually
scheduled for removal on July 2, 2014. Pam and I were there together and we were
devastated when we learned of the results. We are simple people and we just did not
understand why the Government of Canada would send me back to Iran knowing I was
now a Christian. Pam was particularly upset crying and even yelling at one point
because she also knows that fate that awaits me in Iran if I go back. And the idea of
being killed or imprisoned is too much for her.
26.

On June 27, 2014, I had a pre-removal interview at CBSAs office at 6900 Airport

Road. The Officer I met with asked me whether I would leave Canada as scheduled on
July 1, 2014 as scheduled. I told him honestly that my life was in danger in Iran as I am
an apostate and I will be killed for my beliefs. Because of my statements, I was arrested
and placed on immigration hold as someone who was unlikely to appear for removal.
27.

While I was in detention, Pam became frantic. We both were terrified at the

prospect of me being removed to Iran. Pam felt very powerless in the situation but she

and my friends wanted to do something. Pam contacted a group called No


Deportations to Iran (NDTI) to help assist her in. They are an NGO in Canada that
opposes any forced returns of Iranians to that country in light of the terrible human
rights situation there. NDTI began to hold public protests at Mel Lastman Square and in
front of the Immigration Holding Centre in Toronto, on June 29 and 30, respectively, to
protest against my deportation. I was in detention throughout this period and I was
unable to see the demonstrations. But when I heard of them, I was happy to know that
people supported me and what I was going through.
28.

On July 1, 2014, my removal was scheduled to take place. The CBSA guards came

to my cell. I realized that if I stood and walked out of that cell, I would be walking to my
death. I do not know how someone is supposed to react in such a situation but I decided
my only choice was to stay seated. I did not get up when the Officer asked me to stand
to be handcuffed. And when they eventually tried to drag me up, I held on to the bars of
my cell. The whole time I was crying and telling them that I would be killed in Iran if
they sent me. Eventually, there were six guards in my cell and they realized that I was
not going to board the plane voluntarily. In the end, when CBSA informed the airline
that I was not cooperating, they cancelled my ticket.
29.

I was transferred from the Immigration Holding Centre in Toronto, Ontario to

the Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, Ontario and now, finally, to the Central
East Correction Centre in Lindsay, Ontario, which is 200km from Toronto. I am very
isolated where I am and my only contact with the outside world is Pam. Most days I just
pray or sit in silence. In July 2014, Pam pulled together what little money our family still
has to hire an immigration law firm to help address my very serious immigration
problems. This is when we hired Mamann, Sandaluk and Kingwell LLP.
30.

Prior to taking over my file, my lawyer, Anthony Navaneelan, reviewed my file

and began searching for my case history on the Internet. He was very surprised to see
that No Deportations to Iran has created a website in my name: www.savemasoud.com.
The website includes details of my case, photographs of the protests that NDTI has
organized and urges the public to write to public officials about my situation. Most

troublingly, the website repeatedly identifies me as a Christian convert in Canada. My


counsel also found a Change.org petition signed by over 200 people published on the
Internet that explicitly states that I have converted from Islam to Christianity. These
websites were the first hits on Google when my counsel searched Masoud Hajivand.
31.

I am extremely worried that my case especially the fact that I am an apostate

being published on the internet will put me at risk if I am returned to Iran. I have been in
detention for the entire time that NDTI has been advocating for my case and I was not
aware of the steps that they were taking on my behalf. As I said above, I am in a jail
200km from Toronto. I spoke to Pam about it and she said that she also did not realize
the website said so clearly that I was an apostate. I have asked my lawyers to contact
NDTI to remove this information from the websites. But I am worried that the damage
has already been done. Even if they do remove it, I fear that it will still be searchable on
the Internet or that Iranian authorities will have already seen it.
32.

I am being returned to Iran without a passport which means that I will be subject

to automatic arrest upon landing at Ayatollah Khomeini International Airport. I will be


held for questioning and then taken to a special court to determine what I was doing
outside of Iran and why I am returning without a passport. I am certain the
interrogations will be abusive as they always are in Iran. All the Iranian authorities will
have to do is look on the Internet if they have not done so already to see that I
converted from Islam to Christianity while in Canada. This is a capital offence in Iran
and, even in less severe cases, is grounds for arrest and prolonged detention.
33.

Apostates are thought out a traitors by Iran and are dealt with harshly by the

regime. I am very worried about being beaten or tortured in detention. And, if I am


convicted of apostasy in Iran, of being subject to cruel and unusual treatment, or death.
Everyone in Iran has turned their backs on me; I will have to face the consequences
alone. As Pam has also converted, she cannot even come with me to be by my side. At
the same time, however, I know I cannot simply abandon Christ when I return to Iran.
He is my saviour now and I am committed to following this teachings in Iran. When I

return to Iran, I hope to be able to find other Christian converts and continue learning
and practicing and spreading with word of Jesus.
34.

On September 9, 2014, CBSA provided my counsel with a Direction to Report

indicating that I would be removed to the Islamic Republic of Iran on September 18,
2014. Deferral of removal until I would be eligible to submit this new PRRA on October
2, 2014 was refused. On September 18, 2014, I was transferred from CECC to Lester B.
Pearson Airport for removal. I was terrified. At the airport, I once again informed the
Officers that I would not willing board the flight because I would be killed in Iran.
Following this, I began to harm myself. I tore at my throat and my arms. I was thinking
it was better to die in Canada than in Iran. As a result, I was immediately transferred
from the airport to the Suicide Unit at Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton,
Ontario. I was confined in the Suicide Unit for several weeks before being transferred
back to CECC. I am still in detention presently.
35.

I have been informed by CBSA that Air Canada has been instructed to book a

private charter flight to remove me to Iran within the next weeks. Air Canada has told
me that this private charter will cost them $300,000 to book and execute. I am simply
shocked to learn that CBSA/Air Canada would be spending this much money to send
me someone married to a Canadian and who has no criminal record anywhere to a
country where I face such a terrible risk.

36.

I am now in a truly desperate situation. Since my last PRRA was decided, I have

converted to Christianity and my status as an apostate has been disclosed on the Internet
and would be knowable to the Iranian authorities. My whole family in Canada knows
that this will be a death sentence for me in Iran. I beg of CIC to consider this risk before I
am deported. I acknowledge that I have not cooperated with CBSAs efforts to remove
but I have done so only out of my fear of returning. I have accepted that as long as I do
not cooperate with removal, I must remain in immigration detention; for me, this is
better than being killed in Iran. All I am asking is for the Canadian government to take
another look at my case to see the genuine risk that awaits me in Iran.

I make this affidavit in support of my application for protection in Canada and


for no other or improper purpose.

SWORN BEFORE ME at the City of


Lindsay, in the Province of Ontario
this 3rd DAY OF OCTOBER

_____________________________________
FELIX CHAKIROV
COMMISSIONER OF OATHS IN AND
FOR THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO

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MASOUD HAJIVAND