Canada Acts to Deny Anti-Religious Terrorist Safe Harbor

Keith Henson conducting a hate march in Canada
Henson attempting to conduct a hate march in Toronto Canada after fleeing the United States

An apparent scheme by anti-religious extremist Keith Henson to avoid incarceration in the U.S. by seeking political refugee status in Canada appears to be backfiring.

In April 2001, the California jury that convicted Henson of a hate crime failed to reach a consensus on the additional charge of terrorism brought against him by the Riverside District Attorney. Evidence that Henson had for years stalked and harassed Scientology parishioners and made repeated threats — all while being a self-described explosives expert — was, at that time, deemed insufficient to earn Henson the label of “terrorist.” Then came September 11th and, just as the man on the street opened his eyes to the heinous potential of individuals consumed by hatred, so did governments worldwide.

Henson’s bid to remain in Canada, thereby avoiding a California jail sentence, has only brought his extremist activities under closer scrutiny — but this time, by a Canadian government determined to ensure that their country can never be used as a safe harbor by terrorists of any variety.

According to Canada Immigration documents released on the Internet, after Henson fled to Canada in May, 2001, he was arrested and ordered conditionally deported due to his fugitive from justice status in the U.S.

A Toronto Immigration Review Board Adjudicator thereafter released Henson on a $10,000 Immigration bond with numerous conditions. One of the considerations for his release was the UN policy on the detention of refugee claimants. Henson had applied for refugee status under the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, an agreement to which Canada is signatory. However, subsection F(b) of Article 1 of that Convention reads:

“The provisions of this Convention shall not apply to any person with respect to whom there are serious reasons for considering that: (b) he has committed a serious non-political crime outside the country of refuge prior to his admission to that country as a refugee.”

It seems largely due to this glaring lack of qualification in Henson’s claim that on March 20, 2002, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced his intention to intervene in the Convention refugee proceedings of the claimant, stating:

“The nature of the offence for which Mr. Henson was convicted is one of implied violence directed toward a particular group, with the means to carry out the threat. The Canadian equivalent for that offence is likely that of ‘willful promotion of hatred’ at subparagraph 319(2) of the Criminal Code or that of subparagraph 319(1), ‘public incitement of hatred.’ “

Canadian citizens ignoring Keith Henson's hate march
Canadian citizens ignoring Henson’s hate march, conducted after fleeing the United States

However, most telling is the following statement which indicates just how seriously such offenses, and those who perpetrate them, are now being regarded by Canadian officials, post-September 11th:

“Although the present Canadian legislation only provides for a maximum term of imprisonment of two years, the Minister will argue that it constitutes a serious offence, when viewed within the totality of the evidence, and in view of the proposed Anti-terrorism Act.”

With regard to the proposed Anti-terrorism Act, the Minister specifically cited several proposed amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada, one of which would:

“…create a new offence of mischief motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, religion, color, or national or ethnic origin, committed against a place of religious worship or associated religious property. ” This offence would be subject to a maximum penalty of 10 years when prosecuted on indictment, or to a maximum penalty of eighteen months on summary conviction.”

The Minister urged the Panel to:

“take these proposed amendments into consideration when assessing the nature and quality of the claimants’ actions in the USA in determining whether exclusion is warranted.”

The Minister’s Counsel, acting on his behalf, further stated

“…there is extensive information which shows that Mr. Henson had engaged in many activities which would comprise other offences under the Criminal Code of Canada, namely:

81(1) using explosives;
82(1) possession of explosives without lawful excuse
176(1) obstructing or violence to clergyman
176(2) disturbing religious worship or certain meetings
181 spreading false news
264(1) criminal harassment
264.1(1)(a) utter death threats
265(1)(b) attempts/ threatens assault
318(1) advocating genocide
346(1) extortion

“The Minister’s position is that the claimant’s persistence, his single-mindedness exhibited against a particular group, the failure to cease harmful actions despite legal prohibitions, the impact statements of the members of the group, when viewed together, show that the claimant committed a serious, non-political crime prior to entering Canada.

Keith Henson and Arel Lucas conducting a hate march
Keith Henson and Arel Lucas conducting a hate march outside the courthouse on the day of his hate crime conviction

“The Minister’s position is that, the specific nature of Mr. Henson’s actions are such that they could be regarded as offences under Canadian criminal law, and their cumulative effect sufficiently egregious to warrant exclusion under F(b) of Article 1 of the Convention.”

In further asserting the “non-political” nature of Henson’s crime, the Minister’s Counsel stated:

“Evidence exists that Mr. Henson had embarked upon a pattern of activity designed to cease the operation of the Church of Scientology in the USA. While he may characterize his actions as being politically-motivated, the Minister’s evidence shows that the US criminal and judiciary systems found no basis for his allegations against the Scientology foundation.

“Indeed, the California court effectively found that Mr. Henson’s actions constituted a dangerous form of harassment rather than the exercise of free speech. His actions against the organization were legally characterised as a common criminal offence, rather than political ones.

“Other than exercising free speech, there is no compelling evidence that Mr. Henson attempted to use the democratic systems in order to effect change. There is information to indicate that his activities were a hobby, a means of self-expression, motivated by a need for publicity and for personal gain rather than a genuine, political aim.”

The Minister also found Henson’s refugee claim to lack credibility, stating:

“Mr. Henson’s Convention refugee claim is based upon alleged harassment by the Scientology foundation in the USA. However, the converse was found in a court of law in the USA: that Scientology members were criminally harassed by Mr. Henson….

“…Moreover, information in the Minister’s possession indicates that the claimant did not enter Canada with the intention of making Convention refugee claim, but only did so upon the advice of his friends. Mr. Henson is attributed as saying, ‘I actually came up here for a different reason. I came up here to picket for another cause. And there was so much trolling and so much interest that we said, ‘why not’ [May 23, 2001, Internet article by [name redacted]].”

Such scams are not new to the anti-religious extremist movement. Honesty is not the stock-in-trade of those who associate with racists, such as close Henson associate, Arnaldo Lerma, who is himself allied with Neo-Nazi leader Willis Carto, and United Anarchist Party leader, Bill White.

The Minister indicated with the following statement that a darker motive may lie behind Henson’s harassment of Scientology:

“There is also an issue about whether the claimants’ statements and activities in relation to his stance on Scientology is actually leverage to compel funds from that organization.”

Keith Henson and Arel Lucas
Keith Henson and Arel Lucas

A close associate of Henson is “deprogrammer” Rick Ross, who has been convicted of felony Grand Theft Embezzlement. Attempts by extremists and extremist organizations to extort money from the Church of Scientology is covered on the Anti-Religious Extremist section of this site (see Gerald Armstrong, Graham Berry, Michael Pattinson, Steven Fishman, Larry Wollersheim, most of whom are also close Henson associates.)

But it is in recognizing Henson’s actions as terrorism that the Canadian government takes a bold, decisive step toward ensuring both the personal safety of its citizens and their right to freedom of worship.

In an opinion with regard to Keith Henson and the legal definition of terrorism, Counsel for the Department of Justice, Canada, Immigration Law Section, stated:

“Under this definition [C-36, the Anti-terrorism Act I, Clause E] …Henson’s actions can be seen to be for a religious or ideological purpose. The actions could also be seen to be intentionally committed for the purpose of intimidating a segment of the public – the Church of Scientology. The threat to blow up the Church of Scientology and to kill the organization may be seen as a serious threat to cause death, bodily harm, and a risk to health or safety, property damage and/or a serious interference with an essential service so as to constitute terrorist activity.”

Keith Henson being arrested at a hate march
Henson being arrested during a hate march in 1997

[Note: Per the prior opinion, 83.2001(1) of the Anti-terrorism Act, which defines “terrorist activity,” came into force on December 18, 2001.]

In summary, the Minister’s Counsel stated that “It is the Minister’s position that the present claim is an effort to elude the administration of justice in the USA and as such may be viewed as a claim of convenience.”

In acting swiftly and decisively to recommend excluding Keith Henson from refugee status consideration, due to his non-qualification under the Convention and with regard to his terrorist status, the Government of Canada demonstrates its commitment to religious freedom and sets an example for democratic nations world-over.

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