Some Current Issues for Agents in Relation to Stowaways and Deserters: The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Regulations

Author: Peter Swanson


The Federal government is constitutionally responsible for immigration laws and laws relating to navigation and shipping. As such Federal laws address the issue of illegal immigrants (deserters and stowaways) entering Canada on board vessels. Typically, the Federal government looks to pass on the cost of illegal immigration to others, where possible. To that end the Federal government through past and current immigration legislation has looked to local agents in an attempt to recover removal costs where the shipowner (or the security posted by the shipowner) does not cover those removal expenses.

Not surprisingly the Federal government has worked to tighten the laws. Back in the late 1980’s the law was fairly basic. Part 5 of the then Immigration Act set out the obligations of a “transportation company”. A transportation company was essentially obliged to pay for the removal of a deserter or stowaway. Of course, from a timing point of view, this rarely, if ever, happened before the vessel had left Canadian waters and the deserter or stowaway had exhausted their legal avenues, including a multitude of appeals.

About Peter Swanson

Peter is a founding partner of the firm with over 30 years of professional legal experience. He practices primarily in the fields of maritime and health law. Peter’s maritime case work involves vessel arrest and security, carriage of goods by sea, enforcement of maritime liens, civil and regulatory liability for ship source pollution, collision, port state intervention, immigration, bodily injury,… view full profile »