Chinese man argues against deportation from Canada, citing virus

People wear masks to protect against the novel coronavirus as they arrive at a market in Beijing on February 17, 2020

A Chinese man has argued -- unsuccessfully -- that he should not be deported from Canada because he faced serious risk of harm from the novel coronavirus in his native country.

Toronto resident Ruepang Cao, 36, had come to Canada in 2004 seeking asylum.

In an affidavit he said he was "scared and concerned for my life" after his asylum claim was rejected and he was ordered out of the country "straight into an epidemic of a deadly virus which still rages."

Under Canadian law, a deportation can be blocked if a court finds there is a significant risk of harm for a person sent to a particular destination.

Canada already halted deportations to the Chinese city of Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province -- the epicenter of the epidemic -- but not to other parts of China.

In court last week, government lawyers argued -- and the judge agreed -- that the risk of infection in Guangdong province, where Cao was headed, was low.

"The evidence, such as it is, shows that infection and mortality rates in many parts of China are low," Justice Robert Barnes said in his decision.

"For the vast majority of people who have come down with the virus the outlook is positive. The risk, therefore, does not appear to be much, if any, greater than the risk of coming down with some other viral illness, many of which also carry a mortality risk."

The Canada Border Services Agency would not say if Cao had been deported as scheduled, citing privacy laws, but his lawyer told AFP he believed Cao had been put on a flight to China.