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Posted Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Gang member to be deported to Haiti
By Paul Cherry
Long criminal record dates back to 1996

A man described by police as an influential street gang member is expected to be deported to Haiti today after losing a battle to challenge his removal order in court.

Proceedings to have Thomas Bernavil, 33, deported began in 2005. Despite living in Canada since he was 15, Bernavil was only a permanent resident while he put together a criminal record that stretches from 1996 to last year.

Bernavil, who was born in Port-au-Prince in 1974 and came to Canada in 1991, challenged the deportation order through Immigration Canada's tribunal system, claiming if he is returned to Haiti he faces possible torture or persecution.

Bernavil lost an appeal of the decision to have him removed on Oct. 15. Yesterday, Judge Johanne Gauthier of the Federal Court of Canada turned down his lawyer's request to suspend or further delay the deportation order. He is expected to board a plane at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport this morning.

His lawyer declined to comment on the case.

According to court documents, Bernavil claims to have 60 half-siblings living in the United States and Haiti, including Beaudoin Jacques Kétant, a convicted Haitian druglord. In 2004, in an effort to reduce the 27-year sentence he received in a Miami court, Kétant turned informant and alleged to U.S. investigators that he paid huge bribes to former Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide and members of his government to let planes loaded with cocaine from Columbia land in Haiti.

In a written request filed in court last year, Bernavil suggested his connection to Kétant would put him at risk to people still loyal to Aristide, who was ousted in 2004. However, according to a written reply filed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Bernavil provided no proof he is Kétant's half-brother.

Bernavil is described by police sources as having long ties to the Bo-Gars, a street gang that originated in Montreal's north end. He was arrested in 2005 as a suspect in a series of kidnappings in Laval. A group of petty criminals between the ages of 15 and 20 broke into a home in Laval's St. Rose district and stumbled upon $2 million in cash.

After bragging about their haul to friends, word got around and several of the youths were snatched off the streets, beaten and held against their will while more seasoned criminals demanded they turn over the cash. Bernavil was originally charged with forcible confinement in the case, but ended up pleading guilty only to uttering threats.

During the summer of 2000, he was shot and injured within the context of a bloody conflict between the Bo-Gars and a rival street gang in Montreal. In 2001, he was found guilty of perjury and being part of a conspiracy that involved fake credit cards. Because both offences are punishable by a maximum sentence of at least 10 years, Bernavil met the criteria for an expulsion order.

In March 2007, Citizenship and Immigration Canada issued a warrant for his arrest, alleging he was "inadmissable and is a danger to the public or a flight risk." This was after he pleaded guilty to negligent use of a firearm, an offence related to an incident that occurred in Montreal in June 2002.

Bernavil only learned of the expulsion order in June, after he tried to obtain a copy of a document confirming his permanent resident status so he could get a drivers license.


© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008. Published March 3, 2008.

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