Chelsea Manning, the former U.S. intelligence analyst who was convicted in one the largest breaches of classified information in American history, is fighting to be allowed into Canada.

The Canadian government is seeking to ban her from entering the country, arguing that she should be denied entry because of the serious criminality of her prior convictions on espionage charges in her home country.

Manning is appearing virtually today in front of the Immigration and Refugee Board for an admissibility hearing. The administrative tribunal makes decisions about who can enter and stay in Canada.

Her case dates back to September 2017, when border officers denied her entry at Quebec’s St-Bernard-de-Lacolle border crossing. At the time, the government, citing her espionage charge, argued that if it had been committed in Canada “this offence would equate to an indictable offence, namely, treason.”

Anthony Lashley, a lawyer for the CBSA, said the government is asking the tribunal to issue Manning a removal order and rule that she is not permitted to enter again.

‘Whistleblowing are acts of honesty’: lawyer

In his opening statement, Manning’s lawyer Joshua Blum argued her American offences are not equivalent to Canadian offences, making her not inadmissible. 

He pointed to a provision in the Security of Information Act, Canada’s national secrets act, which incudes whistleblower protection in the “public interest.”

“We have a public interest defence for what Manning was convicted of,” he said. “The U.S. doesn’t.”

Blum also argued Manning’s actions were justified by “necessity” and that the public interest in disclosing that information outweighed the harm.

“We will argue that the ongoing and unreported killings of Iraqi and Afghan civilians necessitated this act of whistleblowing,” he said.

“We further add the acts of whistleblowing are acts of honesty, not fraudulence.”

Manning found guilty on multiple charges in 2013

Manning has been both praised as a whistleblower and maligned as a traitor for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified government documents to WikiLeaks in 2010 while serving in the U.S. military. 

She said she wanted to expose what she considered to be the U.S. military’s disregard for how the Iraq War was affecting civilians, and that she did it “out of love” for her country.

In 2013, she was convicted of six counts of violating the United States’s Espionage Act — which forbids unauthorized people from sharing national defence information — and a handful of other charges, including stealing government property. She was acquitted of the most serious charge against her: aiding the enemy.

In one of his last acts as president, Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence in 2017. She was released from military prison after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence.

Manning was granted a visa to enter Canada to speak at an event back in 2018, but it came with no formal resolution of her admissibility.

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