Citation: 2022 RLLR 20
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: December 22, 2022
Panel: Kay Scorer
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Solomon Orjiwuru
RPD Number: VC2-00608
Associated RPD Number(s): N/A
ATIP Number: A-2022-01960
ATIP Pages: N/A
REASONS FOR DECISION
 This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) in the claim for refugee protection of XXXX XXXX (the Claimant), a citizen of Uganda, who claims refugee protection in Canada pursuant to section 96 and subsection 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (the Act).[i]
 On June 29, 2022, the Minister submitted a Rule 21 Cross Disclosure Application (Rule 21 Application) to the RPD.[ii] As set out in the Rule 21 Application, the Minister requested that the RPD cross disclose the Basis of Claim form and TRV application for the claimant (the BOC)[iii] with the Basis of Claim forms and TRV applications for approximately 16 other claimants (file numbers listed in the Rule 21 application) due to similar details contained in each claimant’s application for Temporary Resident Visas to visit Canada, the date of and route of entry into Canada, the Canadian contact address, the reasons for/details of their claim for protection, and the similar formatting of their BOC allegations. The RPD granted the Rule 21 Application. In the said Rule 21 Application, the Minister notified the parties that it wishes to intervene by making observations and submitting evidence in all claims.
 The claimant’s full allegations are contained in his Basis of Claim form, additional narrative, and were supplemented by his testimony at the hearing.[iv] Summarized only briefly, the claimant fears persecution in Uganda on the basis of his political opinion. The claimant has been an active supporter of the National Unity Party (the NUP) and has held roles within the party. As a result of the claimant’s political involvement, he has been targeted by the state and its agents, assaulted, harassed and threatened. The claimant fears similar or worse treatment in Uganda on the basis of his political opinion should he return.
 After considering the claimant’s testimony and the documentary evidence, I find the claimant is a Convention refugee pursuant to s. 96 of the Act. My reasons are as follows.
 The claimant’s allegations establish a nexus to the Convention on the ground of political opinion. I have therefore analyzed the claim pursuant to section 96 of the IRPA.
 The claimant’s identity is established, on a balance of probabilities, by the documentary evidence before me, including a copy of his Ugandan passport in Exhibit 1.
 Pursuant to the Maldonado principle, the claimant benefits from a presumption of truthfulness. I find, on a balance of probabilities, the claimant is credible.
 The claimant’s testimony was direct, spontaneous, and consistent. The claimant was able to respond to questions in a forthcoming manner. I asked numerous questions about the claimant’s past involvement in politics in Uganda. The claimant was able to provide ample description about all of his roles within the NUP and his aspirations for running as a candidate for the party. The claimant provided very detailed and spontaneous testimony about his past political passions, including running for perfecter positions in elementary, primary and high school, his official roles as a speaker and later president of a student group at Kampala International University, and his previous support for the FDC and why he ultimately transitioned his support from FDC to the NUP. To these and many other questions, the claimant gave responses which were materially consistent with his narrative, and responses which provided further detail about the claimant’s allegations. I find the claimant was a credible witness, on a balance of probabilities, relating to his allegations of political involvement and risk in Uganda.
 In addition, the Claimant submitted documentary evidence to corroborate his claim, all of which can be found in Exhibits 6, 7 and 9, including medical records from injuries sustained in attacks by state agents, a copy of his NUP membership card, NUP documents corroborating the claimant’s official roles within the organization and the risk he has faced on the basis of his involvement with the NUP, a letter from the claimant’s spouse corroborating that the authorities continue to be motivated in harming the claimant. I do not doubt the authenticity of these documents, and I assign them significant weight as they corroborate the claimant’s central allegations.
 The Minister raised various credibility concerns including (i) the similarities between the claimant and the other claimants relating to the basis of their TRV applications to Canada and their contact information in Canada (with no claimant referencing this connection) and (ii) the striking similarity in the Basis of Claim form between the claimant and the other Rule 21 Application claimants. Specifically, the Minister submits that because none of the claimants made reference to one another in their applications, their arrival to Canada was likely facilitated by the same agent who helped them fabricate their information, including their similarly drafted Basis of Claim forms and narratives made in their applications for protection. These concerns will be addressed below.
TRV Application Issues – Rule 21 Application
 Based on the Rule 21 Application which was granted by the RPD, the TRV applications between all 16 claimants were cross disclosed. The TRV applications were based on the same conference attendance and contained similar supporting documentation to facilitate the obtaining of a visa to Canada.
 I asked the claimant to explain how he obtained his visa to Canada. In testimony, the claimant explained that he relied on the assistance of an agent, organized by the NUP party, for obtaining the visa. The claimant provided only his passport to the agent. When I asked the claimant how the agent would have gotten access to some of the other supporting evidence (i.e. educational documents, certificates, employment letters, etc) the claimant advised that all of these documents had already been provided to the NUP and it is possible the agent obtained them from the NUP directly. The claimant advised that he never saw the application for a visa before it was submitted, did not sign the forms included in the application, and was entirely unaware of the contents of the application, including the fact that it was for a TRV to attend a conference. The claimant also explained in testimony that he was unaware of the contents of the visa application until the RPD cross-disclosed the TRV applications pursuant to the Rule 21 application.
 I accept that the claimant relied entirely on an agent facilitated by the NUP to obtain the visa, and that he was not privy to the contents of the visa application as a result. I find this to be a reasonable explanation.
 I agree with the Minister that these cases demonstrate, on a balance of probabilities, that these claimants used the same agent for facilitating their travel to Canada. I do not find, however, that this undermines the claimant’s allegations that he relied on an NUP agent to obtain a visa to Canada. I find it is a reasonable to believe that there are agents in Uganda who facilitate the travel of multiple claimants at the same time, using the same basis for travel, without the knowledge of those accessing the agent’s services. The actions of the agent would be outside of the control or knowledge of the claimant. I also find it reasonable to believe that the NUP as a party may use the same agent, throughout Uganda, to facilitate the flight of numerous people at the same time from Uganda. I find the claimant’s explanation to be reasonable.
 I also asked the claimant about the other claimants living at the same address. The claimant stated that he did not know any of the other claimants living at his address until after he had arrived in Canada. He stated that the agent advised him to talk to no one, including those at his home, and to tell no one about his reasons for being in Canada. As a result, the claimant did not discuss with the other claimant the reasons for being in Canada, and that it was not until the RPD disclosed the Basis of Claim forms that the claimant became aware of the reason for the other claimant’s travel to Canada. Again, I find this explanation to be reasonable. The claimant did not mention these other claimants when he filed his own claim for protection because, when he filed his claim, he was not aware of the reason why the other claimants were in Canada, and unaware of the connections related to the use of the same agent in Uganda. I find the claimant’s explanation to be reasonable.
Similarity in the Basis of Claim forms – Rule 21 Application
 Based on the Rule 21 Application, it is notable that the Basis of Claim forms are written in a remarkably similar manner, including the use of capital letters and short sentences in the Basis of Claim form itself, and in the format of the majority of the written additional narratives.
 The Panel acknowledges that similarities in narratives may service to undermine a claimant’s credibility. As stated by the court in Ravichandran,[v] “courts have found that it is not unreasonable to draw a negative inference as to credibility from unwarranted similarities between a refugee claimant’s narrative and the narratives of other unrelated claimants (Liu v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2006 FC 695 at para 39; Shi v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2003 FC 1088 at paras 1, 19).”[vi]
 Nonetheless, the court went further to state that “… while decision-makers may rely on their common sense in drawing negative credibility inferences from unwarranted and striking similarities between the testimony of applicants, it is equally true that they must use their common sense to determine whether, in the circumstances of the case, there is a valid reason for the similarity. If there is, it would not be appropriate to find that the similarity casts doubt on the applicant’s credibility (Zhang v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2006 FC 550 at paras 25-28, [Zhang]).”[vii]
 I put to the claimant that there are remarkably similar formats in the Basis of Claims for each of the noted claimants that lead the Panel to believe that the forms were, in some way, completed using the same person/person(s) for assistance, or the same template. The claimant stated he did not have anyone help in completing his Basis of Claim form, and that he is not sure why the other Basis of Claim forms are stylistically like his own. The claimant was adamant that he completed the document himself, with the help of searching for advice online on how to initiate a claim in Canada. The claimant also stated that he completed the form using a shared computer at the residence, and that the documents were saved to the desktop of that computer and would have been available to the other residents. In this way, the claimant submits it is possible that other claimants reviewed his form and completed their documents in a similar fashion.
 The Minister submits that the similar formatting may indicate that the claimant’s claim is fabricated. I find there is insufficient evidence before me to demonstrate this to be the case on a balance of probabilities. Instead, while I do not accept the claimant’s testimony that no one assisted him in completing his forms, I do not find this credibility concern undermines the otherwise detailed and credible testimony presented by the claimant in support of his allegations of political persecution and risk. Although the claimant was not forthcoming in explaining who assisted him in completing his form, I find that receiving assistance or following a stylistic template does not necessarily indicate that a claim is fabricated. Given the claimant was able to credibly testify to the contents of his allegations, I find, on a balance of probabilities, that the assistance in completing his Basis of Claim and narrative was limited to the stylistic approach and not a fabrication of its contents.
 Informing this finding is the observation that the similarities between the claimant’s Basis of Claim and the other claimants’ documents relates to the stylistic completion of the form and narrative. The style of the answers to the questions in the Basis of Claim form itself are all similar, in capital letters and with the same countries listed in question 6. In contrast, in my review of the Basis of Claim forms disclosed pursuant to the Rule 21 Application, the actual content of the Basis of Claim forms – in particular, the chronology of the risk alleged by the claimant in the case before me – is unique to the claimant and not reiterated by any other claimant. While other claimants express risk for their political opinion and association with the NUP, the claimant was able to credibly testify to his specific experiences in Uganda. Given the country documents do indicate that NUP supporters face persecution in Uganda, I do not find it surprising that a dozen or so supporters have made their way to Canada to seek protection at a similar time, in light of the evidence that such supporters would require protection.
 For that reason, while I agree with the Minister that there are striking similarities in the format of narrative of the claimant as compared with the other claimants, I find the contents are unique and supported by the claimant’s credible testimony.
Summary of Credibility Determination
 My role is to assess the evidence before me to determine what has been established, on a balance of probabilities. Although I accept the claimant was not truthful about assistance received in the preparation of his BOC, I do not find this to be determinative of the credibility of his allegations of risk. I find there is enough credible evidence before me to establish, on a balance of probabilities, that the claimant has been subjected threats, assaults and harassment in Uganda on the basis of his political opinion.
 I find the claimant has established his subjective fears on a balance of probabilities.
 The claimant’s allegations of fear of persecution on his political opinion are supported by the objective documentary evidence. The panel finds the claimant’s claim that he fears imprisonment, torture and death if he is returned to Uganda, at the hands of the NRM ruling party on the grounds of his political opinion and membership in the NUP opposition party, to be objectively well-founded.
 Pertaining specifically to political opponents, there is evidence in the National Documentation Package (NDP), for example at item 2.1, that the government committed significant human rights issues including arbitrary killings; forced disappearance; torture; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious restrictions on free expression and free restrictions on political participations. Opposition activists, local media, and human rights activists reported that security forces killed individuals the government identified as dissidents and those who participated in protests against the government.[viii]
 The government continued to target political dissidents subjecting them to intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention. There were reports, for example at item 2.2, of restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly of political opposition members, journalists, human rights defenders, and students.[ix]
 According to item 2.3, violations of freedom of association, assembly, and expression continued in 2019 as authorities introduced new regulations restricting online activities and stifling independent media. The government arrested political opponents and blocks political and student rallies.[x]
 Based on the documents evidence cited above, I find that the claimant will face a serious possibility of in Uganda on the basis of his political opinion and involvement. I find that the claimant’s fears are objectively well-founded.
State Protection and Internal Flight Alternative
 States are presumed capable of protecting their citizens. In this case, given the state is an agent of persecution I find the presumption has been rebutted. I find there is no state protection available to the claimant in Uganda.
 Further, since the state is an agent of persecution and is in control of the entirety of its territory, I find the claimant faces a serious possibility of persecution throughout Uganda. I find there is no viable internal flight alternative available to the claimant in that country.
 Based on the above analysis, I find the claimant is a Convention refugee pursuant to s. 96 of the Act. His claim is accepted.
(signed) Kay Scorer
December 22, 2022
[i] Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001, c.27.
[ii] Exhibit 4 – Rule 21 Cross Disclosure Application, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
[iii] Exhibit 2 Basis of Claim Form
[iv] Exhibit 2 and Exhibit 6.
[v] Ravichandra v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2015 FC 665
[vi] Ibid at para. 18
[vii] Ibid at para. 19
[viii] Exhibit 3. National Documentation Package for Uganda, 31 August 2022, at tab 2.1. Uganda. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2021. US Department of State April 12, 2022.
[ix] Exhibit 3. National Documentation Package for Uganda, 31 August 2022, at tab 2.2. Uganda. Amnesty International Report 2021/22: The State of the World’s Human Rights. Amnesty International 29 March 2022.
[x] Exhibit 3. National Documentation Package for Uganda, 31 August 2022, at tab 2.3. Uganda. World Report 2022:Events of 2021. Human Rights Watch, January 2022.