Presentation: Refugee Crisis in Manitoba

Please note that Alastair Clarke accepted an invitation to present at Menno Simons College tomorrow on the Refugee Crisis in Manitoba. Regular readers of this blog will know that Clarke Immigration Law has provided legal services to many of the refugee claimants who are coming to Canada from the United States. Many of this people, including women and children, are crossing on foot.

The event itself is from 12:30-1:20. Each presenter has 10 minutes to share on some aspect of the current migrant refugee crisis affecting out city and surrounding areas.

Though our event is over lunchtime, we are only able to provide a snack.

Alastair will be talking about  areas of refugee law:

  1. How the Safe Third Country Agreement is putting the people at risk
  2. An overview of the relevant sections of IRPA

The main focus of the presentation is to answer questions from the public and to engage discussion on these important issues. There has been a huge increase in the numbers of people who have been entering Manitoba and this refugee crisis is only going to get worse as the weather gets warmer and it becomes easier to cross. In addition, there is no indication that the American government is taking any steps to help the refugee claimants on their side of their border.

In the News: Refugees Walking Across the Border

Published in The Times Colonist/ Canadian Press: “A look at the refugee process for people walking across the U.S. border”

Clarke Law was recently quoted in the newspaper regarding the situation with refugees walking across the border. Here is an excerpt:

During that time, they may connect with friends or family or an immigration agency to find a place to live. But many don’t have money. Some end up in homeless shelters and rely on legal aid, says Winnipeg immigration lawyer Alastair Clarke.

How to Move to Canada
Joe Sohm—Getty Images; Refugees Walking into Canada

“I’ve had clients who just show up to my office every week or so because they don’t have email. They don’t have telephone. They struggle with the language, transportation,” he says.

“They have some help — but they have limited help — so they do what they can.”

They can apply for work permits but that takes three to four months and, by then, their cases have usually been decided, Clarke says.

 

Erick Ambtman with the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers says some claimants do make their way to communities further north, such as Edmonton, to stay with family. “In which case we would be potentially supporting their claim like helping them with documentation and things like that.”

Agencies like his also have emergency funds to help with food, clothing and counselling and some short-term housing, he says.

It is very clear that the situation with these refugees is dire. They are braving extreme cold weather conditions, putting their health and safety at risk in order to come to Canada. We have been receiving many calls from new refugee claimants who are fleeing the United States. Based on this anecdotal experience, they do not feel safe in the United States. They are coming to Canada to build their lives here and we do our best to help them through the complex process to before refugees, and then become Permanent Residents.

If you know of any refugees walking across the border, please contact Clarke Immigration Law immediately.

 

 

Free Presentation: Law in the Library – Transcona

Please note that Alastair Clarke will be giving a free presentation on citizenship law and other changes to immigration law at Transcona Library as part of the Law in the Library Series presented by the Community Legal Education Association.

Here is a description of the program:

Are you new to Canada? Are you looking for help in some legal aspects of immigration? Join us for a free program to help provide you with legal information that you may need. Our guest lawyer Alastair Clarke will cover issues like immigration options, sponsorship, citizenship applications, bringing family members to Manitoba, MPNP and other options. Please bring questions for the lawyer to answer!

For more information, contact the library directly at 204-986-3954.

In the News: “Repeal Safe Third Country Agreement, says Manitoba lawyer”

Published by Law Times, 6 Feb 2017, article: “Repeal Safe Third Country Agreement, says Manitoba lawyer”.

A Manitoba lawyer who handles refugee claims says more people are coming to Canada due to the rising rhetoric in the United States and Canada needs to act now to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement.

Challenges facing immigrants and refugees have gained widespread attention since Jan. 27, when Trump suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, and stopped nationals from Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iran and Iraq from going into the United States for 90 days.

A U.S. federal judge suspended the order last week, and now, the government has a chance to submit legal briefs in support of Trump’s intended policy changes. The battle may end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

[Update: There is now litigation in 4 states and the case will be heard at the Federal Court of Appeal.]

Manitoba has garnered attention since CBC reported that more than 400 people were intercepted near the U.S.-Canada border at Emerson between April to December 2016.

Crossing the Land Border Into Canada

“I think there’s just a general impression that Canada is a safer country than the United States, and they will have more support here, and that [they] will have a better life,” says Alastair Clarke, founder of Clarke Immigration Law in Winnipeg.

Due to Trump’s changes, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers last week was “calling on Canada to immediately suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement.”

“Under the STCA, those who try to enter Canada through the U.S. to make a refugee claim at the border are returned to the U.S. regardless of whether they will or already have had access to asylum in the U.S. The U.S. and Canada have considered one another “safe” for asylum-seekers,” said a CARL news release.

“The STCA creates a North American approach to refugee approvals. With President Trump’s Executive Orders, the U.S. is unilaterally changing the terms of that approach, with potentially disastrous consequences for vulnerable asylum-seekers.”

Here is a link to the CARL Press Release.

In Winnipeg, Clarke works with groups that have housing set up and are working “as hard as they can to bring as many people” as they can support.

“The government can’t keep up with the demand,” says Clarke, adding that the biggest legal hurdle he’s grappling with is the STCA.

“Unless the refugee claimant is able to fall under one of the exemptions listed in the agreement, then they are denied at the border,” says Clarke, who says most people who are successful are able to do it due to exemptions related to having family in Canada.

Clarke has handled about 30 to 35 files involving refugee claimants since January 2015, from countries such as Haiti, Burundi, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and Nigeria.

“I think more people are coming based on the rhetoric coming from the United States. It’s partially Trump, but I mean Trump was elected, because in general, there is an anti-refugee sentiment in the United States,” he says. “It’s not just him, but I think — generally speaking — there is less of an appetite for refugees in many parts of the United States.”

The above is an excerpt from the article published by Law Times. For the complete article, please click the link above.

For a description of the Safe Third Country Agreement from CBSA, click here.

For the full text of the Agreement between Canada and the United States, click here.

Positive Federal Court Decision

Today, the Federal Court of Canada issued a positive decision today on a case where the Applicant was represented by neither a lawyer nor a consultant. The court agreed that the actions of the representative qualified as such an injustice against the Applicant that the appeal was allowed. This is another case of a representative whose actions cost the Applicant significant time & money. The legal costs to filing the appeal to Federal Court are not insignificant.

In the words of Justice Heneghan:

[The Applicant] sought assistance from one Mr. Ademola Oladapo in the preparation of submissions in support of her PRRA, believing that he was a lawyer. It transpired that Mr. Oladapo is neither a lawyer nor a registered immigration consultant, and the submissions that he filed on behalf of the Applicant were factually wrong.

Mudongo v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) 2016 FC 1354

I have never met Mr. Oladapo and I have not had any contact with him. It is entirely possible that he tried to help the Applicant with good intentions. It is not clear whether he charged her thousands of dollars $$$ for his services. That information is not included in the decision.

The decision focuses on the negative implications of the representative’s actions.

Mr. Oladapo presented a factually incorrect basis for the Applicant’s PRRA and in my opinion, that fact means that she did not receive a fair assessment of her claim to be at risk in her country of nationality.

Based on the work done by the unqualified non-lawyer, the Applicant’s refusal was reversed and she won the appeal.

My question is: at what cost? And how could this have been avoided?

Clarke Law In the News: CBC Article

CBC has been following the tragic case of the two men from Ghana who crossed the border into Manitoba in the freezing cold and walked for hours and hours. They are in hospital under the care of the doctors in Winnipeg; unfortunately, the damage to fingers and toes is serious and they will (or have already) face amputation. Refugees crossing into Canada is too common and it is very dangerous. It is important to remember, however, that the people who risk the bitter cold know that the violence from their home country is worse.

CBC contacted Clarke Law for an expert opinion on Canadian immigration law. Here is an excerpt from the article:

Why are people sneaking across the Canada-U.S. border to seek refugee status?

The Canada and the United States have a security deal called the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement.

 

It says refugee claimants have to apply for refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in, with some exceptions, including things like public interest and family.

Crossing the Border Into Canada

 

“A lot of people who would get refugee status in Canada that can’t get it in the U.S.,” said Labman.

 

Alastair Clarke, a Canadian immigration lawyer who has been in the field for more than a decade, said people avoid border crosses because “they’re worried that they’re going to be turned away.”

“When somebody is coming to Canada without any status and they go to a border, they have very limited rights. It’s unfortunately all too common that people are turned away at the border for bad reasons,” he added.

 

Clarke said immigration officers in Winnipeg, for example, may be more sympathetic than officers at the border. Also, they can get support from the community within Winnipeg.  Clarke said officers in the city of Winnipeg, for example, are more likely to allow an asylum seeker to make a refugee claim than officers at the border.

Clarke said the people crossing are vulnerable, in desperate circumstances and are trying to get to Canada however they can.

 

“When we get to the tribunal, and we talk about their case and we try to make a determination whether they fall into one of the categories of a refugee, how they came to Canada is relevant, but it’s not the main focus of the hearing,” said Clarke. “We’re more interested in whether or not their life is at risk, whether or not they may be subject to torture and whether or not they fall within one of the definitions.”

For the full article, published by CBC News, click here.

Refugees Crossing Into Canada

Everyday we get clients who come to our office and tell their tremendous, heart-breaking stories. Before they reach our door, they have already endured extreme hardship and an extensive journey. It is important to remember that the refugees crossing into Canada are fleeing a situation – for myriad reasons – that leads them to believe they have no choice. They give up everything in their home countries to make the long journey to Canada in the hope of a better life.

Spousal Open Work Permit – Extended to Dec 2017

As expected, the hugely successful Open Work Permit program for applicants under the In-Canada Spousal Sponsorship application has been extended for another year. Part of the announcement:

Ottawa, December 7, 2016 — Family reunification is a core immigration priority for the Government of Canada. In addition to the changes made today to process spousal sponsorship applications faster, we are also extending the open work permit pilot program until December 21, 2017, to give spouses a chance to work while their application is being finalized.

To be eligible for an open work permit, you must be a spouse or common-law partner living in Canada who is being sponsored under the spouse or common-law partner in Canada (SCLPC) class. You must have valid temporary resident status (as a visitor, student or worker) and live at the same address as your sponsor.

Premier Plans to Eliminate MPNP Backlog

Premier Pallister announced changes and improvement to the MPNP program today, including a promise to eliminate the MPNP backlog. Here is an excerpt from the News Release:Winnipeg Immigration Lawyer

The premier noted the changes announced today are part of a new Labour Market Strategy for Immigration that focuses on:
• innovative partnerships with industry and post-secondary institutions that build pathways to employment for international students and skilled newcomers, including those in regulated occupations, to better prepare and match them to in-demand jobs in Manitoba;
• the selection of skilled workers with high potential for early and strong attachment to the labour market and who meet education, training and language requirements;
• the selection of entrepreneurs with a strong potential to establish high-investment, job-creating businesses in all regions of the province; and
• the elimination of the current MPNP backlog by April 2017 to ensure all future applicants receive a higher standard of service and are processed in less than six months.

We will have to see how these announcements will affect our clients and MPNP applicants. If they are able to eliminate the backlog, this could lead to increased efficiency.

The Premier went on to say:

“Manitoba is once again open for business, offering a diverse economic base with areas of undiscovered potential ready for the expansion of existing businesses, development of our entrepreneurial talent, and attraction of new investment and the opportunities it will bring,” said Pallister.  “Renewing Manitoba’s Provincial Nominee Program will facilitate the inclusion of skilled immigrant workers as an integral part in the development of our labour market and Manitoba’s economy as a whole.”

For a complete version of the announcement, please visit the Government of Manitoba’s website.

News: Human Rights Laws & the Sikh Kirpan

Alastair Clarke was contacted by the Winnipeg Free Press regarding an incident in Winnipeg where 2 Sikh men were barred from entering a Dollarama because they were wearing their ceremonial kirpans. This has been an ongoing issue within the Sikh community and the right to wear religious objects has been upheld within the context of Human Rights laws in Canada.

Here is a link to the Winnipeg Free Press article by Carol Saunders.

Title: Siks barred from Dollarama store: Men wearing kirpans denied entry, file human rights complaint

An excerpt:

Two Sikh men barred from entering a Dollarama store for wearing their kirpans — ceremonial religious knives — have filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.

The incident Thursday was unexpected and embarrassing, said Harpal Gill, 68, who has shopped at the Jefferson Avenue store in the Maples several times before.

“I was surprised,” he said after contacting the Free Press. “Any time I go to the store, nobody stops me.”

 

On Thursday, just after 4 p.m., he went to the Dollarama with his friend and neighbour Joginder Sidhu. An older Caucasian woman working there stopped them at the entrance, Gill said.

“She said ‘Take it out,’” referring to the symbolic knife that is one of five articles of faith devout Sikh men are to carry.

Gill said he and Sidhu tried to explain it is a religious symbol, but she wouldn’t listen and directed the security guard to bar them from entering the store.

Alastair Clarke is currently not representing Mr. Gill or Mr. Sidhu and he has not reviewed the case in detail. For information purposes, the WFP included this information and these quotes:Full service immigration law firm

“This protection is found in provincial laws such as our Human Rights Code but also in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which are Canada’s foundational human rights laws,” she said. “Ensuring that staff are aware of the Human Rights Code, its rights and responsibilities, should be a necessary part of any staff training or orientation,” Khan said.

 

The denial of services by Dollarama to the Sikh men solely on the grounds they were wearing their ceremonial kirpans may be contrary to the Human Rights Code and may result in the store having to provide human rights training to its staff, said Winnipeg immigration lawyer Alastair Clarke.

 

“Manitoba business owners do have the right to ban weapons from their premises and to protect their property, as long as that ban does not violate other laws,” said Clarke. “In this case, it may be that Dollarama’s policy needs to be reconsidered, and they may need to provide additional training to their employees on the Human Rights Code. If this case goes to the tribunal, one of the potential orders from the tribunal is for Dollarama to provide additional training on these issues for their staff,” Clarke said.

Subsequent to printing, Clarke Immigration Law has been in contact with MLA Mohinder Saran’s office and MP Kevin Lamoureux’s office to arrange a free informational session at a Gurdwara for the Sikh community.

Canadian Immigration Podcast: MPNP

I had the fortune of being invited on the Canadian Immigration Podcast, hosted by immigration lawyer Mark Holthe, as an expert on the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP). We had a great conversation and we covered some tips on putting an application together as well as other issues.

MPNP

 

Here is a description of the show from Mark’s website for the Canadian Immigration Podcast:

Along with providing extensive insights into how the program works, Alastair touched on how it can be used to transition foreign workers (both low and high skill) into PR status in Canada. Alastair also shared his knowledge on the options available to those who may have a weaker connections to the Province.

During my interview with Alastair, we discuss the following areas:

  • The Manitoba PNP

  • Options for foreign nationals to immigrate with few connections

  • How can the PNP be used to transition foreign workers

  • Options for low-skill workers

  • Where the MB PNP is headed in the future

  • Practical tips for submitting applications to the MB PNP.

How can you listen to the Canadian Immigration Podcast?

The podcast is available through all the major listening platforms. The easiest way is to listen through Mark’s website on the page of the MPNP interview. Otherwise, you can download Stitcher app for your phone or another option is to listen through Overcast. Here is a review of Overcast.

MPNP – How can you learn more?

I was truly honoured to be invited by Mark as an expert on the MPNP program. We have posted various posts on the program on this site and I hope there are helpful to readers. The program is constantly changing in small ways and we strive to keep on top of all the changes. If you have any comments or suggestions on topics, please contact our office directly: info@apply2manitoba.ca

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