Presentation on Labour and Immigration

At the request of instructor Bill Mathieson in the School of Business, Alastair gave a presentation at BCIT in Vancouver on the intersection between labour laws and immigration. In particular, the presentation focused on Charter rights and laws in Canada that intersect these different areas of law. Labour laws in Canada are complex and these laws have an impact on workers, businesses, employers and individuals. Each one of these categories may be subject to different laws and regulations.

labour

In particular, employers in Canada need to be aware of compliance issues and adhering to Charter rights. This was a presentation that was done spontaneously at the request of Bill and it was a pleasure to meet these students. The BCIT students were actively engaged with the topic and they are clearly well informed with some of the legal issues that they may face when they become HR Managers or other professionals in Human Resources.

If you or your company is seeking legal advice on the intersection between labour laws and immigration laws, please contact Clarke Immigration Law directly for assistance. 

Bill Mathieson is a senior lecturer with deep roots in Vancouver. He is one of Canada’s top labour negotiators and he has provided instruction to students at BCIT as well as SFU – School of Business.

Denied Entry to Canada: What Can You Do?

Crossing the border is rarely a simple act. In the post-9/11 world, security checks have increased and each foreign national faces additional scrutiny from Immigration Officers. In Canada, the border security is the responsibility of Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), under the Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. They work closely with other police agencies and they have access to international databases to screen everyone, and everything, that goes through a border. When CBSA is dealing with a Permanent Resident of Canada, a Canadian Citizen or an immigration application, they may refer the case to their counterparts at Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC, formerly known as CIC). If you are denied entry to Canada, it may be due to a negative determination by a CBSA Officer or an IRCC Officer. What can you do?

The first question to deal with is where you are trying to enter. Issues vary between entering at land borders, ports and airports. 

One of the common situations that we face is when Permanent Residents who are trying to fly back to Canada without a valid PR Card. The airline will not let them board their flight back to Canada without a valid travel document. There are a number of risks in these situations. One of my first concerns is that if the PR is anxious to return, they may insist on boarding the flight and then, when they enter Canada, they may request temporary status. This puts their Permanent Resident status at risk and we do not advise this option.

When a PR is flying back to Canada without a valid PR Card, they have two (2) main options – neither option is cheap or easy. The first option is to go to the nearest Canadian Consulate, Embassy or High Commission. Canada has hundreds of offices peppered around the world in every continent, except Antarctica. I have never had a client call who could not travel to a Canadian office within their jurisdiction.

Once the PR reaches the consulate, they may apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document “PRTD”. The government fee for the document is $50 and processing times vary from 1 hour to 2 months. We had one case where the printer at the Canadian office was broken and they had to order a new printer before they could issue new travel documents. In general, the Officers who work in these offices are very supportive and they will help any Permanent Resident who is courteous and professional.

The second option, for some, is to fly to the United States and enter Canada at a land border. For those clients who are at the airport and they do not want to leave the airport, this may be an option. NOTE: this option is only available to individuals and/ or families who are able to enter the United States and they do not have other issues with American authorities. We also advise our clients that we do not practice US immigration law and, therefore, if there are any issues with US authorities, we would refer the matter to an American colleague.

Being denied entry can be a stressful experience. Airline staff are not government officials and their knowledge of Canadian immigration law is limited. If you or your family members are in a situation where you are denied entry, we recommend that you call a lawyer whom you trust to help you properly navigate the system.

 

CBC: Future of STCA

Alastair Clarke was recently interviewed on CBC The House podcast on the future of the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). Currently, this Agreement has been at issue based on the numbers of refugee claimants who have been coming north from the United States. Many of these people have been crossing “irregularly” around the Ports of Entry into Canada to access the inland refugee determination process, thus getting around the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA).

As reported by the CBC:

Last year, more than 20,000 asylum seekers crossed illegally into Canada. The trend seems to be continuing this year, with about 5,000 crossing so far.

The government has been hard-pressed to find a working approach to this steady stream of migrants. Some of the ideas being floated include designating the entire Canada-U.S. border an official crossing, deploying more resources to popular spots for illegal crossings and addressing issues with the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA).

[…]

Part of the issue with the agreement in its current form is that it was drafted at a time when both countries shared a similar view on refugees, said Alastair Clarke, a Winnipeg-based immigration lawyer.

But now Canada is “very distinct from the United States,” he told The House.

The model needs to be revised to account for changes in the politics of both countries, he said.

To read the full article, please click here. You can also access the podcast from the CBC website.

Note that Alastair has been calling for the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) to be repealed or suspended since Jan 2017 and he has published on this topic. The Toronto Star reported on this issue in Feb 2017. He also presented on this topic (STCA) at the Canadian Bar Association national immigration law conference in Toronto.

Major Changes to Medical Procedures

We recently had a conference call with IRCC regarding the major changes in policy to the treatment of cases with medical issues. These cases involve family members with health problems that may cause “excessive demand” on Canadian resources. Our office has been assisting many families with many cases of medical inadmissibility. The Warkentin case, filed with Federal Court, was key to having the policies changed.

It has been a pleasure to work with the Warkentin family and the community. We are thrilled and honored that our hard work has paid off. This has been a national effort and I applaud our colleagues in Toronto, in particular Adrienne Smith and all her hard work.

The changes have been reported on the IRCC website included a few details on the changes to how they process allegations of medical inadmissibility. The two (2) major changes listed are:

The new policy on medical inadmissibility strikes a balance between protecting publicly funded health and social services and updating the policy to bring it in line with current views on the inclusion of persons with disabilities. The changes include:

  • increasing the cost threshold for medical inadmissibility to 3 times the previous level, and

  • amending the definition of social services by removing references to special education, social and vocational rehabilitation services and personal support services.

This case has also been reported in the Winnipeg Free Press in an article by Carol Sanders. Here is an excerpt that that article:

On Monday, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen announced changes to the medical inadmissibility provision of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act so that Canada’s immigration policies “better align with Canadian values and reflect the importance that the government places on the inclusion of persons with disabilities.”

“This is really good news,” Winnipeg lawyer Alastair Clarke said after a conference call with Jon Warkentin and federal immigration officials Monday.

“We’re changing the law,” he said of those who spoke out against the 40-year-old immigration policy.

“If it did, then that’s great,” said Jon Warkentin by phone from the family’s home 320 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg in Waterhen. “That’s what we were hoping for, for some changes there. If our family was part of that, then that’s great.”

The Warkentin family have been pillars of the community in western Manitoba. Our goal is to help all families achieve their goals – for their benefit as well as the benefit to Canada. In our practice, we often see that the contributions of the families with medical inadmissibility issues are overlooked. We firmly believe that our clients are truly beneficial to Canadian society and they represent the future of our country.

Have you or any friends or family been accused of medical inadmissibility?

Currently, the law is in a state of flux. The IRCC policy changes have been announced; however, all the cases in the inventory within the government may be reassessed.

The relevant section of the law in IRPA sets out the section:

(1) A foreign national is inadmissible on health grounds if their health condition

  • (a) is likely to be a danger to public health;

  • (b) is likely to be a danger to public safety; or

  • (c) might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services.

Any applicants who may fall under the above section of Canadian immigration law may have their applications reconsidered under the new procedures. We highly recommend that any applications with medical issues be reexamined by a professional, certified immigration lawyer to make sure the cases are handled properly. Feel free to contact our office directly with any questions or concerns.

SCC Decision: Conditional Sentences

Today, the Supreme Court rendered an important decision on the rights of permanent residents with criminality issues. The Tran decision from Federal Court of Appeal was overturned and the highest court in Canada has held that “conditional” sentences from criminal court are not considered “imprisonment”. This has a huge impact on minor convictions where the Sentencing Judge have a conditional sentence to the offender. Those Permanent Residents were subject to harsh treatment by CBSA and, in turn, the tribunal and they faced deportation.

Here is a key section from the decision by Justice Côté, paragraphs 32 to 34:

If s. 36(1)(a) is interpreted such that a conditional sentence is a “term of imprisonment”, absurd consequences will follow. As previously mentioned, conditional sentences are “for less serious and non-dangerous offenders” (Proulx, at para. 21). Thus, more serious crimes may be punished by jail sentences that are shorter than conditional sentences imposed for less serious crimes ― shorter because they are served in jail rather than in the community. It would be an absurd outcome if, for example, “less serious and non-dangerous offenders” sentenced to seven-month conditional sentences were deported, while more serious offenders receiving six-month jail terms were permitted to remain in Canada. Public safety, as an objective of the IRPA  (s. 3(1) (h)), is not enhanced by deporting less culpable offenders while allowing more culpable persons to remain in Canada.

   It would also be absurd for offenders to seek prison sentences instead of conditional sentences so that they can remain in Canada, as Mr. Tran has done in this case. Conditional sentences are designed as an alternative to incarceration in order to encourage rehabilitation, reduce the rate of incarceration, and improve the effectiveness of sentencing (Proulx, at para. 20). These objectives would be sabotaged if individuals who are subject to conditional sentences sought to replace them with prison terms, thinking the latter to be their only path for a future in the Canadian communities from which incarceration would remove them.

For these reasons, the phrase “term of imprisonment” in s. 36(1) (a) of the IRPA  cannot, by either standard of review, be understood to include conditional sentences.

As noted above, the Tran decision from the FCA has caused harsh, even “absurd” consequences for our clients. We strongly agree with Justice Côté’s decision and this has had an immediate impact on one of our clients.

12 Month Conditional Sentence

Our client was given a 12 Month Conditional Sentence in Feb 2017 and his matter was referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Immigration Division. Based on the SCC Tran decision, he now has a good chance of staying in Canada with his Canadian children. His conditional sentence will now not be counted as “imprisonment” and, therefore, the SCC decision will have a strong positive impact on his case.

Congratulations to Peter and all the lawyers who worked on the Tran decision!

Advocates concerned about unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in Canada

FROM LEADERPOST.COM

Immigration lawyer Alastair Clarke calls it a “travesty of justice.”

In Buffalo, N.Y., a client is currently living in a shelter, desperately awaiting news about how she might be reunited with her three young children, all under the age of 10.

The woman fled the small East-African country of Burundi with her kids and landed in the United States with a visitor’s visa, hopeful they could all eventually claim asylum in Canada, where her sister-in-law is a permanent resident, living in Winnipeg.

But when they did attempt to cross the border by bus it became clear another difficult journey was ahead.

Read the full article…

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.