TEDxWinnipeg – Borders and Immigration

As previously noted on this website, Alastair gave a presentation on immigration issues at TEDxWinnipeg this year. The topic of the presentation is Imagine No Countries. The video is currently in the TED feed on YouTube.com along with other videos from TEDxWinnipeg:


TEDxWinnipeg
Summary:

Borders are arbitrary lines drawn on paper that affect each and every one of us. What happens when lines are made more important than lives? What happens when we look beyond those lines? Alastair Clarke manages Clarke Immigration Law, a boutique law firm. He and his staff assist with all types of immigration and refugee cases; they currently have more than 250 open files. Based on over 30 years of combined experience, the staff guide each and every client, including individuals, families and businesses, through the complex immigration system, including complex humanitarian and compassionate applications. The firm is based on experience, value and results. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

If you had the opportunity to attend the TEDxWinnipeg event, be sure to check out the photo stream.

From TEDxWinnipeg:

All the speakers are listed here. It was an amazing group, covering topics from spoons to bitcoins to identity. Here is Alastair’s bio on the TEDxWinnipeg site:

Alastair Clarke manages Clarke Immigration Law, a boutique law firm. He and his staff assist with all types of immigration and refugee cases; they currently have more than 250 open files. Based on over 30 years of combined experience, the staff guide each and every client, including individuals, families and businesses, through the complex immigration system, including complex humanitarian and compassionate applications. The firm is based on experience, value and results.

Alastair provides expert advice to the media on a regular basis in both English and French. He has been interviewed by Ian Hanomansing for CBC News as well as by journalists at Global News. He also contributes to radio and print media on justice issues. Alastair’s firm has represented many refugee claimants who have walked across the border from the United States since 2016, and he delivered a presentation on the Safe Third Country Agreement at the 2017 CBA conference for immigration lawyers.

In 1970, Alastair’s father sponsored his mother to stay in Canada, where Alistair was raised in Edmonton, Alberta. His mother focused on hosting exchange students and professionals from around the world to live and stay in their home. In school, he pursued an International Baccalaureate stream with classmates from Mauritius, Israel, Japan, Taiwan and many other countries. From a young age, he developed an international perspective and since then, has lived in many places around the world, including France, Ecuador, Japan, different parts of the USA, and many different cities in Canada. In many ways, Alastair is a nomad at heart who is constantly learning about the world and fighting injustice.

Fundamentally, Alastair is a perpetual student who takes every opportunity to learn from the clients who walk through the door. They share their culture and their experiences while he, in turn, teaches them how to navigate the Canadian immigration system. He is driven to ensure that each case is handled fairly and that every person has the chance to live in peace and security.

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.

Permanent Residence By Phone

Effective 1 DEC 2017, IRCC announced a pilot project that allows some applicants for Permanent Resident status to complete their application by phone. Thus far, the pilot project has only been available for Canada Experience Class applicants. That said, IRCC has been open to applicants who are in rural areas. As noted by IRCC:

The benefit of this pilot project is that clients who are already in Canada do not have to travel to an IRCC office or leave and re-enter Canada in order to be confirmed as a PR, potentially saving clients both time and money.

This program for Permanent Residence by phone may benefit many individuals who do not have easy access to Winnipeg or other urban centres.

Telephone Landing

permanent residence by phone

This program is suitable for PR applicants who do not have access to IRCC Offices. Normally, an Officer would confer the PR status face-to-face after the applicants have been approved. The “telephone landing” gives the applicants the ease and convenience of getting the last step done without having to fly or drive long distances to the nearest IRCC Office.

Permanent Residence By Phone

Currently, we are working to assist the Warkentin family who reside in Waterhen, Manitoba and they may be able to use the pilot program. Their home in Waterhen is +3 hours drive to the nearest IRCC Office.

The Winnipeg Free Press reported on this story last week. As noted by Carol Saunders in an excerpt below:

“Under normal procedures for landed permanent residents, they come to Winnipeg to meet with an officer,” said Clarke. “They will be asked questions to confirm there have been no significant changes in their situation, then permanent residence status will be conferred,” he said. “That’s the final step.”

The pilot project would allow some — who’ve already filled out reams of paperwork, met all the requirements and been approved to stay in Canada — to finalize the process by phone. Once a permanent residence application has been approved, the applicants will be sent an email from an address ending in “@cic.gc.ca” or a message through their IRCC online accounts inviting them to be confirmed as a permanent resident by telephone, the federal department said in an online notice.

After applicants complete their telephone interview, they will then have their confirmation of permanent resident status either mailed to them or uploaded in their IRCC online account, it said.

The immigration department says that applicants cannot request to be included in the pilot project but Clarke said his office plans to contact IRCC about the Warkentins “and suggest that they are ideal candidates.”

If you believe that you or your family should be conferred permanent residence by phone, please contact our office and we can arrange a consultation to determine whether you are also good candidates.

Former Immigration Officer: “Gave Bad Advice for Money”

As reported in the Windsor Star, former Immigration Officer Flavio Angelo Andreatta used a store as a “front” and provided bad immigration advice to clients. He was an unlicensed representative who should have known better and he has been sentenced in criminal court.

Here is an excerpt from the Windsor Star article:

Andreatta, a retired Canadian immigration officer grandfathered into the Canada Border Services Agency, would instruct clients to make cheques out to the cultural charity, headquartered at his Kingsville home. He would then make withdrawals from the society’s bank account, a fact that caused the group’s treasurer and former bookkeeper to resign in 2011.

Andreatta, who turns 68 next week, pleaded guilty in Superior Court Wednesday to contravening Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act by providing immigration advice for a fee. Only lawyers or people vetted by a sanctioned body can charge for that work.

As punishment, Andreatta will spend the next year on house arrest, followed by two years on probation.

Court heard Andreatta collected more than $25,000 for his services between June 2011 and December 2014.

Having the money flow through the Italian Genealogy and Heraldry Society was the “subterfuge” Andreatta used, federal prosecutor Paul Bailey told the court.

Having been an immigration officer in the past, Andreatta “certainly was in a position to know better,” Bailey said.

“He gave some bad advice for money.”

Authorities first learned of Andreatta’s activities in May 2012 when a woman who was an Italian national was denied a visitor’s visa. She had been working at the Caboto Club on a work permit that was about to expire. She was later deemed inadmissible to Canada because she had continued to work past the expiry date.

Clearly, this former Officer set up the charity with the purpose of deceiving the government and breaking the law. In my view, house arrest is too lenient on this gentlemen, no matter his health “ailments”, his background and his years of service. As stated in the article, “Only lawyers or people vetted by a sanctioned body can charge for that work.” Those described in the second part are sanctioned by ICCRC and they are subject to discipline by their professional organization. In my view, there are benefits to the system in the United States where they do not allow immigration consultants to represent clients.

Note that the decision by Superior Court Justice Kirk Munroe does not preclude the Law Society of Ontario from imposing additional punishment to the immigration officer and ordering separate fines for providing legal services in Ontario without a licence.

Law Society Act, R.S.O. 1990, Chapter L.8. Section 26.2 of the Law Society Act states as follows:

Non-licensee practising law or providing legal services

26.1 (1) Subject to subsection (5), no person, other than a licensee whose licence is not suspended, shall practise law in Ontario or provide legal services in Ontario.  2006, c. 21, Sched. C, s. 22.

26.2 (1) Every person who contravenes section 26.1 is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of,

(a) not more than $25,000 for a first offence; and

(b) not more than $50,000 for each subsequent offence.  2006, c. 21, Sched. C, s. 22.

 

CBC News: Expedited Processing

CBC News Reporter Karen Pauls published a piece today on the expedited processing of claims at the tribunal. We have had success with these procedures and they are open to certain applications that are made to the tribunal. As noted in the article, the average processing time for these cases can take 14 to 18 months and there is currently a significant backlog of cases. Through the special processing, some clients are able to access these procedures so they do not have to wait.

An excerpt from the CBC News article on expedited processing is below. The full article is posted on their website.Expedited Processing

The Immigration and Refugee Board is clearing about 160 claims per month using an expedited process that eliminates the need for hearings in straightforward refugee claims for people from seven countries.

It’s a “win-win situation” – for the IRB, which is already facing a backlog of refugee claims as a result of the flood of asylum seekers walking over the border this year – and for the people filing those claims, says Winnipeg lawyer Alastair Clarke.

“For the claimant, they essentially get two kicks at the can and they potentially have an early positive decision. Secondly, for the tribunal, because they save resources. They don’t have to have a hearing, they don’t have to expend additional time to hear oral evidence, and they can review a case based only on the documents,” Clarke said.

“Our job is to do our best to make sure all the potential issues are dealt with in the supporting documents. And once it gets to an adjudicator, it’s up to him or her to decide whether or not what we’ve submitted is sufficient to meet the test.”

If you believe that your case is suitable for expedited processing, please contact our office and book a consultation. 

 

Canada 150 and the Meaning of Citizenship

Last week, I attended a ceremony for 80 new citizens as a guest of Friends of Filipino Immigrants in Manitoba. The room was packed with folks from 18 different countries all coming together to celebrate becoming Canadian. The atmosphere was festive, bordering on jubilant. A choir of children started the national anthem and we all joined in. Some sang in English and others in French. And the Citizenship Judge, Dwight MacAulay, reminded us of some of the key events over the past 150 years that have built this country before he bestowed the prize that each of them had been waiting to receive: Canadian citizenship.Canadian Citizenship

As an immigration lawyer, I toil away trying to fix all the problems that come across my desk but I realized during the ceremony that it is also important to step back sometimes and remember the prize: Canadian Citizenship. It is so easy to take it for granted.

In the wake of everything going on south of the border, or across the oceans, I truly believe that we should be celebrating more of what we have accomplished in Canada. We have our problems here, of course. We are not immune from hate speech, racism and ignorance. But I also believe that we have achieved significant milestones in terms of cultural awareness and celebrating our differences. It may be trite to say but our diversity is our strength.

With each family filing up to greet the Citizenship Judge, I could not help but wonder how they came to Canada and all the possible strife they may have had to overcome to get to that moment. How many of them arrived as refugees? How many had to fight for refugee status? How many were sponsored by a family member? How many came as international students and figured out how to stay? There are so many potential paths and yet they all lead to one potential prize.

My mum said to us growing up, “never miss an opportunity to celebrate.” Our day to day work is focused so much on resolving issues, mitigating risk and finding solutions to problems (some of them created by our clients while others are based on jaw-dropping miscarriages of justice), we can easily lose sight of the importance of celebration and reminding ourselves of everything we have to be thankful for.

As noted by Dwight MacAulay, who gave a speech from the heart, the 80 new Canadians immediately made Canada a better place to live. Each immigrant brings skills, knowledge, and life experience to share. I was reminded of the Syrian refugees out east who rebooted their chocolate business, my Burundi client who is starting his IT company and my American clients with their hunting lodge in rural Manitoba. Not to mention my client who came as a refugee and now works for Air Canada (and is one of their best employees, IMHO) or the Chinese clients who bought a dairy farm. So many success stories. Our diversity is truly amazing.

OK – back to work. I need to help some more folks get closer to their prize. In the meantime, if you, dear reader, are Canadian, I hope you have spent a moment to be thankful for the prize you have before you have to get back to trying to solve the wrongs in the world.

*Republished from Slaw.ca

“Warkentin family still battling to overturn a decision from Immigration Canada”

FROM 730CKDM.COM: 

The Warkentin family from Waterhen are still battling to overturn a decision from Immigration Canada which denied them Permanent Resident status because of their daughter’s disability.

The family has hired Alastair Clarke, an immigration lawyer from Winnipeg to handle their case.

Clarke provides some insight to Immigration Canada’s decision.

“Unfortunately medical inadmissibility are not uncommon. Generally the individuals who face this type of issue come to me before a refusal. In this case the Warkentin family responded to the fairness letter, submitted all the evidence and then after it was refused, that’s when they came.”

If the decision cannot be reversed, the Warkentins could face moving back to the U.S. by November of this year, when their visas run out.

“Seeking Asylum: How ‘very skilled’ asylum seekers are contributing to Manitoba’s economy”

FROM GLOBALNEWS.CA

WINNIPEG — It’s a dangerous trek asylum seekers are making by the hundreds as they flee a fear of deportation and look to call Canada home.

It’s a story that is very familiar to Yahya Samatar. The Somalian now lives and works in Winnipeg after illegally crossing into the country in August 2015.

“That decision was quite difficult,” Samatar said. “But it was the only option I had.”

Samatar was a human rights activist in his home country and helped young children get out of the militia. However, it was a tough job that put his life in danger daily.

[…]

How Things Have Changed

For many of the 350 refugees seeking asylum in Manitoba since January 2017, it will likely take much longer than the average 60 days for their claim to be approved or denied.

The tribunal schedules time for two claims to be heard each day, one seating in the morning and one in the afternoon.

However, depending on how complicated cases are they could take much longer.

Immigration lawyers handling many of the cases in Winnipeg are overwhelmed.

Alastair Clarke has more than 80 open cases waiting to be heard by the tribunal and said many that have dates are being cancelled.

“Right now, I have hearings once or twice per week,” Clarke said. “These cases are moving through the system so slowly and so many of these hearings are being postponed.”

Last week, Clarke said five of the seven hearings set to go before the tribunal were postponed and no new dates were given.

Read the full article…

Advocates concerned about unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in Canada

FROM THEWESTERNSTAR.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…

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…