Congrats Voters!

Canadians have, once again, elected a Minority Liberal government to represent their interests in Ottawa. The Members of Parliament who will be returning to govern are largely the same as those before, with a few significant exceptions. Here in Manitoba, I was pleased that both Jim Carr (Liberal) and Raquel Dancho (CPC) were both re-elected. Members of CIL have worked closely with the staff at these MP offices and they have been doing a great job to serve their constituents.

58% to 59% Turnout

News is reporting that approximately 58% of eligible voters were able to cast a ballot. Considering we are in the midst of a 4th wave (AB has recently declared a state of emergency), I would say this was good turnout. As reported last night, there were ridings where voters waited up to 4 hours in line. Very impressive.

Winnipeg win

Manitoba has a long history of active political participation. From Louis Riel to the activists during the Winnipeg general strike, Manitobans take politics seriously. The province is neither a CPC base as our neighbours to the west, nor a Liberal base as our neighbours to the east. Winnipeg and Manitoba is a quilt of different ridings and, I believe, voters take the issues seriously. Manitoban voters understand the particular issues for our region, in the “heart” of the continent.

In addition to congratulating all voters, I have to send out a positive message to the Liberals. They have, again, a minority government so they will be forced to work with other parties to pass legislation. I would encourage all MPs to find common ground on immigration issues to get things done.

Winnipeg – Smart City

The Intelligent Communities Forum (ICF) has, once again, recognized the skills and intelligence of the people of Winnipeg. We are a “smart city”. This comes as no surprise. Winnipeg has been heralded as one of the most intelligent communities in the world many times before. The ICF compares 180 cities around the world, comparing the level of collaboration and innovation between metropolises in many countries to define a few as “smart cities”.

Tech-Savvy CitySmart City

The results of the 2021 ICF report confirm the obvious: Winnipeg is a leader in the areas of tech-savvy projects and innovation. As noted by CTV News:

In 2018, 2016 and 2014, ICF selected Winnipeg as a Top 7 Intelligent Community, recognizing the city’s global leadership in technology deployment, digital innovation and demonstrating a commitment to using data to improve the quality of life of all its citizens.

For residents of Winnipeg, we are constantly striving for community-led projects. This is part of the fabric of our city. Economic Development Winnipeg is leading the way to support tech-savvy projects and support the private sector to ensure we continue to be recognized an internationally-recognized “smart city”.

TEDxWinnipeg

I was honoured, back in 2018, to be selected to give a presentation at RBC Convention Centre with TEDxWinnipeg. It was yet another opportunity to connect with cutting-edge Winnipegers who were doing amazing projects. We had speakers from all walks of life who had initiated or were involved in amazing projects to better the lives of residents of our wonderful city.

TEDxWinnipeg is, in and of itself, a perfect example of the innovation and collaborative approach to projects in Winnipeg. It brings together thought-leaders from different fields to support innovative new projects to build our “smart city”.

If you are keen, you can watch my presentation on YouTube. 

From Mayor to the Street

Upon hearing the news, Mayor Brian Bowmen commented:

Being named to the international Top 7 list for the fourth time in 10 years and the ninth time for the Smart 21 list over the same period is strong validation that Winnipeg is a consistent competitor with cities from around the world. With a population that is expected to continue growing to a million people, Winnipeg is truly a world-class place to call home.”

I agree 100%. And immigration, with the MPNP program and the numerous universities and colleges that attract talent from every corner of the world, is the backbone on Winnipeg’s continued growth.

Here at CIL, we are thrilled to be part of helping the growth of Winnipeg and Manitoba. We look forward to celebrating when Winnipeg surpasses the 1 Million Residents mark. That will truly be a date to celebrate. We simply need to focus on short-term goals and help families, one at a time. We will get to 1M residents.

If you are reading this and you are interested in joining one of the “smart cities” of the world. Here at CIL, we would love to help you and your family achieve your immigration goals. Come and join us in Winnipeg. We look forward to working with you and helping you get settled in our diverse community.

Queen’s is #1

I am proud to see that my alma mater, Queen’s University, has been ranked #1 in Canada and #5 in the world, based on Times Higher Education 2021 Impact Rankings. I attended Queen’s University from 2005 to 2007 for my law degree (LL.B, converted to J.D.) and I had a great experience. Located in Kingston, Ontario, the town has a strong campus culture and it is conveniently located between Ottawa and Toronto. While I was in law school, for example, we were able to make multiple trips to the Supreme Court of Canada and meet the justices on Canada’s top court. Down the highway in the other direction, it was easy to spend weekends in Toronto and Queen’s has a strong connection with Bay Street firms.Queen's

I hope you don’t mind if I take a trip down memory lane. I owe my practice and my firm, in part, due to the top level of education at Queen’s. My professors include Sharry Aiken, Barbara Jackman, Geri Sadoway, Paul Paton and FCA Justice David Stratas. Each one of these professors helped me find my passion for immigration and refugee law. During presentations at the University of Winnipeg and at BCIT, I have talked at length about the Singh decision at the SCC and the importance of this decision on all refugee claimants – even in 2021. My presentation would not have been nearing as interesting without the conversations that I had with Barb while I was at Queen’s.

My Blank Key

When I was in my small section at Queen’s, Professor Pardy gave each of us a blank key as a symbol of our law degree. He passed along a didactic story, which I will not repeat here, with the point that it is a privilege to go through law school. We learned how legal systems work. We learned how to read and interpret legalese. I remember a line from Rake where he was talking about how lawyers stopped using Latin. To paraphrase, lawyers were able to make English so cryptic and incomprehensible, they no longer needed to use Latin. Indeed.

Not All Roses and Puppies

I love talking to students about going to law school. This should not be an easy decision. If you or someone you know is thinking about going to law school, they need to understand the good… and the bad. In 2007, I graduated from Queen’s with around 160 other law students. Since then, 4 of my classmates have lost their lives. These deaths are tragic on different levels. Anyone who is considering a career in law should be aware of the high stress & anxiety. I have not checked recently but lawyers are generally at the top of the list for drug and alcohol abuse. Not surprisingly. (If you’re wondering, I meditate and I have a strong support network. I also take self-care very seriously.)

I want to wish all Queen’s grads an amazing 2021. Congratulations on getting #1 in Canada. Great school.

Enhanced Travel Document

The Manitoba government continues to provide “enhanced” documents that serve as alternatives to a Canadian Passport for crossing the border into the United States by land and/or water. In certain circumstances, this enhanced travel document makes it easy to travel between Canada and the USA. The enhanced features allow the individual to cross the border easily and efficiently.

Currently, the only Canadian provinces to offer the enhanced documents are Manitoba, Ontario and BC. As noted below, Ontario may be canceling their program in 2019. In my view, this document is a poorly understood and little-known document that is cheap and easy to get.

Features:

  • Alternative to a Passport;
  • Helps people cross easily over the border;
  • Less stuff in your wallet/ purse.

The Manitoba enhanced Driver’s Licence allows individuals to simply use their Licence to cross the border. We used to be able to do this when crossing into the USA; however, the laws changed so that regular (non-enhanced) Driver’s Licences are no longer sufficient to enter the United States:

By Land and Sea (including ferries) – Canadian citizens traveling to the U.S. by land or sea are required to present one of the travel documents listed below, and may generally visit the U.S. for up to six months. CBP will accept: Canadian passport, Enhanced Driver’s License/Enhanced Identification Card, NEXUS, FAST/EXPRES and SENTRI enrollment cards.

Ontario recently proposed to discontinue this service and they have eliminated this option:

Ontario is proposing to eliminate an enhanced driver’s licence that allows people to enter the United States at land and water border crossings without a passport.

The driver’s licence option was introduced in 2009, when the U.S. required passports or other secure identification for anyone crossing into the country by land or sea, but it hasn’t had the anticipated uptake.

British Columbia and Manitoba have enhanced driver’s licences, and Quebec used to, but phased out the program — other provinces rejected the idea because it was too costly or there wasn’t enough public interest.

If you or your contacts are interested in the enhanced travel document, please contact our office and we can help with the application.

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, including LMIA applications and MPNP-BIS. 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.

Canada Flag Pins

We had a client, about a month ago, who was preparing in our office before his hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board. As we were leaving for the tribunal, he noticed Heavenly’s Canada Flag pin which she regularly wears on her lapel. He complimented her on it and, in turn, she gifted him the pin to give him good luck with his hearing. We got a positive decision on that day and, of course, the client was very happy.

Canada Flag pins

Since then, we contacted MP Jim Carr’s office and they have provided many new pins! So for anyone in downtown Winnipeg, feel free to come by to pick up a pin!

When I saw this new bag of Canada Flag pins, I actually felt quite nostalgic. I brought a bag of Canada Flag pins when I moved to Ecuador in 1993. While I was there, I handed them out to Ecuadorian, Colombian and Australian friends. They were extremely popular in the small city of Esmeraldas. I ran out of them very quickly and then I noticed that my friends would pass them around and trade them.

I also brought a small bag of pins with I moved to Tokyo to teach in a public Junior High School. I used the pins as rewards for students who did well on English assignments or tests. They were also very popular with my Japanese students. For them, it was not only an interesting international object that traveled to them from a far off land, it was also a badge of doing well in school. The trick was to try to get pins into different hands. I had a few students who were extremely good students and they would have earned all the pins.

At Clarke Immigration Law, we are going to give away these pins to all our clients who are preparing for their hearings. Hopefully it will also give them good luck and confidence!

CTV News: New Surge to Manitoba

Clarke Immigration Law was featured on CTV News yesterday in a story on the rescinding of Temporary Protected Status for citizens of El Salvador who are living in the United States. In our practice, we have assisted clients from many countries who have found their path to Manitoba. Many of these stories are horrendous. We are greatly concerned that the situation in the United States may force the +200,000 people from El Salvador to come north to Canada and for safety and security. Currently, the refugee determination system in Canada is suffering from long timeframes and inadequate resources for the refugee claimants in the system.

Here is an excerpt from Josh Crabb’s article on CTV News:

Salvadorans living with temporary protected status in the U.S. have until Sep., 2019 to leave the country or face

Temporary Protected Statusdeportation.

Winnipeg-based immigration lawyer Alastair Clarke said it’s reasonable to think some Salvadorans may look north when their temporary protection status in the U.S. ends.

“It’s reasonable to think many will come to Canada,” said Clarke. “We should expect a surge.”

The federal immigration minister said the department is monitoring the situation but downplayed concerns Tuesday in Ottawa that the move would result in an influx of asylum seekers coming to Canada.

“El Salvadorans have until September 2019 to either leave the United States or find a new way to obtain legal residency or regularize their status,” Ahmed Hussen told reporters in Ottawa. “It’s important to note until 2019 in September members of this community have the opportunity to regularize their status. They still have TPS (temporary protected status) until then.”

To watch the clip that was featured on CTV News, click on this link.

Clarke Immigration Law is currently assisting clients from various countries in Central and South America. Note that Alastair is fluent in Spanish and he can assist Spanish-speaking clients in their mother tongue. Each refugee claim is based on a case-by-case determination.

Temporary Protected Status

In the United States, more than 300,000 individuals from various countries have been protected by Temporary Protected Status. This status does not give them a “Green Card” or permanent status but it has meant that they can work and live in the United States without fear of being deported by ICE Officers.

The Trump administration has been repealing or withdrawing support from these communities. Haitians and Salvadoreans are not the only groups that will be affected. US Immigration attorneys Dawn M. Lurie and Alexander Madrak have outlined some of the legal consequences to TPS in this article.

Please contact our office for more information.