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.

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

Guest Post: Should I move to Canada if I’m a disappointed U.S. citizen?

Repost with Permission from Matt Musselman, Originally Published on Quora:

I find that many of the answers here are helpful, but I’m not sure they address the issues that are really going to matter most to Americans moving here. I’ll do my best.

Some background: I moved from the US to Canada in late 2004. I chose to move mostly because I’d recently been laid off from my job, and my best job offer was in Vancouver, and anywhere on the coast looked like a nice change of scenery from Dallas. But the fact that I’d also become increasingly disillusioned with how post-9/11 America was shaping up, and that this job was in Canada and a chance to try out life on the other side — that certainly contributed and gave it an edge over another offer based in Chicago.

The pros about moving to Canada

Crossing the Border Into Canada

Crossing the Border Into Canada

For me individually, moving to Canada has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. There are a number of things I really love about Canada, some of which I didn’t even fully appreciate until after I was here. A sampling:

  • Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and many other places in Canada are world-class cities in their own right, and great places to live regardless of what nation they’re in.
  • Diversity and multiculturalism. Particularly, women, LGBT, and non-white people are treated way more like equals in Canada than they are in the US. It’s not perfect, but definitely better. And when you have a population where multiculturalism and acceptance already the norm, racial tensions and sexism and homophobia have far less of a foothold.
  • MUCH less violence and violent crime than the US. I regularly walk on foot through objectively the “worst” neighbourhood in Canada, whereas there were plenty of places in in the US that I wouldn’t even drive through in a car, let alone walk around on foot.
  • Healthcare, parental leave, general health benefits, higher minimum wage – Just about everyone you meet is happier, healthier, and more productive. Doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but it’s better, and I also suspect this is a huge reason behind the lower crime rate. When people are healthy and have the right support structures to get and keep a good job, there’s less reason for them to rob you (among other things), and the economy in general is stronger.
  • Better community resources. The libraries, community centres, public programs, festivals, etc, are really terrific here. More than in the US, people’s lives happen outside, in public places, with each other.
  • More rational political climate. I think the 4+ party system helps with this, but maybe it’s cultural, too. Canadians as a rule are far less polarised, less angry, and less dogmatic than Americans tend to be. It’s refreshing.
  • Not a militaristic nation except for peacekeeping and defence. The world sees Canada as a country that swoops in and saves the day (WW1, WW2), promotes the peace otherwise, and is never a big bully that other nations need to fear, hate, or retaliate against. Canada is a respected nation almost everywhere in the world, and Canadians are proud of that.

Now the more tricky considerations:

  • Most importantly, you can’t just up and move to Canada. There’s a process. You may not even be approved at all. It’s easier than immigrating to the US, I think, but not negligible. It’s hard. For all the thousands of Americans who TALK of moving to Canada for political reasons from time to time, the reality is that in the past twelve years I’ve met 1) a couple dozen 1970s Vietnam-era draft dodgers (BC seems to be full of them), and 2) only one (ONE!) couple who moved specifically because of politics. And they’re the same couple who are also regularly interviewed by CBC, The Guardian, and so on about packing up and moving to Canada, which really reinforces the idea that they really are the only couple most other people have ever met, too. I do know rumours of a few others, friends of friends, but only a few. So that tells you something about the cost and difficulty of actually following through on this plan rather than just talking about it.
  • Most people in general immigrate to Canada because they already have a job here. Very few (other than refugees) move first for some other reason (politics, you say?) and then job-hunt later. And the ones that do it that way really struggle. There’s a reason for that….
  • Immigration is expensive. You know how some landlords expect a huge deposit + first two months rent? Imagine that, for basically every aspect of your life (housing, car, telephone deposit, electric company deposit, new driver’s license, fees for new government IDs, 90 day healthcare premium period, new job expenses, etc). It takes a tremendous amount of cash, which you also need to convert into the new currency, which incurs a penalty. Also, still paying for your car? Prepare to pay it off or sell it; you can’t take that US loan with you. That 2 or 3 year cell phone plan that seemed like such a great deal at the time? Using it in Canada now means $2/minute or more in roaming fees — set aside some money to pay off that device subsidy balance or early cancellation fees. And if that weren’t enough, like any other move, you may also need new clothes. And housewares. Especially if you’re moving in wintertime.
  • But I can just rack up some debt at first, right? Surprise, no. You have no credit rating here, and you may even be considered an international default risk when applying for new lines of credit. Mortgage lenders are usually willing to check international credit ratings, but literally no one else is (credit cards, auto loan lenders, banks, phone company, electric company). They literally have no idea who you are, as if you were born yesterday. So strengthening the point above, 1) be prepared to pay a cash deposit for EVERYTHING, 2) including locking some much needed cash behind a cash-secured credit card, because it’s the only kind you’re allowed to get and you’re going to need one for certain kinds of purchases, and 3) okay, you can keep your US credit cards for a while to carry some debt, but remember that every time you use them there’s one currency conversion to convert the CAD purchase into USD for your card, a second currency conversion the other direction to change your CAD earnings to USD to pay the card balance (unless you stashed even more cash away in a USD savings account), and then further international purchase fees on top of that — a $100CAD purchase can end up costing you $140CAD or more after all those fees and currency conversions.
  • Temporary worker status. Until you become a permanent resident (like a US “green card”), and eventually a citizen, each of which can take several years, you will likely be living in Canada on a temporary work visa. That means all that money you paid to move your stuff up here? Well, if you lose your job, commit the wrong legal infraction, etc, etc, etc, you could be paying that same money all over again to move right back to the US where you started. It’s like a Damocles Sword that hangs over your head every single day. “I hate this job, but if I quit, I could be deported. If I don’t do well enough and get fired, I could be deported.” Think about it. Also listen to the news in the US with this in mind: Every time you hear people talking about wanting to reduce the number of temporary foreign workers, about someone being deported for whatever reason, about immigrants stealing Americans’ jobs . . . imagine that’s now you, and imagine how you’ll feel hearing those kinds of stories from the opposite perspective. You need to be ready for that.
  • One more thing on worker status. There’s a significant chance your spouse won’t be approved to work at all. Say goodbye to that dual income for a while. Exactly when you need it most.
  • Travel. Another thing new immigrants to Canada fail to fully account for is that now any trip to the US is an international flight. At international flight costs. With international border-crossing restrictions. And related to work visas, permanent residence applications, and so on, there will even be large blocks of time (a month or two at a time) during these processes where you’re not allowed to leave the country, or if you do, you may not be let back in. Ageing parents back in the States? Other emergencies that could pop up and demand immediate travel? You’ll have to make some tough choices from time to time. Even a phone call is an expensive international call now, unless you can teach them how to use Skype or Facetime. You’re a lot farther away.
  • Professional considerations. The US has better standing than some other countries when it comes to professional certifications and experience, but it’s not perfect. Don’t expect all your “credits” to transfer. Add to this the context that the Canadian hiring culture puts a huge premium on specifically Canadian work experience, even for English-speaking white American male applicants who unknowingly take for granted the special edge they get back home. Now you’re just another of those immigrants “stealing people’s jobs” so to speak, and official government policy supports employers in legally discriminating against you in favour of Canadian citizens. Expect that you’ll likely have to take a lower-paying, lower-title job when you arrive, and that may last for a while. Or, if your chosen field already suffers high unemployment numbers, your immigration application may be rejected entirely.
  • General culture shock. Canada is a lot like the US, but just different enough that you’re guaranteed to feel homesick about SOMETHING: missing your favourite foods or your favourite places, already knowing the processes for renewing license plates and driver’s licenses rather than constantly having to figure out new bureacracy, missing your family as you work through US Thanksgiving and other mismatched holidays, not having to deal with the constant reminder of being an outsider when people joke about your accent and spelling and pronunciation (I personally focused on quickly assimilating in that regard, because otherwise people’s comments, even when well-meaning, were a constant painful reminder that I didn’t fit in here — you’ll feel it, too), general differences in social habits, and generally just a lot of little things that feel foreign or a little weird. It’s like those parallel universe sci-fi shows where the guy thinks he’s home but keeps having an odd feeling, and sooner or later goes outside and realises the sky is green instead of blue. For the first week, the little differences are fun, but then they really start to wear you down until you finally learn them and accept them. Navigating from day to day in even a marginally different environment takes far more work than you think.
  • And generally, you’re really starting from scratch: no friends, no family other than those you bring with you, not even a favourite place you like to go eat or hang out when you’re at the end of your rope. It sounds silly, but most people are totally unaware of how many safety nets they have in their current life until they lose them.

In conclusion, I’ll reiterate that in the long term, moving here turned out to be one of the best choices I ever made for my own life. But I can’t emphasise enough how hard it is, and that it may not be the right thing for many people. My company was hiring a bunch of people all at once for a major project, and of the Americans who moved for the job, roughly 70–80% couldn’t hack it and moved back within 3 years or so. What Americans forget is that moving to Canada makes you an immigrant, just like the immigrants coming to you. Look how hard their lives are. Ask yourself honestly if that’s the life you’re willing to sign up for in order to get the benefits you’re hoping to find in Canada. The benefits are here, but they don’t come to the weak of heart.

But I do guarantee: if you do it, you will totally rethink the way you see immigrants and refugees, foreigners and minorities, outsiders in general, all around the world. You’ll realise they’re not the villains in this story; they’re the lonely voyagers, the fearless adventurers, the faithful mothers and fathers, the loyal friends, the people who sacrificed everything for themselves for a better life for their families. That’s one of the things I value most about my move here. It’s a gift that can be earned few other ways than by becoming an outsider yourself. Decide well, and good luck. If you make it here, I’d love to meet you.

A Word About the Writer:

Matt Musselman is Texan-Canadian who writes about Canada, The United States of America, Air Travel, Resumes and CVs, Enterprise Architecture, and other topics.

Repost: “Silly rules” of Immigration law

Posted from Slaw.ca:

Our beloved Minister McCallum is on yet another tour, meeting with employers and stakeholders in the Atlantic provinces to boost a pilot project: Atlantic Growth Strategy. During the presentation, our Minister indicated, “We are committed to streamlining things, to getting rid of silly rules […]” I supposed I am still shell-shocked from the rhetoric of our previous government but I cannot overstate the change in perspective from our current Minister compared to past Ministers.

Minister McCallum did not elaborate on which of our current immigration rules are the “silly” rules. Based on conversations with clients, I regularly hear, “and why do we have to do that?” Then I do my best to explain the history of the rules & procedures and the lengthy development of why the forms ask what they ask. Married to a historian, I try to be aware of the history behind the (many, many) amendments to rules and forms over the years.

Notwithstanding the historical reasons, here are some situations clients have found to be “silly”:

  • Americans (and British, etc) with college degrees (including Masters and PhDs) must take an English exam for a PR application.
  • Workers have 90 days of implied status to apply for a Work Permit extension but processing times are 110 – 130 days. If the application is refused for any reason (sometimes trivial), the application is sent back and the worker is up a creek.
  • Applicants must provide new Police Clearance Certificates (PCCs) from countries where they have not returned (this is getting better).
  • Letters requesting additional information can give the clients 90 days to reply and then refuse the application after 60 days (this is rare but it happens).
  • Renewing a PR Card takes longer than applying for a new one.

Those of some of the silly situations off the top of my head. Some days it can be difficult to explain the reasons behind the situation; other times I am reminded of the historical reasons for the rules and it all makes sense. If you think of more “silly rules”, leave them in the comments on Slaw.ca.

MPNP: From Temporary Status to PR Status

Backgrounder: Temporary Status

On a basic level, there are 4 levels of status in Canada: citizenship, permanent resident (PR) status, temporary status and without status. Individuals come to us with all levels of status and we work to either keep their existing status, for them to gain status themselves or for them to help someone else with their status (for example: their spouse). Each level of status affords different levels of rights and privileges. For example, someone with temporary status does not have the right to work unless they have a work permit or other permission whereas a permanent resident can work anywhere in Canada.

One Route from Temporary Status to Permanent Status

When we are contacted by an individual overseas, one common scenario is that they often have a means to come to Canada for a visit or they are interested in studying but their goal is to move permanently. Canadian law allows to have a “duel intent” when entering the country; a foreigner can enter on a temporary visa with the intention to come for a visit and, at the same time, also have the long-term goal of staying permanently.

Caution: in these circumstances, we would recommend that you hire a representative to draft submissions to the Officer to avoid being detained or refused entry.

One route to PR status is through studying and working in Canada. The steps are these: 1. TRV + Study Permit; 2. Post Graduate Work Permit; 3. MPNP Skilled Worker Application; 4. PR application to IRCC.

Step 1: Study Permit

Study Permits are issued by Canadian Visa Offices abroad. International students contribute to Canadian universities both financially and culturally. In tuition, they pay considerably more than other students. According to Statistics Canada, students can pay more than $35,000 per year for an undergraduate program:

Tuition ON

In Manitoba, there are 2 many benefits for choosing to study in this province: 1. tuition may be less comparable to other urban centres; 2. positive tax benefits for money paid in tuition through the Tuition Fee Income Tax Rebate (up to $25,000 may be deducted).

Temporary Status

These rebates are only a benefit, however, if the individual files taxes in Canada and lives in Manitoba. It is not open to residents of other provinces.

Step 2. Post Graduate Work Permit

A work permit issued under the Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) program may be issued by IRCC to a foreign student for the length of the study program, up to a maximum of 3 years. This is beneficial for both the students, who wish to work in Canada and continue to establish themselves, the Canadian employers and the Canadian economy. As mentioned by Minister John MacCallum at the CBA Immigration Conference in April 2016 in Vancouver, he sees foreign graduates of Canadian universities as one of the top priorities of IRCC.

Be prepared. Please note that the timelines for applying for the PGWP program are strict. Failure to apply early and/or meet the requirements may lead to a refused application.

Step 3: MPNP Skilled Worker in Manitoba stream

When the foreign national completes 6 months of full-time, continuous work in Manitoba and the company provides an Offer Letter, then the individual may apply under the MPNP program (other factors notwithstanding). This application may lead to a Nomination Certificate from the Manitoba government and the support of the province.

For more information about MPNP applications and tips on how to succeed with a MPNP application, see our previous posts on this subject.

Step 4: PR application to IRCC

After the applicant receives the Certificate, they may apply for PR status to the federal government. For more information about applications and fees, please contact our office directly.

News: Americans Who Fear Trump Presidency

Winnipeg Free Press journalist published a piece on Americans coming to Canada who fear a Trump Presidency. The below is published on the WFP website here.

U.S.-Canada romance quite complex: lawyer

Could Manitoba become a north-of-the-border love nest for Americans escaping the prospect of a Trump presidency?

It could if you believe the hype surrounding the website MapleMatch.com and its promise to save Americans “from living through a Trump presidency by finding genuine ready-to-marry Canadians.”

‘My advice to Canadians who wish to help their American neighbours through a sponsorship application is to make sure they develop a relationship before they get married’

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Immigration lawyer Alastair Clarke says scrutiny is thorough when it comes to immigration and relationships.</p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Immigration lawyer Alastair Clarke says scrutiny is thorough when it comes to immigration and relationships.

Talk shows and cable news channels have joked about the website started by an Austin, Texas man who reportedly supports Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. It says it is signing up people on both sides of the border but isn’t as yet a full-fledged matchmaking website.

But if it ever gets up and running, MapleMatch.com may not be as sweet of a deal as it sounds, says a Winnipeg immigration lawyer who is the product of a cross-border coupling.

Alastair Clarke said cross-border matches may be easier to make today thanks to the Internet, but immigrating is a lot harder than it was back when his Canadian mom and American dad met and fell in love at university in Chicago.

“Marriages between American and Canadian spouses face significant scrutiny by IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) officers,” he said. Under Canadian law, couples have to show their relationship is both “genuine” and not for the “primary purpose” of immigration, said Clarke. Immigration officers have broad discretionary powers to conduct interviews and investigate the marriage to ensure the application meets the legal tests, he said.

“My advice to Canadians who wish to help their American neighbours through a sponsorship application is to make sure they develop a relationship before they get married,” said Clarke. The Federal Court of Canada has confirmed the time leading up to the marriage date is significant during the “primary purpose” investigation, he said. “The relationship should have breadth and depth before the wedding.” Couples who choose not to get married can file an application as common-law partners or conjugal partners, but those applications have to meet additional requirements, he said.

Would Americans seriously consider abandoning their country for the Great White North if Trump becomes president? Maybe, says the spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations.

“In the past we’ve joked about this kind of thing whenever there is a new Islamaphobic policy or some issue targeting American Muslims,” said Ibrahim Hooper in Washington, D.C. “I think people aren’t laughing as much anymore,” he said Friday.

The non-profit council doesn’t take a political position, he said. “We merely react to anti-Muslim rhetoric,” and Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric has already hurt people even though the presumptive Republican nominee hasn’t won the presidency. One example he cited was a Muslim woman attacked in Washington by a Trump supporter, who said “When Trump gets in, you guys are gone.”

“He really has mainstreamed Islamaphobia in America,” Hooper said. “That is a really troubling phenomenon that will remain whether or not he is elected president.” Trump losing is nearly as worrisome as is his winning, he said. “It makes you wonder who will be blamed and targeted by his supporters.”

Talk of leaving the U.S. — so far — is just talk, said Hooper. “It’s mainly in comments online and in the discussion phase right now.” He hasn’t yet heard of any American Muslim feeling so threatened they’re planning to take refuge in Canada.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t go that far.”

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Carol Sanders.