MB Torch of Dignity Event

Torch of Dignity

Clarke Immigration Law had the privilege of participating in the recent Manitoba Torch of Dignity Event. Alastair Clarke was honoured to be invited as a Speaker & Presentor to this event, based on his advocacy on behalf of Manitobans. Alastair has been fighting for his clients for many years, including cases based on human rights violations and cases based on Charter rights. Here is a copy of Alastair’s speech, which is available online:

Thank you for the invitation to speak with you today. I am prerecording my talk and I expect that we started this conference with acknowledge to the First Nations people. I am speaking to you at Clarke Immigration Law,  located on the traditional lands of the Anishinabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dene, and Dakota, and is the Birthplace of the Métis Nation and the Heart of the Métis Nation Homeland. And this acknowledgment is not perfunctory. As a conference focused on human rights, we need to recognize the human rights that have been violated in Canada. For the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Clarke Immigration Law announced pro bono services for Indigenous people. I believe it is incumbent on all of us to be part of the solution.

OK – today I have been asked to speak on Article 14 of the Universal Declarations of Human Rights. Namely, the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution. The Declarations were proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1948 in the shadow of WWII. Subsequently, member states participated in four Geneva Conventions that led to the 1951 Refugee Convention. Immigration lawyers regularly refer to the 1951 Geneva Convention as the foundation for modern refugee laws. It is important to note that Canada did not sign the Convention until 1969 – more than 18 years after it was adopted by the UN.

In Canadian law, the principles have been ratified in sections 96 and 97 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. For any foreign national in Canada, they may be granted refugee status or protected person status if they fall within sections 96 or 97. These sections are the backbone of the refugee determination system and the particular language of these sections has been heavily litigated.

Torch of Dignity

Torch of Dignity

As a practitioner, my job is to help my clients navigate the Canadian immigration system. I have represented thousands of clients from around the world on all kinds of immigration applications. Today I want to share 3 cases with you. These are real cases of real people. The point of the first case is to show how Canadian laws may fail to protect human rights. The second is to how the Canadian system has adapted to help people who have suffered human rights violations. The third case is a challenging case that I am currently handling. The point of this third case is to highlight some of the issues refugee lawyers have to deal with in 2021. Finally, I want to propose an expansion of refugee law and I want all of you to get involved in helping refugees who need our help.

The first story starts in Burundi. The former president of Burundi and his regime committed many human rights violations and the International Criminal Court has been investigating human rights abuses since 2017. I got involved in 2018 when I got a call from a Burundi journalist at the border. She entered the United States on a visitor visa and she was attempting to file a claim for refugee protection in Canada. Her sister-in-law lives in Winnipeg and they are very close. Unfortunately, when she got to the Canadian border, the officers could not allow her refugee claim to be referred to the tribunal unless she passed the legal test in the Safe Third Country Agreement. In this case, the Agreement mandated that this Burundi journalist file her refugee claim in the USA unless she fell under one of the exceptions. The family thought that having a family member in Canada would grant her access to the Canadian refugee determination system – which is far more humane than the American system. Alas, her relationship with her sister-in-law, a relationship by marriage not by blood, was not sufficient and she was denied entry. On a side note, her children were allowed to enter as they have a blood connection with their Canadian aunt. The journalist made the heart-wrenching decision to give her children to her sister-in-law and to stay at a shelter near the border in the USA. That is when I got involved. We filed an Application for Judicial Review to Federal Court and negotiated with the Department of Justice. It was not easy but the journalist is now in Canada with her children and they are all permanent residents.

I have spoken on the so-called Safe Third Country Agreement at national conferences for immigration lawyers and in many news interviews. In my view, this Agreement allows Canada to shirk its human rights obligations. In 2020, Federal Court Justice McDonald determined the Safe Third Country Agreement is unconstitutional and fails to protect human rights. I would encourage you to read this well reasoned decision that is based on very strong evidence. This decision, however, was overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal earlier this year. I disagree with this recent decision and more work needs to be done.

The second case refers to the Singh decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, rendered on April 4th, 1985. The reason I mention the date is because April 4th is Refugee Rights Day and that date was chosen based on the Singh decision. Prior to the Singh decision, refugee claimants in Canada did not have the right to a hearing. They submitted a written claim only. No testimony. No witnesses. There were many lawyers involved as advocates in this decision but I want to mention Barb Jackman. She is one of the reasons I fight for my clients. She was my professor at Queen’s Law and she would talk to me about her cases during breaks. Barb was a young lawyer when she argued the Singh case at the Supreme Court and she made strong Charter arguments to fight for change. Indeed, the Court agreed and the Immigration and Refugee Board was created. I have been giving guest lectures to students at the University of Winnipeg for many years and we focus on the Singh decision. This decision gives me hope for positive change and it shows the importance of both individual effort and the judicial system to be part of the solution.

My last story involves a member of the Falun Gong from China who is currently fighting to stay in Canada. Human rights abuses of members of Falun Gong are well documented. My client was tortured and she is emotionally exhausted. She fled China without any documents and she has been trying to have evidence sent to her. Alas, the Chinese government’s draconian surveillance system has cut her off from her relatives and friends. Her WhatsApp account was canceled. Her friend’s account has been suspended. She is now afraid that if she continues with her claim, her family members in China will be punished. The reason that I bring up this case is the highlight the challenges of fighting human rights abuses in 2021. While we have technology that allows me to present to you, wherever you are, modern technology also allows governments to hide human rights violations.

Finally, I want to end on a call to action. Currently, we are facing possible extinction if we do not confront climate change. The 1951 Geneva Convention and, subsequently, sections 96 and 97 of IRPA did not consider people being displaced from environmental disasters. These people are currently not covered by our laws. I have been working on this issue since 2010 when I edited an article by Peter Showler entitled The Plight of the Eco-Refugee. Climate change is an existential threat and we need to recognize this risk within the context of refugee law.

Thank you and I look forward to further discussion on any of these points. I hope I have helped spark change.

To watch the event, click here and you can watch the Q&A with all the presenters. 

 

Success: H&C

As part of our series to share success stories, we are thrilled to share this story of a Mexican family who were granted Approval In Principle (AIP) on an Application for Permanent Resident Status based on Humanitarian and Compassionate Considerations (H&C). As you may be aware, the H&C application currently has an approval rate of approximately 50% only. This application requires significant work and research. In this case, we worked with numerous community members, academics, and legal scholars to put together a strong application based on their humanitarian circumstances. humanitarian

A brief background. A family of (5) five Mexican nationals with strong family and historical connections to southern Manitoba came to our office in early 2018. This Mennonite family were all born in Mexico. Their parents (deceased) were members of Old Colony Mennonites who were born in Manitoba. Based on issues related to education, they left Canada to settle in Mexico and Paraguay. They came to us to help them rekindle their ties with the Mennonite community in the Winkler area. As they have no formal education, they did not qualify for the RNIP, MPNP or any other skilled worker category even though these are highly accomplished applicants.

After only 11 months of processing, IRCC gave approval in principle (AIP) to this H&C application based on the strong humanitarian arguments. We are very pleased with the processing time of this application – faster than average processing times.

This family has maintained their temporary status in Canada throughout the H&C process and they are currently working with valid Work Permits. We attribute the success of this application based on the strong support of the Mennonite community and strong legal research. Similar to another humanitarian application that was approved, we prepared +400 pages of documents for this H&C application.

This family is naturally delighted their application has passed the AIP (first-stage) approval and we look forward to this family becoming Permanent Residents of Canada. To date, Clarke Immigration Law has never had an H&C application refused.

Refugee Law & Climate Change

Kiribati is a small island nation that may soon be gone. It is forecasted to be the first nation to become a victim of climate change and all of its citizens will be forced, involuntarily, to find another home. In an unprecedented decision, the UN Human Rights Commission ruled that a citizen of Kiribati, Mr. Ioane Teitioto, shall not be deported by New Zealand due to threats related to climate change. This decision is the first in a sea of change, I believe, that will lead to a significant expansion of Canadian refugee law.

A Brief History of the “Eco-Refugee”

The inevitable destruction of the nation of Kiribati is a predictable consequence of climate change and it signals a looming global crisis. This crisis has been on the horizon for decades. Back in 2010, I edited an article by Professor Peter Shower, “The Plight of the Eco-Refugee” for the Briefly Speaking, published by the Ontario Bar Association. As noted by Peter:

It is generally accepted that the Convention definition of a refugee does not protect the environmentally displaced. The Convention does not apply to internally displaced migrants and the harm feared must be due to a Convention ground: race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. This element of the definition eliminates natural catastrophes.

At the time, Haiti suffered after a divesting earthquake in 2010. The coordinated international response, largely based on the network from 2004 when a tsunami devastated parts of Asia, came to the aid of many Haitians and even 10 years later, much of Haiti has not recovered. It is very clear the trend is towards increasing severity and frequency of these environmental catastrophes.

I agreed with Peter in 2010; alas, as far as I am aware, the article and its call for reform fell on deaf ears.

One Non-Binding Decision

Indeed, very little has changed in the past 10 years … until this recent ruling by the 18 members of the UN Human Rights Commission. This decision is, of course, non-binding on Canadian adjudicators or any other signatory countries around the world. In my view, however, the decision is persuasive and comprehensive in its analysis.

As noted by Melanie Gallant, head of communications for UNHCR Canada:

In its decision, the UN Human Rights Committee has made clear that returning a person to a country where they face a risk to their life, or a risk of serious mistreatment, as a result of climate change-related environmental degradation would violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

UNHCR is calling this decision a “wake-up call” to signatory countries, including Canada. This is not a decision that can be simply cast aside. It may have been true back in 2010 when our issue of Briefly Speaking focused on environmental issues barely made any ripples or in 2015 when Mr Teitioto’s initial claim for refugee protection was denied by New Zealand. Indeed, I believe 2020, or possibly this decade, will be the time for action and the claims of eco-refugees may finally be accepted as “valid” in law. In the UNHCR statement urging a “wake-up call”:

UNHCR has consistently stressed that people fleeing adverse effects of climate change and the impact of sudden and slow-onset disasters may have valid claims for refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention or regional refugee frameworks. This includes but is not limited to situations where climate change and disasters are intertwined with conflict and violence.

Indeed, as aptly noted by UNHCR, refugee claims that have ties to climate change or environmental disasters may be accepted when the claims are linked with civil unrest, political violence or conflict that may be argued separately from the risks directly related to environmental disaster.

Canadian Context

The question becomes how claimants from nations like Kiribati who come to Canada seeking protection based on the effects of climate change will be handled by the Immigration and Refugee Board – Refugee Protection Division (IRB-RPD). Under Canadian law, a claimant may be conferred with status pursuant to either section 96 or section 97 of IRPA. Briefly, section 96 includes the language from the Convention as outlined by the enumerated categories listed by Peter above. Section 97 confers refugee stats to people in need of protection and RPD Members may grant status under either section.

Climate Change

Generally speaking, RPD Members are sympathetic to refugee claimants in Canada and I have seen dozens, if not hundreds, of claimants receive positive decisions here subsequent to refusals from Immigration judges in the USA. I have given numerous presentations on these issues. We continue to live in a world where asylum claimants in the USA are denied basic rights and they are prevented from presenting their evidence or from having access to counsel.

In his article, Peter Showler calls for action on the part of the United Nations:

The more promising approach is a comprehensive set of guiding principles comparable to the U.N.’s Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. […] Some will criticize the proposals for being non-binding but that is the only means by which nations will meaningfully engage in long-term preparatory discussions on protection.

The above quote is from 2010, as far as I am aware, no such long-term discussions have taken place and the situation has become increasingly dire.

Bill Frelick, Refugee Rights Director at Human Rights Watch, is calling for an expansion of the definition of refugee to include claims based on risks from climate change:

This means not only that our common understanding of what it means to be a refugee needs to change, but also that the 173 countries that are party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights should ensure their asylum standards and procedures are adapted to protect all who face existential threats if returned to home countries that have become unliveable.

Ideally, Parliament would act to expand the definitions of a refugee in Canada; however, that may not be necessary.

“Membership in a Particular Social Group”

A potential solution may be to find nexus between those individuals who are fleeing environmental destruction and the enumerated group of “membership in a particular social group” per section 96 of IRPA. This category allows for interpretation and may allow for sufficient flexibility from adjudicators to confer refugee status on claimants without changes to statute.

Currently, this category is being interpreted differently by signatory governments. For example, in Canada, women who are the victims of domestic violence have been accepted as part of this category; however, in the USA, those same women have been denied claims on the same evidence. The Tamil passengers of the MV Sun Sea were first conferred refugee status by the RPD on this basis and then, on appeal, that decision was reversed by Justice Noel of the Federal Court of Canada.

It is clear that the “membership in a particular social group” may be interpreted differently by decision-makers. The question will be whether eco-refugees may fit within this definition or whether it will take an act of Parliament to amend our laws. The only certainty of this situation is that climate change is going to increasingly affect our lives. The people from Kiribati are going to need another home once their island nation is completely uninhabitable. At this point, fewer than a million souls are at immediate risk of seeking eco-refugee status. As another environmental disaster looms on the horizon, we urgently need a robust refugee system that acknowledges the current climate change crisis.

Note: This post has also been published on Slaw.ca where Alastair Clarke is a Contributor.

Lessons From 2019

We find ourselves at the end of another year. Indeed, the end of 2019 also marks the end of a decade. This is a time for contemplation and an opportunity to ponder lessons to learn for the future. I want to start but expressing my thanks and gratitude for my team. I am thankful every single day to work with an amazing group of professionals who put their hearts into their work. My main job is to provide guidance and support to ensure that we remain focused on providing the absolute best service for our clients.

I want to take time at the end of 2019 to think about lessons learned; hopefully, 2020 will bring positive change.

  1. Applicants Remain Vulnerable

Over and over and over and over, we have seen how applicants have paid thousands upon thousands of CAD dollars to shady representatives for poor service. I find it deeply frustrating and infuriating to see clients punished as a result of negligence. These applicants are the victims and they remain vulnerable. I recently attended an interview with a CBSA Officer and an Egyptian client shared her story. She paid an immigration consultant $15,000.00 for an application and she was not even eligible to apply. In my view, that is pure theft.

We are working with a Vietnamese family who paid a Chinese representative for a Study Permit. Completely wrong. Thankfully, CBSA started a criminal investigation against him and I hope his former clients are not punished.

In 2019, the Government of Canada took action “to help protect vulnerable people” against “fraudulent immigration consultants”. We will have to see if things get better in 2020 and the next decade.

  1. Canada is the New Hope2019

Clarke Immigration Law is based on Canada’s status around the world and I am constantly reminded how fortunate we are to live in one of the best (if not the best) countries. From our office, this past decade marks a strong collaboration with the news. We were called upon by CBC News, CTV News, Global News, Winnipeg Free Press and many other news sources to comment on different stories. Primarily, these stories stemmed from Canada as the New Hope in the world, replacing the United States as the “best” country for applicants from around the globe.

It was my pleasure as the only Canadian lawyer at the international EB-5 Conference in Las Vegas, USA. I was asked to present as a result of the interest by investors around the world in Canadian business opportunities, including the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program – Business Investor Stream. And, of course, I must mention the amazing people at TEDx Winnipeg who gave me the stage to talk about open borders and refugees which has been published on YouTube.

It is clear that 2020 will be a decade of growth for Canada and we will continue to work to build this country.

  1. Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst

Generally speaking, I stay out of politics. I have worked with Members of Parliament from all political parties and we will continue to advocate on behalf of our client regardless of the party in power. That said, I firmly support the current Liberal government and I am hopeful for this coming decade.

My hope for positive political change in 2020 is also balanced with a plan to consider the worst. Minister McCallum made significant changes to IRPA that rolled back many of the inhumane changes by the former Conservative government; however, this government needs to do more. I feel privileged that we were able to work with the Liberal government to make changes to section 38 of IRPA (Medical Inadmissibility) on behalf of the Warkentin family.

  1. Uncertainty on the Horizon

As my mum often says, the only constant is change. There is no doubt that 2020 and the new decade will bring change. Here are a few predictions for this coming decade:

  • The Government of Canada and the Government of Manitoba will continue to buttress immigration laws to attract STEM graduates and professionals;
  • The current Liberal government will focus on quicker processing times, including Family Class applications;
  • Regional migration and new programs that focus on smaller communities will thrive;
  • International students are the strongest stream for Permanent Resident status;
  • Refugees will be recognized for their economic contributions;
  • The changes to regulation of Immigration Consultants will fail and the government will be forced to revisit this issue.

We wish you all the best for 2020 and the coming decade. We have many reasons to celebrate 2019 and, at the same time, learn from past lessons.

Bill C-97 – Changes to IRPA

CONCERNS REGARDING PROPOSED CHANGES IN BILL C-97

Dear Sir or Madam:

On behalf of residents and organizations in Manitoba who deal directly with immigrants and refugees, we have serious concerns regarding the amendments proposed in Bill C-97. The focus of the comments below relate to the changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (hereinafter IRPA) specifically. On a procedural note, however, we have serious concerns with the way that the Liberal Government is pushing for significant changes to Canadian laws without proper parliamentary debate.

Genuine Refugees in Manitoba

The vast majority of refugee claimants in Manitoba enter our jurisdiction after they have started an asylum claim in the United States. These claimants are from many countries, including Somalia, Djibouti, Nigeria, Venezuela, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Based on our collective experience, most of these claimants are, in fact, successful with their claims at the Immigration and Refugee Board (hereinafter “IRB”) and they are found to be genuine refugees. The highly skilled adjudicators at the IRB consider the claims based on sections 96 and 97 of IRPA. In addition, they assess the credibility of the claimants and they consider evidence from the United States and any other country where they have sought protection.

The proposed changes to Section 101.1 of IRPA will significant affect many claimants in Manitoba. Claimants who have made a claim for refugee protection in the United States and any of the Five Eyes countries will not be eligible to have their refugee claims heard at the IRB. Instead, Bill C-97 proposes that these individuals will have a risk assessment done as part of a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA).

We have concerns that the proposed changes will affect genuine refugees who are seeking the protection of Canada, in accordance with Canadian laws and our international obligations.

The Proposed Changes May be Unconstitutional

We have concerns that banning refugee claimants from the tribunal and, instead, having their risk assessment done by a PRRA Officer is unconstitutional and a breach of Charter Rights. As noted by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Singh decision, the previous system that involved public servants making refugee decisions was unconstitutional; hence, the creation of the IRB.

We have concerns that many claimants in Manitoba will be in long-term limbo. Foreign nationals who are coming from so-called “moratorium countries” may be banned from filing a PRRA application. If they are banned from both the tribunal as well as the PRRA application, they will be living in Manitoba in limbo. They cannot be removed to their home countries and they cannot easily regularize their status. These individuals may be forced to make applications based on humanitarian and compassionate circumstances per Section 25 of IRPA. Currently, the processing time for that application is 30 months and these people will be long-term limbo during this time.

Potential Impact on Mental Health

We have concerns that the mental health of refugee claimants is not being sufficiently considered. All of us seek to provide the necessary support for individuals in Manitoba who are coming from countries where they may have experienced trauma, torture or persecution. The IRB has robust measures, including Chairperson’s Guidelines and the Adjudicators receive significant training on dealing with vulnerable persons and individuals who have faced trauma.

We have concerns that the proposed changes to not adequately consider the potential negative impact on the mental health who are coming to Canada seeking protection.

Positive Change

We live in a parliamentary democracy, based on debate and discussion. We have concerns that Bill C-97 has been tabled without due process. We would support changes to IRPA that adequately consider the circumstances of the individuals and the families that we assist on a daily basis.

As Manitobans, we are proud of Canada’s humanitarian tradition and we work hard to build our communities based on diversity and multiculturalism. The refugee determination system in Canada must also reflect our values to properly consider each claim and assess the merits of refugee claimants according to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Alastair Clarke – Clarke Immigration Law

Abdikheir Ahmed – Immigration Partnership Winnipeg

Lisa Forbes – Amnesty International Canada

Louise Simbadumwe – Amnesty International Canada

Dorota Blumczynska – Immigrant and Refugee Community of Manitoba (IRCOM)

Dr. Shauna Labman – Assistant Professor of Law, University of Manitoba

Ghezae Hagos – Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council

Bequie Lake – Manitoba Association of Newcomer Serving Organizations

Carol Reimer (IRCOM)

Yahya Samatar – Former Refugee

Razak Iyal – Former Refugee

 

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.

Presentation on Human Rights

Alastair will be presenting at Global College, at the request of Professor Kristi Kenyon, on the topic of human rights law, Charter Rights in the context of immigration and refugee law. This presentation will focus on the Singh decision from the Supreme Court of Canada which was decided on 4 APRIL 1985 and which led to the creation of the Immigration and Refugee Board. This presentation is only open to students at Global College who are registered for this course. If you are interested in attending these types of presentations and you are interested in human rights law, Clarke Law would encourage you to contact the office and we can let you know when this type of presentation may be open to the public.

Human Rights

Here is a description of Global College:

The University of Winnipeg Global College fosters global citizenship and engagement in human rights through interdisciplinary teaching, research, dialogue, and action in local and global communities.

Alastair is looking forward to meeting the students at Global College. We will be having a discussion on the divisions within the Supreme Court. Justice Wilson penned the Majority decision by the Court but three (3) other Supreme Court justices disagreed with the grounds for the decision. Instead, they also held that there were breaches of Canadian constitutional principles based on Section 2E of the Bill of Rights.

The Singh decision was argued by Barbara Jackman and Mendel Green who both have strong connections to Clarke Immigration Law. Barb was a professor at Queen’s University, Faculty of Law in 2005-2006 and she passed along many lessons during the course. Alastair received one of the top marks in the class. Based on Barb’s guidance, Alastair ultimately decided that immigration and refugee law would be a rewarding practice of law. After Queen’s, Alastair articled at Green & Spiegel LLP, under the guidance of Mendel Green and the other partners of the firm. Mendel shared his experience and knowledge of immigration law and litigation strategy.

 

Apologies and Action

Today the Prime Minister of Canada is scheduled to apologize on behalf of Canada for turning away the MS St. Louis and its 907 Jewish passengers in 1939. At the time, these Jews were fleeing persecution and the imminent threat of the Nazis and the anti-Semitic violence. At the time, our then Prime Minister MacKenzie King did not allow the 907 Jews to dock in Halifax and they were turned away.

As reported by Global News:

In the years leading up to and including the Second World War, the Canadian government heeded anti-Semitic sentiment by severely restricting Jewish immigration. From 1933 to 1945, only about 5,000 Jewish refugees were accepted due to what Trudeau called “our discriminatory ‘none is too many’ immigration policy” in place at the time.

The Jewish refugees on the ship were forced to return to Europe, where 254 of those aboard eventually died in the slaughter that became the Holocaust.

Now, about 79 years later, Trudeau will stand in the House of Commons and apologize to those refugees.

On behalf of all Canadians, PM Trudeau is apologizing to try to make things right. In an analysis by Prof Howard-Hassmann, she acknowledged that some apologies include compensation while others may be done for political reasons. For this apology, it does not appear that the Government of Canada will be offering any compensation.

Timing is Everything

On its face, Trudeau’s apology and acknowledging that what happened was wrong and it should never have happened is a step in the right direction. On the other hand, Trudeau is not making any policy changes, legal changes or any other concrete action.

In this case, however, timing is key. This apology is in the context of the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh. It seems that Trudeau’s apology was scheduled before the attack but the recent circumstances highlight the importance of recognizing current anti-Semitic sentiment.

As noted by Global:

The latest figures on hate crimes from Statistics Canada show the Jewish population was the most frequent target of religiously motivated hate crimes in 2016.

Anti-Semitic incidents increased 24 per cent that year. B’nai Brith Canada said 2017 saw another increase.

The timing of this apology confirms that hate crimes against Jews was an issue in 1939 and it remains an issue in 2018.

 

Slaw: On the Importance of Language

The post on the use of “irregular” versus “illegal” was originally published on slaw.ca:

If you are on this site, I can assume with reasonable confidence that you are already a wordsmith. I have always had an affinity for the label “wordsmith”, possibly because I am reminded of “blacksmith” and it conjures skills of which I have none. I do, perhaps, have some skills related to language, although I suppose this is also debatable. Notwithstanding, even from my humble position, I am both angered and ashamed by the comments of Ontario Minister of Social Services Lisa MacLeod and her dim view of the importance of language. In particular, her comments related to the Safe Third Country Agreement and the language used to describe those individuals who cross the border into Canada from the United States.

Language is important. The terms we use to describe how these individuals and families have crossed into Canada must be correct. And yes, there are correct terms to use and there are incorrect terms. In particular when we are dealing with a point of settled law within the Canadian immigration system. In my view, an elected official has the duty to learn and employ those correct terms so that she can understand the issues to deal with them.

In her words, as reported by CTV News:

“I just feel that it became more of a matter of rhetoric and who’s Canadian, who’s not; irregular, illegal,” MacLeod told reporters at a press conference in Ottawa. “The words around that became far more important than actually fixing the problem.”

The debate between irregular entry vs illegal entry is not new. I have published posts and given many interviews on CTV, CBC and other media outlets on issues related to the irregular crossings into Manitoba.

Typically, before I discuss the issues with reporters, we have a conversation to ensure that we are using the correct, legal terminology. Occasionally, the reporter will slip in an incorrect term and I find myself in an internal debate whether to interrupt and correct or to let it slide and try to inject the correct term in my answer so that acute listeners will catch the error.

I want to be clear on this point: refugee claimants entering Canada are not entering “illegally”. In an op-ed published in the Toronto Star by Osgoode Hall law students Jesse Beatson and Kylie Sier (who, no doubt, received good legal experience at PCLS):

“Irregular” is used by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada to describe border crossings “between ports of entry.” This is not about people trying to sneak across the border undetected, but about the right to seek asylum from persecution. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects this right. Importantly, the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol, to which Canada is a signatory and which are incorporated into Canadian law, both recognize that refugee claimants should not be penalized for irregular entry to seek refuge.

They go on to explain:

Applying the term “illegal border crossing” to refugees is based on a misconception. Irregular entry is not an offence in the Criminal Code, and should not be labelled as such. The language of illegality also tends to violate the presumption of innocence. This is a principle that should inform ethical journalism.

In my view, it is even more important that our elected representatives use the correct terms and they understand the power & importance of language. If she is so keen on “fixing the problem”, perhaps she should realize that using incorrect language is part of the problem.

CTV News: Detention of Children

Alastair Clarke was interviewed by CTV News on the recent issues of detention of children in the United States and its impact on individuals in Canada. Detention of children is, prima facie, horrendous and we thank CTV and the media for highlighting this issue. Based on recent events and the surrender of the Trump administration to reason, it seems that the advocacy was successful.

At this point, the detention of children is only one point in a series of issues that cast doubt on whether the United States continues to adhere to the assumptions that underline the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). As before, we implore the Canadian government to review the STCA and suspend the Agreement until the conditions in the United States are corrected.

Here is an excerpt from CTV News:

Alastair Clarke said one of the children recently held in detention in the U.S. is now in Winnipeg with her father, but Clarke said the girl’s mother has been separated from them and is now in hiding in their home country.

“These cases are heartbreaking,” said Clarke. “I recently had a two-year-old girl in my own office, screaming for her mother and the United States deported her mother back to Ghana.”

“She’s been separated, she doesn’t understand what’s going on,” said Clarke referring to the two-year-old girl. “So now her father, he is basically acting as a single father with her in Canada, is trying to number one: make his case for refugee status, number two: take care of this young child and number three: he is separated from the mother of the child. They’re not legally married which was part of the problem.”

The “zero-tolerance policy” has been condemned worldwide and on Wednesday U.S. president Donald Trump signed an executive order to keep migrant families together.

Under the policy, asylum seekers who illegally cross into the U.S. are charged with federal crimes and then separated from their children who are held in detention centres.

However, Clarke doesn’t see the policy, which has dominated headlines, causing a spike in the nu

mber of asylum cases in Manitoba or Canada.

To watch the segment, click on this link. Thank you to Josh and his cameraman who came to our office for the piece. Keep up the good work!