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.

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!

Strangers in New Homelands Conference – 3 Nov 2017

Please note that Alastair Clarke will be on a panel at the Strangers in New Homelands Conference at CanadInns Polo Park in Winnipeg. He will be discussing Immigration Policies, Practices, and Canada’s Refugee Determination Process with his panelists, the Western Region Assistant Deputy Chairperson of the RPD (Vancouver) Karin Michnick and Dr. Shauna Labman, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Law and the University of Manitoba.

Some of the issues the panel will cover include:

  • current procedures of claiming refugee status in Canada
  • the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA)
  • issues at the tribunal (IRB-RPD)
  • rights of appeal after a negative decision by an RPD Member
  • Overseas Protection
  • Private Sponsorships and refugees
  • Government Assisted Refugees
  • Secondary migration of resettled refugees

Questions are welcome and encouraged.

The program for the conference is 62 pages and we have included an excerpt below with details of the panel on Friday, November 3rd. If you would like a program (11MB), please contact that office. 

Here is a description of the Strangers in New Homelandsconference by the Conference Chair, Dr. Michael Baffoe:

We are delighted to welcome you all to the special tenth anniversary edition, of our annual conference, Strangers in New Homelands: Deconstructing and Reconstructing of ‘Home’ Among Immigrants and Refugees in the Diaspora.

This annual gathering of researchers, academics, and practitioners in the migration field, an idea mooted by Conference Chair Michael Baffoe (University of Manitoba), Dr. Lewis Asimeng-Boahene (Penn State University-Harrisburg) and Dr. Buster Ogbuagu (University of St. Francis, Joliet, IL) began modestly in 2008. The dream of growing that initial idea into a larger annual event bringing together critical stakeholders in the field of migration has really borne fruits and brought us to where we are today…ten years later. We are proud and satisfied for mooting this idea and, with the help of many of the people gathered here, especially members of the Conference Committee, for making this event a success.

This year’s conference is being held at a very critical time in world migration history. World migration is now a reality. The world has been witnessing unprecedented displacement and movements of people from their homes into other countries, especially to Europe seeking safety as well as better life conditions. The images of these mass movements are sometimes nerve-wrecking and difficult to watch. This is a new form of diasporic movement in which desperate people are challenging the existing national borders of nation states.

These challenges have brought out the best and worse in some of the nation states: some have received and welcomed these desperate people with open arms while others have shut their borders with barbed wires leaving the desperate people to their fate. Erecting barbed wires and pushing desperate people into the cold will not stop people from moving to seek new homelands. Driven by push-pull factors, the concept of geography of opportunity has taught us that erecting barbed wires or “beautiful walls” made of concrete or steel, would not solve the problem. It is therefore pertinent to find innovative ways for meeting these new challenges. As Karen Armstrong succinctly puts it, “our differences define us, but our common humanity can redeem us”. The societies into which the migrants seek to settle, and the migrants need each other for their mutual benefits. The diversity that migrants bring should therefore be seen as assets, which can enrich the host societies as well.

The exchanges of ideas and discussions that will take place at this conference will be essential for those who design and implement immigration and refugee policies and settlement, as well as those who provide services to, and work with, immigrant and refugee groups. These exchanges are more crucial than ever and we should continue to engage in these discussions as well as engage policy makers and governments to embrace the reality of world migration and the challenges and opportunities that the phenomenon offers.

For those of you who were here in previous years, we welcome you back to this tenth anniversary edition of this annual gathering. For those of you participating for the first time, we welcome you to this conference, and to the Province of Manitoba. We hope to see you all again at subsequent conferences until we solve, or at least attenuate, the lingering issues and challenges that confront migrants around the world every day.

Strangers in New Homelands Program (excerpt):
Strangers in New Homelands

WFP: American family gets another chance to stay in Canada

Clarke immigration law has been representing the American family with their application for Permanent Resident Status in Canada through the MPNP-Business program. The media has been extremely supportive and this American family has received significant support from their rural community in Manitoba and across Canada.

The Winnipeg Free Press published an article with an update yesterday. Here is an excerpt:

MPNP

MPNP

The Warkentin family, faced with a looming deportation deadline, learned this week Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is allowing them to renew their application for permanent residency.

“Canada is letting us reopen our file and we have 60 days to resubmit more information and show our worthiness,” Jon Warkentin said over the phone from the family-owned Harvest Lodge outfitting business on the Waterhen River.

The Warkentins came to Canada from Colorado in 2013 to operate the outfitting business. They applied for permanent residency, intending to put down roots in the village of Waterhen, about 320 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.

A year after they arrived, the family was given a bleak diagnosis: the youngest of Jon and wife Karissa’s four children, then-three-year-old daughter Karalynn, had epilepsy and global-developmental delay.

The diagnosis threw a bureaucratic wrench into the family’s dreams of staying in Canada.

Ottawa denied their application this spring on the grounds Karalynn might cause “excessive demand” on health or social services in this country. As a result, the entire family faced being the imminent prospect of being forced out of the country when their current work permit expired Nov. 24.

This summer, they hired Winnipeg lawyer Alastair Clarke to explore their options.

Clarke worked through the bureaucracy, trying to convince federal officials to give the family a second shot. At the same time, he filed a motion in to have a federal judge look at the case.

It was the bureaucracy that came through first, Warkentin said, adding the family now has the choice of withdrawing the court action. The second chance offered this week gives the Warkentins what they wanted from a judge, without the need for time in court.

“The permanent residency is back in process, and they qualify for an extension to their work permit,” Clarke said.

Click here to read the full story by Alexandra Paul.

We will continue to support this American family with their goals of coming to Canada. This family came to invest in Manitoba as business leaders. They have invested more than $600,000.00 in Canada and, we believe, they will be contributing to Canada for decades in the future.

Global News: Immigration Canada reopens application

We want to thank Global News for highlighting our cases. The media attention and support from the community has been helpful to bring light to these important issues. We use all the tools available to us to make sure our clients get positive results.

Here is an excerpt from the article posted on Global News:

The decision to reopen the family’s case comes after more than a month of back and forth between the Department of Justice, which represents Immigration Canada in legal matters, and the family’s lawyer, Alastair Clarke.

Clarke said the decision by Immigration Canada to overturn its earlier ruling – which would have seen the Warkentins and their four children sent back to the United States once their temporary working visas expire in November – is a direct result of public pressure and attention placed upon the government following Global News’ in-depth look into the family’s situation.

“We received notification today from [Immigration Canada] that they have reversed their decision and reopened the Warkentin application,” said Clarke, who argued the government overlooked important information and relied on unfounded medical diagnoses when initially denying the family’s application. “We have been working on this file for a long time and thank you to Global News for all the coverage in addition to all the public support.”

For the full article, please visit the Global News website. For this case, we have also been working with the MP’s office as well as MPNP. We will continue to work on this file to make sure that Jon and Karissa’s status in Canada is secure. We believe that this result was achieved through our litigation strategy to make sure that we use all our resources to ensure that IRCC Officers fully consider all the circumstances of the case. In cases where the IRCC Officer has not fully considered all the information, we want to work with Officers and Managers to make sure they understand all the important aspects of the application.

We will be continuing to work on medical inadmissibility files and helping to assist families in Manitoba. If you or your loved ones need legal assistance, please contact our office.

Sierra Leone Mudslides

With sadness, we will be attending a fundraiser for the missing people in Freetown, Sierra Leone. We have clients who are residing in Sierra Leone and they have been directly affected by the catastrophe that is ongoing. If you wish to join, the Canada Sierra Leone Friendship Society has invited us to their event:

  • West End Commons
  • Friday, August 25th ,  2017
  • 6:00PM start

A silver donation will be collected at the door for those affected by the mudslides in Sierra Leone. The Friendship Society is asking for emergency humanitarian assistance to help in the wake of this tragic occurrence.

Canada 150 and the Meaning of Citizenship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Republished from Slaw.ca

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

FROM 730CKDM.COM: 

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

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

Clarke provides some insight to Immigration Canada’s decision.

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

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

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

FROM GLOBALNEWS.CA

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

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

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

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

[…]

How Things Have Changed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full article…

Presentation: Refugee Crisis in Manitoba

Please note that Alastair Clarke accepted an invitation to present at Menno Simons College tomorrow on the Refugee Crisis in Manitoba. Regular readers of this blog will know that Clarke Immigration Law has provided legal services to many of the refugee claimants who are coming to Canada from the United States. Many of this people, including women and children, are crossing on foot.

The event itself is from 12:30-1:20. Each presenter has 10 minutes to share on some aspect of the current migrant refugee crisis affecting out city and surrounding areas.

Though our event is over lunchtime, we are only able to provide a snack.

Alastair will be talking about  areas of refugee law:

  1. How the Safe Third Country Agreement is putting the people at risk
  2. An overview of the relevant sections of IRPA

The main focus of the presentation is to answer questions from the public and to engage discussion on these important issues. There has been a huge increase in the numbers of people who have been entering Manitoba and this refugee crisis is only going to get worse as the weather gets warmer and it becomes easier to cross. In addition, there is no indication that the American government is taking any steps to help the refugee claimants on their side of their border.