Harvest Manitoba Donations Accepted

During this time of giving, everyone at CIL wants to help out as much as possible. We have contacted Harvest Manitoba and we now have a food donation bin in our reception area. The next time you come to the office, feel free to bring a donation. All donations will be given to the generous folks at Harvest Manitoba. They have been helping Manitobans in need for many years and we are extremely grateful for the work they do.

Harvest Manitoba

As I said during my recent presentation for Manitobans for Human Rights, we all need to be part of the solution. This is part of that work. Here is a quote from the Harvest Manitoba website that describes how the donations are used:

Thanks to our amazing community spirit, and generous hearts, Harvest collects and shares 11 million lbs of healthy and nutritious food to hungry Manitobans every year.

With this food, we prepare Harvest Hampers in our Winnipeg Warehouse, which are then distributed to feed 80,000 Manitobans – hungry children, hardworking families and struggling adults – every month. Our volunteers donate almost 200,000 hours of hands-on service annually to make this happen. We would never have lasted this long – 35 years – or helped as many people as we have if it were not for you, the people who support us.

If you or your family members are in need and you would like to receive services from Harvest Manitoba, please contact them:

In Winnipeg:
204-982-3671 – New to Harvest/ appointments@harvestmanitoba.ca
204-982-3660 – Returning Clients/ appointments@harvestmanitoba.ca

Outside Winnipeg:
1-800-970-5559 / kellym@harvestmanitoba.ca

Call Centre Hours:

Monday to Friday: 9:15 am to 3:15 pm
Saturday: 9:30 am to 12:30 pm

Please note: our office will be closed starting December 23rd, 2021 and will re-open Monday, January 3rd, 2022.

We want to wish all our clients a wonderful holiday season. We will be taking this time off to recharge so we can continue to provide the best services.

See you in 2022!

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. 

 

National Day for TRC: Pro Bono Services

Tomorrow is Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This is the first national day to focus on the rights of First Nations peoples. Here at Clarke Immigration Law, we are focused on being part of the solution. Immigration needs to recognize Canada’s colonialist past. We need to be part of the solution.

Recognizing our role to help, CIL is offering pro bono services for First Nations individuals on Change of Name applications. This is a program that was announced in 2021. As reported:

Federal Citizenship and Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino says beginning Monday, June 14, Indigenous people can apply to change their names on documents like passports, status cards, permanent residency documents, and social insurance cards.

“It will not only apply to those survivors of the residential schools, but others as well who may have had their names stripped from them. And the process will be entirely free,” Mendicino explained Monday.

This is a service that we will provide to all Indigenous people who request this service. We will not charge any professional fees for this service.

Congrats Voters!

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

58% to 59% Turnout

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

Winnipeg win

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

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

Success: Study Permit

Here at CIL,  we have helped hundreds of students achieve their immigration goals. Each case is taken very seriously and clients often come to us after they have applied for a Study Permit themselves, or with the help of a shady agent, and it was refused. Thankfully, we have many different strategies for dealing with previous refusals and getting the Study Permit for our clients. We have provided a Guide to Success: Study Permits that includes four (4) key tips. If you require professional help, please contact CIL and we would be happy to assist. 

Study Permit

Recently, we were able to help a Filipino student come to Canada to pursue her studies. She came to us after multiple refusals. Unfortunately, she believed that Study Permits are “easy” and she could do it herself. The first application, which she did herself, was refused. She was quite distraught as she had been planning to continue her studies in Manitoba and she has strong connections to Winnipeg. She has relatives here who agreed to help her with housing and provide support. Nevertheless, the Visa Officer refused her application.

After the first refusal, our client hired an agent in the Philippines. He looked at her documents and helped her file a second Study Permit application. From what we can see, he did not do much for her. It is not clear what she paid for. The second Study Permit was also refused.

Our client came to us with two (2) Study Permit refusals. She decided to give it one more chance. She let us know that if we could not help her, she would give up. We were able to identify weak parts of her application and work with her and her relatives to add important evidence.

Success! The Visa Office in Manila accepted our Study Permit application and our client came to Canada at the beginning of this month. She has the support of her relatives here in Winnipeg and she is looking forward to her studies.

Congratulations!

Mandatory Vaccines @ UofM

Dr. Michael Benarroch, President and Vice-Chancellor at the UofM has announced today that all students, including international students in Canada on Study Permits, faculty, including tenured professors and lecturers, as well as visitors to campus are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Clarke Immigration Law fully supports this decision for the public health and safety of all individuals at UofM.

The decision made by UofM was made in consultation with many professionals, including lawyers, Officers at Public Health, experts in Manitoba as well as other parts of Canada. I have been in contact with the UofM and I can confirm this decision was taken after significant deliberation.

As noted by Dr. Benarroch:

This recommendation was made by the COVID Recovery Steering Committee with input from each of the four sub-committees. The President’s Executive Team approved the recommendation after consulting with all unions and confirming support from Deans and the Chair of UM’s Board of Governors. Additionally, we sought legal advice, met with Public Health, and consulted with our post-secondary partners in Manitoba and across Canada. Many of you have also expressed that requiring vaccines is the best way to support a safe, in-person work and learning environment. I hear you and I thank you for your engagement on this important issue.

To be clear, Clarke Immigration Law agrees with the statement above. We strongly believe that requiring vaccines at UofM is the best way to keep students and faculty safe & healthy. In particular, we look forward to our clients getting back to in-person learning in a classroom setting. To make sure the in-person learning is safe, we agree the best approach is through mandatory vaccines at UofM.

Canada has achieved many significant milestones regarding the COVID-19. We also recognize the incredible work done by health care professionals, including nurses and doctors

Winnipeg – Smart City

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

Tech-Savvy CitySmart City

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

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

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

TEDxWinnipeg

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

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

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

From Mayor to the Street

Upon hearing the news, Mayor Brian Bowmen commented:

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

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

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

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

Winnipeg – Top 10 in Canada

One of Canada’s most respected magazines, MacLean’s, released its 2021 list of “Best Communities in Canada”. They looked at the quality of life in all the major towns and cities across all provinces and territories. I am proud that Winnipeg has been ranked #6 in Canada.Winnipeg

As noted by MacLean’s:

Population: 778,602
Property tax as percent of average income: 1.8%
Annual days above 20C: 110
Crime Severity Index 5-year average: 116
Doctors’ offices per 100,000 residents: 694
Household members able work on a single internet connection: 12

Personally, I have moved 24 times and I have lived in 5 different provinces. Winnipeg has been our home since 2013 and it has been a great place to live for our family.

A list of communities in Canada, from #1 to #15 includes:

  1. Charlottetown, PEI
  2. Fredericton, NB
  3. St Thomas, ON
  4. Belleville, ON
  5. Edmonton, AB
  6. Winnipeg, MB
  7. Moncton, NB
  8. Cornwall, ON
  9. Brooks, AB
  10. No community is listed at #10
  11. Toronto, ON
  12. Saint John, NB
  13. Brampton, ON
  14. Saskatoon, SK
  15. Welland, ON

For the full list of communities, please click here and read the details at MacLean’s.

We have helped many professionals and families come to Manitoba through the MPNP-SWM program as well as the MPNP-BIS stream. In cases where the applicants’ have a procedural fairness letter, we have helped clients stay in Manitoba.

Thank you!

Good start to 2021! Alastair Clarke received this award for being one of the Top Immigration Lawyers. We are both humbled and honoured for this award. Thank you to all our clients and the network of folks out there who give us referrals and tell their friends & family about our firm. You all know how much work goes into each and every file. This is a labour of love for everyone here and we greatly appreciate being recognized as one of the best immigration law firms.

Top Immigration Lawyers

Honestly, we do not do this work for awards. We do this work because we are able to make positive change in the lives of our clients. We save lives. We reunite families. We help students achieve their academic dreams. We help businesses hire global talent. We assist groups to bring refugees from overseas. We represent individuals with conviction(s) who need a TRP or a Criminal Rehabilitation application. We use our expertise to handle appeals. All these applications help to strengthen Canada and our work matches the Objectives of IRPA.

As in the past, this award recognizes Alastair Clarke as one of the Top Immigration Lawyers. This award fuels us to continue to give our clients the best service.

We will continue to work hard on behalf of our clients. We believe that hard work is the best way to get the best results. These results lead to happy clients, referrals and trust. We build trust with strong communication. Hopefully we will continue to get awards and recognition as one of the Top Immigration Lawyers. Thank you!

Lessons from 2020

Last year, we posted Lessons from 2019 and we got good feedback from that post. From every perspective, 2020 has been a challenging year and a period of significant change. We have lost staff to COVID-19 and we have had staff who have decided to move provinces to be close to family. We have also welcomed new staff and we have, I believe, continued to provide the best quality service of any immigration law firm in Manitoba. Our positive results are based on hard work and perseverance at getting the best result. We focus on the individual circumstances of each and every client, doing our best to highlight the benefits to Canada.

Here are our three (3) main takeaways from 2020:

1. Hope for the best and REALLY plan for the worst

To a certain extent, this has been our motto from the start. This past year, even more than other years, it has proven to be true. We could not have planned for this pandemic. We could not have planned that friends and loved ones would test positive and we would have to take extreme action to work remotely and keep everyone safe. To be frank, I do not see the end in sight. We will continue to hope the borders will reopen and we will not have to deal with the Quarantine Act and new Orders in Council. We shall see….. In the meantime, as we have done in previous years, we had to plan for every worst case scenario for 2020.

2020

2. Be thankful for each day

As I look back, I remember thinking that 2019 was a bad year. We faced many incidents of our clients being victims of scams. We participated in a criminal investigation against shady immigration consultants. We defended clients from frivolous litigation. I was looking forward to a new year and a new decade.

We do not know what 2021 will bring. It is hard to imagine that 2021 will be worse than 2020 but you never know.

More than anything, we simply must be thankful for each day, whatever it brings. We face our challenges head-on and we fight, as a team.

2020 also shined the light on amazing positives. As a firm, we have supported each other and our clients have benefited from extreme generosity of Manitobans. 

So we want to say a big THANK YOU!

3. Teamistry

The Teamistry podcast, launched in MARCH 2020, has become one of my favourite listening pleasures. Every episode focuses on the benefits and successes of good team management. We have taken the tools from Teamistry and we have done our best to implement these practices in our firm.

Typically, law firms do not run as a team. They are usual top-down, hierarchical organizations that encourage competition and adversarial relationships. In my past firm, the Managing Partner would say, as a point of pride, that he did not know the name of the receptionist. This is not how we do things.

At Clarke Law, we are not a typical law firm. We embrace team building and supporting each other, as much as possible. In my view, this is the best approach and it is the best way to serve clients. Many lawyers do not understand that we are in the service business.

From our families to yours, we wish you all the best for 2021!

Today is our last (official) day of work; however, some staff (actually most staff) who will be coming in to get applications done by the end of 2020. We look forward to serving you 2021 and for many years to come! Canada continues to be one of the hottest destination countries for immigrants and we will do our best to help people come and realize their immigration dreams. Take care and stay safe!