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!

 

CBC The National: Extradition

Alastair Clarke was recently interviewed by CBC News regarding the potential criminal charges against Peter Nygard. At this point, Mr. Nygard’s son has concerns that his father may leave Canada to escape justice which would force the Government of Canada to make an extradition request. Extradition is a complex area of law; however, based on his studies in International Law at Queen’s Law (Bader International Study Centre @ Herstmonceux Castle) and his professional experience dealing with the intersection of Criminal Law, Immigration Law & extradition law, Alastair was able to provide insight on the potential legal issues.

Please note: this case has been unfolding quickly and the information is only current as of today, 18 SEPT 2020. As noted by CBC Reporter Caroline Barghout, based on an exclusive interview with Peter Nygard’s son:

The son says he’s speaking out now because he’s afraid if he stays quiet, his father’s accusers — including his two brothers — may never get justice.

“My No. 1 goal is for him not to escape,” he said.

He says Nygard spends summers in Falcon Lake in southeastern Manitoba, and would normally head to one of his properties in California or the Bahamas by the third week of September. But with his father under a cloud of sex allegations, the son thinks his father will instead set his sights on a jurisdiction that won’t extradite him if charges are ever authorized.

“He believes that he’s above the law — the law does not apply to him,” said the son, adding he bases that on his father’s past actions.extradition

This point leads directly to the possibility of an extradition request made by the Canadian government, if criminal charges are laid and the accused flees the country.

Winnipeg immigration lawyer Alastair Clarke says unfortunately, the more money a person has, the easier it can be to evade the law.

“It’s entirely possible that in this case … Mr. Nygard may find a country who is sympathetic to his, let’s say, his net worth, to his financial capacity,” said Clarke.

“And so he could find possibly a safe haven, which would be, in my view, quite unfortunate.”

He says if a country doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Canada, there may not be anything the government can do to get a person back, even if charges are laid.

Canada doesn’t track, or keep a record of, people who leave the country, he said. Only entries are monitored.

“If we had the resources in place, that would, in my view, uphold the Canadian rule of law and make sure that alleged criminals are not simply using their private chartered jets, for example — flying to places where we don’t have extradition treaties and escaping the law,” said Clarke. 

Indeed, extradition can be very messy as we have seen in both the Meng Wanzhou case and the Carlos Ghosn case. These are both ongoing legal matters that involve Canada, the United States, China, Japan, Lebanon and France. A friend of Alastair Clarke, lawyer Richard Kurland has spoken on the complexity of these cases, as reported by CBC News:

The fight may be over the technicalities of legal privilege — the right to shield sensitive communications and documentation — but observers of the case say the outcome could prove crucial in Meng’s battle against extradition to the United States.

“This disclosure of who said what to who is critical,” said Richard Kurland, a Vancouver immigration lawyer who has followed the proceedings closely.

“The line here is how much information ought to be revealed in order for the defence to know the case they have to meet and mount their defence, counterbalanced against the right of the state to conduct clandestine service. That’s quite a difficult balance in a case like this.”

For more information, please watch CBC The National on youtube. This story starts at 22:40 of the episode.

Currently, Peter Nygard is in Manitoba and there are no criminal charges. The above is purely speculation. This is an ongoing matter and, as with the other cases above, we will be following this case closely to see if extradition becomes a necessary recourse.

Manitoba Phase 2 Reopening

Based on the sacrifice and hard work of Manitobans, the province is very safe. We are extremely grateful for the good governance in our province to manage services during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are in contract with first responders, health care professionals regularly to ensure we have updated information for our clients. On Friday, I participated in a high level call with Minister Marco Mendicino (IRCC), organized by the Canadian Bar Association. The federal government as well as the provincial government have been working hard to manage our immigration system. Today marks Manitoba’s Phase 2 reopening and we hope that residents will continue to be conscientious of physical distancing guidelines.

Phase 2

At Clarke Immigration Law, we made significant changes in JAN2020 and we continue to adapt to the circumstances. Our goal is to operate in a manageable capacity without sacrificing the safety of our clients or our staff. We regularly review all of the options and variables to ensure that we can provide the best quality of service.

To date, Manitoba has only had 295 confirmed COVID-19 cases for a population of more than 1,200,000 residents and ZERO patients are in hospital. For comparison, our neighbours in North Dakota have more than 2,365 confirmed COVID-19 cases in a population of only 762,000. As per the graph, courtesy of Manitoba Health, there have been very few cases for weeks. I am not going to guess the myriad reasons why there are so many more cases in the USA on a per capita basis. It could be poor leadership. It could be poor services. It could be poor health care. It could be poor physical distancing. Regardless, Manitobans should be proud how we have managed this pandemic thus far.

For Phase 2, many businesses will be reopening, at different levels. I spoke with a business owner yesterday who was very excited to open his business at 50% capacity. Public gatherings of up to 25 people inside are now allowed and up to 50 people outside. Businesses & activities to resume include:

  • Golf courses
  • Gyms (limited)
  • Restaurants (limited)
  • School services (limited)
  • Bars (limited)
  • Bowling Alleys
  • Nail Salons
  • Tattoo Parlors
  • Sports activities for children (group max 25)
  • Daycares (group max 25)
  • School playgrounds

For more information on the government’s plan to reopen, please consult the details of Phase 2.  The PDF with additional details is also available.

We are assisting many clients who are eager to come to Canada. Please contact our office to book a consultation. 

PGWP Update

IRCC has announced increased flexibility with Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) for international students in Canada. This reflects the government’s recognition of the contribution of international students to the Canadian economy and to society in general. As stated by our former Minister of Immigration John McCallum, international students are the core of the Canadian immigration system and the government is committed to supporting these individuals who have proven their financial contributions to this country.PGWP

IRCC has explicitly stated the importance of international students to our immigration system. The Press Release states:

International education represents a significant economic benefit to Canada, with international students contributing $21.6 billion to Canada’s GDP and supporting nearly 170,000 jobs in 2018. International students are also often excellent candidates to apply to remain in Canada permanently, with nearly 54,000 former students becoming permanent residents in Canada in 2018.

Indeed, the numbers are clear. Many int’l students go on to work on a PGWP and they apply for PR status. This is a proven path. In Manitoba, it is even easier with the MPNP program.

IRCC has shown commitment to ensuring students have the support they need during COVID19:

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on international students. In response to the health and travel restrictions that are in place, many designated learning institutions (DLIs) are offering their courses online.

Post-secondary institutions and prospective students alike are considering their approach to the fall semester. Both have sought guidance from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada regarding eligibility for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) for students starting at an eligible DLI this fall.

The government has announced increased flexibility with PGWP applications:

Under normal circumstances, criteria for the PGWPP limit an international student’s ability to pursue a program via distance learning, from inside or outside Canada, and time spent studying outside Canada is deducted from the length of the work permit for which they are eligible.

PGWPP eligibility will not be affected for international students whose fall 2020 courses will be online due to COVID-19. This is in line with guidance provided to students already studying in Canada or whose program had a spring or summer start date.

Students in this situation may begin their classes while outside Canada and complete up to 50% of their program via distance learning if they cannot travel to Canada sooner.

In addition, they will not have time deducted from the length of a future post-graduation work permit for studies completed outside of Canada, up to December 31, 2020.

This is very good news. We have many clients who can take advantage of these updates to the PGWP. On 29 MAY 2020, Clarke Immigration Law will participate in a meeting with the Minister of IRCC as well as the Minister of CBSA to discuss further changes to help our clients. Continue to watch this space for details.

UPDATE: We have been advised that PGWP application may be extended, in some circumstances. In this past, this was not possible. Please contact our office for more information.