Three Best Lawyers 2021

As an immigration lawyer, I love connecting with people from around the world. If you read my background, you may know that I spent time at the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC and I was on my way to joining the Foreign Service. With the Ebola outbreak in 2001, I ended up going to law school at Queen’s University, Faculty of Law instead and people from around the world come to our office for help. I met with a gentleman from Nigeria today who let me know that we were awarded the Three Best Lawyer award for 2021. I believe this award covers immigration lawyers in Winnipeg. Thank you! Top Immigration Lawyer

We received this message from ThreeBest:

You are listed as one of the Top 3 Immigration lawyers in Winnipeg, MB. We would like to Thank You for providing consistent high-quality service in your area of business. Our business analyst team has selected your business based on our rigorous 50-Point Inspection.

To be clear, we did not have any contact with Three Best and we had no influence over this award. I believe this award is based on the amazing work done by the staff at Clarke Immigration Law. Everyone at our firm is fully committed to providing the best quality services in Canada. We constantly strive to use every tool and every program for the benefit of our clients.

I believe this award is based on being open & transparent. We do not just say it. We do it! I have been trying to get other law firms to be fair. Lawyers tell me directly they cannot be fair with their clients. They charge their Chinese clients $$$$, for example, while they charge their American clients $$ for the same application. In my view, that is not fair. Shouldn’t lawyers who fight daily for justice and fairness also treat their clients based on the same principles?

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. 

 

CityNews: Stop Deportation

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is in the process of removing a Pakistani family who have been living in Canada for 3 years. Please note: CIL does not represent this family and we are not involved in any legal matters. We have been advised they are represented by counsel who, unfortunately, has not been able to stop the deportation. We were contacted by multiple news agencies to give legal advice on immigration law and how to stop deportation.

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As noted by the segment on CityNews:

A family of 6 living in Winnipeg is desperate and worried about being deported. After creating a life here for the past 3 years, they are being forced to leave because all their appeals have been denied. @CityBreanna can tell you the story.

We have been advised this family is still in Canada. We hope their counsel is able to stop deportation. This is a complex matter. We have been advised they had their refugee claim heard at the IRB-RPD and the Adjudicator refused their claim. They appealed to the IRB-RAD and the Adjudicator refused their appeal. In addition, they appealed to Federal Court for judicial review and this ALJR was dismissed. At this point, CBSA is pursuing deportation.

This story has also been covered by CTV News: ‘I am looking out for their lives’: A Winnipeg family is seeking help as they face deportation before the end of the year

As stated in the CTV article:

Alastair Clarke is an immigration lawyer with Clarke Immigration Law. He hasn’t represented the family during this process, but said there can be several reasons why an asylum application is denied.

“The adjudicators at the tribunal obviously take the claims very seriously. They ask very serious and often difficult questions, in order to see if the claimant is telling the truth, to see whether or not the claimant meets the definitions under Canadian law,” said Clarke.

Clearly, this family has strong connections to Canada and we wish them all the best. Hopefully their lawyer is able to stop deportation.

Success: Justice for Minors

I want to share a story that started in 2011 that has (finally) come to conclusion. This is a story about housing law, criminal law, public interest law and poverty law. Unlike almost everything else in this space, this case has nothing to do with immigration. This is a case of a Canadian family who needed legal help. I helped the family while I was working as Staff Lawyer at Unison Health and Community Services (“Unison”) in Toronto in 2011. During this time, this family needed significant support. After I moved to Winnipeg, another lawyer took over the case and helped this family actually collect the $$$.

Here is a summary of what happened from my Supervisor and Legal Director:

In 2011, we opened a file for clients who were being evicted for arrears of rent. Alastair Clarke was assigned to the file and represented the clients. As he found out more about the case, he found out that the clients and their 3 daughters were renting from the client’s parents, in the parents’ home. Alastair also found out details about the tenancy in that, the male landlord (grandfather) was assaulting the teenaged daughters. Alastair helped the clients file a tenant application against both landlords (grandparents) seeking compensation from them. I should also mention that around the same time, the grandfather was criminally charged and ultimately convicted for the assaults (and was jailed). To add to the ordeal of a hearing, during the course of the hearing process, the clients were offered money by the grandmother to withdraw the application. They did not. After approximately a year, and several appearances, the clients were successful, and obtained an Order for $25,000 which is the maximum allowable at the Landlord and Tenant Board (and rarely awarded)!
Often I tell clients, that winning a court case is only half the battle, and that collecting on any type of judgement is the other half. The grandparents did not pay as ordered. Therefore, we (Joanna Mullen who was filling in for Alastair at that time) looked into ways to help them collect on this judgement. In the end, she helped the clients file a writ against the grandparents’ home. This was in 2012.
 
Recently, we were contacted by the lawyer for the grandparents who had just sold the home. In order for the sale to be completed, the writ had to be first satisfied (paid out).
 
Today, I had the privilege of handing a certified cheque in the amount of $24,752 to the clients ($25,000 less some arrears owing)!!! When I handed them the cheque, the expressed their gratitude to both Alastair and Joanna and Unison, and stated that this would hopefully bring a bit of closure to the matter. I asked how the daughters were doing, and was told that while the healing process is ongoing, 1 daughter is finishing college, and 1 is engaged.
 
Congratulations to both Alastair and Joanna for their hard work on the file!!
As you can read from the above, this was a very sensitive situation and the girls were living with a sexual predator. The grandfather in the family was sexually molesting his granddaughters and taking advantage of the housing situation. It was a messy and stressful experience. At various times, the family wanted to just get out of the rental housing situation and move on. It takes courage and strength to pursue these cases to the end.
I want to recognize the work of Joanna Mullen who continues to work in the Ontario clinic system. She also shared her thoughts on this case:
Thanks to everyone for their kind words and congratulations. I also worked with the daughters on applications to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, which were successful. Even though it was several years ago now, the resiliency of those girls in the face of such horrific violations has remained with me. I am happy to hear that they are doing well and that we were able to deliver compensation after so much time had passed.
The reason I am sharing this story is to highlight the services from the legal clinic system in Ontario. Unison, in particular, should be the model for services. Residents can go to Unison to medical services, employment services, housing support, counseling services, youth programming, pre-natal classes, exercise classes (yoga), disability services and, of course, legal services. I would tell my colleagues that we were providing medical services because many of our clients had medical issues and we were working closely with doctors and nurses. Poverty law often covers many different issues and it makes things go so much easier when service providers can work together.
Another reason for sharing this story is to focus on justice. The adage that the wheels of justice move slowly is evident. This case has been going through various administrative tribunals and criminal courts for more than 10 years. This family has gone through significant stress. In the end, however, I hope they feel satisfied with the results and I am thrilled that the girls are doing well.

Justice Avvy Go

Congratulations to Avvy Go for her recent appointment to the Federal Court of Canada! Justice Go was a mentor and senior lawyer when we were lawyers in the legal aid clinic system in Ontario. For years, Avvy (now Justice Go) has been a beacon of hope and energy for her clients and causes. She has been a tireless advocate, fighting for her low-income clients who often had no way to pay for her services. We need more advocates with Avvy’s spirit and I hope her voice is heard at the Federal Court.

I do not believe that I have ever publicly applauded the appointment of a justice of a tribunal member. Over the years, I have seen friends, colleagues and former professors appointed to the Bench or to administrative tribunals. Personally, I served on a provincial tribunal from 2013 to 2016 and, as the decision-maker, it is a tough job. If there is anyone up for the task, Justice Go has the dedication and resolve to make sound decisions. Avvy Go

I cannot understate the importance of Avvy being appointed to the Federal Court. She has been pushing for positive change for years. For years, she was a bencher at the Law Society of Ontario – often the only voice for clinics. In 2014, she was appointed to the Order of Ontario and she has been active in too many projects for positive change to name in this space. Off the top of my head, the 2018 Racial Justice Report Card for Ontario highlighted many issues that we continue to deal with. Here is a quote from Avvy:

“Peoples of colour and Indigenous peoples now make up about 1/3 of the Ontario population, and yet we are still being marginalized and treated as fringe groups.  We issue this Report Card to remind our political leaders and the mainstream media that our votes count and our issues matter,” said Avvy Go, Clinic Director, Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic and a steering committee member of COP-COC.

As an aside, Justice Go worked with Shalini Konanur on the above report. Another amazing, passionate advocate.

As she correctly noted, Avvy has worked with minorities and folks who have been marginalized. She has been a voice for many clients who could not find anyone to fight for their rights. She has helped bring to light elder issues, helping non-English speakers, immigrants who are the victims of financial scams, and so many others. Avvy’s work did not stop at the clinic. She has been actively involved as a volunteer with many groups and I remember getting updates from her on the work at LSUC during all hours. Hopefully she has found a good work-life balance.

In addition, I would like to congratulate (belatedly) Bernadette Clement on her appointment to the Senate. I did not work with her and I do not believe we met in person but she was also active in the legal aid clinic system in Cornwall at the same time I was working in Toronto. (Avvy actually let me know of this appointment.)

I look forward to appearing before Justice Go at the Federal Court and I also look forward to reading her decisions.

CTV News: Welcome Place

Alastair Clarke was interviewed on CTV News yesterday regarding the labour dispute between Welcome Place and the workers’ Union. Reporter Josh Crabb has been covering this story and his written piece is included on their website.Welcome Place

In short, Clarke Immigration Law has worked closely with Welcome Place staff over many years. They provide invaluable services to immigrants and refugee claimants. We often represent individuals who first went to Welcome Place for help. They are often the first people in Manitoba who help newcomers to this province. They provide an array of services and many of the staff have gone through the immigration system themselves.

The current situation of funding shortages at Welcome Place are dire. Full disclosure: we provide regular donations to Welcome Place to help.

Labour disputes are complex and we are living during difficult times. Travel restrictions and quarantine measure re COVID-19 has had a large impact on the numbers of refugee claimants who are entering Canada both at Ports of Entry (POE) and through irregular entry. Alastair gave testimony to Parliament on this point in NOV 2020 and the situation remains very precarious for “asylum seekers” in the USA who are often subject to detention and hardship.

For more information on this ongoing situation, please follow CTV News and they reporting from Winnipeg. Welcome Place needs our support in order to continue to serve its clients and help welcome people to our city.

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.

Support Indian Farmers

I want to start by unequivocally expressing our support for the farmers in India who have worked tirelessly to provide for more than a billion people. We have served many of these Indian farmers over the years and we have become close to this situation. India is a country with many small farm operations. These farms are family-owned enterprises that focus on the needs of their community. In my view, government needs to support small business owners and this new regulatory system heavily favours big business and multi-national corporations.

At Folklorama Punjabi Pavillion

At Folklorama Punjabi Pavillion

For a brief background, the Government of India passed laws in September 2020 that included 3 parts: 1. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act which is designed to expand the scope of trade areas from the previous and established selected areas; 2. Farmers Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act which creates a legal framework to resolve disputes; and, 3. Essential Commodities Act which removes many items from the list of “essential commodities” and removes stockholding limits, among other things. For a detailed explanation of the “Farm Bills”, please click here for more information.

BBC News has clearly articulated the effects of the laws:

Taken together, the reforms will loosen rules around sale, pricing and storage of farm produce – rules that have protected India’s farmers from the free market for decades.

They also allow private buyers to hoard essential commodities for future sales, which only government-authorised agents could do earlier; and they outline rules for contract farming, where farmers tailor their production to suit a specific buyer’s demand.

To be clear, I do not practice Indian law and I am not an expert in the laws of India. We support, however, small business owners and we have seen, time and time again, how multi-national corporations destroy the livelihoods of small business owners. For example, when Walmart opened a huge box store near my grandmother’s town in Red Wing, Minnesota, most of the downtown shops were gutted and it became a ghost town. Main Street was mostly boarded up. Red Wing was saved by tourism. I cannot see how the millions of lost jobs are going to be saved by another industry.

In my view, Canada needs to support the farmers in India. We need to build connections with these farmers and support small businesses. Unlike the Premier of Saskatchewan, I do not agree with the Indian government’s Farm Bills, as described above. Instead, we need to support the farmers. This is consistent with the Liberal Government’s family-first approach.

 

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!

Extradition Request: Nygard

Peter Nygard’s name and image have been plastered all over Winnipeg for many years. Finally, after years of alleged abuse of women, he is facing criminal charges in both Canada and the USA. He is currently behind bars at Headingley Correctional Centre, just outside the city.

I have given interviews on Mr. Nygard’s situation, from an immigration perspective. NygardI have represented clients on extradition matters related to the USA and Ukraine. These cases are rarely straight-forward. I attribute much of my knowledge to my International Criminal Law profession Elaine Krivel who authored “A Practical Guide to Canadian Extradition” and who has represented the Canadian government on many of these matters. As I recall, I actually got the top mark in that class… many years ago.

Currently, Mr. Nygard is only facing a criminal trial in Manitoba. To date, the American authorities have not submitted the extradition request to Canada. As I stated to CBC News, the prosecutors in the case are likely considering the relevant Statues of Limitations.

At the bail hearing on 21 JAN 2021, Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Shawn Greenberg denied Mr. Nygard’s lawyers request to be released; however, he granted their request to put forth additional arguments on 28 JAN 2021. As I stated to CBC News:

Alastair Clarke, a Winnipeg immigration lawyer who has been following the case, says that while the issue of COVID-19 in jail is a legitimate concern, Nygard shouldn’t get special treatment.

“Not only do we need justice in this type of case, but we also need the perception of justice. And I don’t think Canadians would be very happy if an individual with deep pockets and got special treatment, and I don’t think people who are wealthy should get special treatment,” he said.

“He is subject to the law just like anyone else.”

We will continue to follow these criminal proceedings. We will also pay attention to potential actions by American prosecutors who may seek a concurrent trial, depending on the relevant Statue of Limitation period.

The importance of the perception of justice cannot be overstated. We are talking about the cornerstone principles of the legal system: fairness, equality, and arbitrariness. We live in a time of reconciliation and atoning for past injustice. These are principles that have been under attack for the past 4 years. In the USA, it is not clear to me the justice system is based on fairness. It is not clear to me that black Americans are treated the same as white Americans. And this is a problem that could easily manifest in Canada.

On the other side, it is equally important that Mr Nygard is not scapegoated for his behaviour. He may represent the vile and antiquated male attitudes of women as commodities to be used for their own pleasure, regardless of the law. He may have committed heinous acts to coerce young women to do his bidding. If that is borne out by the evidence, he should be punished according to the law. As anyone else would be punished for the same actions.