IRCC Interviews

As part of our ongoing coverage of Canadian immigration laws and procedures that have been impacted by COVID-19 and the pandemic, we can report that IRCC offices across Canada will be reopening. In-person interviews at IRCC Offices will start to be scheduled at a few cities, including Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton and Niagara Falls. These offices are in Alberta and Ontario.

To be clear, IRCC Interviews in Manitoba are not currently being scheduled. We have been in contact with IRCC and CBSA Officers in Winnipeg and they have advised that they do not have a date when interviews will be scheduled at their office at 269 Main Street. We have clients who are patiently waiting for their eligibility interviews and they will continue to wait. This situation has been frustrating for clients and Officers alike. We will continue to stay on top of the situation and provide useful information, as much as possible. We will be providing updates as soon as they become available.interviews

As posted by IRCC on 17 SEPT 2020:

For services that we haven’t been able to provide virtually, we are slowly beginning to reopen in-person services in select offices by appointment only, beginning the week of September 21, 2020.

This testing phase will allow us to assess our protocols and procedures, and ensure the safety of our staff and our clients. The lessons learned will help us plan for reopening services more widely in the future.

Please note that services are currently by appointment only. You do not need to reach out to IRCC offices for these services, as we will be reaching out to clients to schedule appointments.

These limited appointments are restricted to the following offices:

  • IRCC offices in Etobicoke and Montréal are reopening for permanent residence-related services. Clients who require a permanent resident card (PR card) pick up or permanent residence determination (interview to determine the client’s status) will be contacted by email to schedule an appointment

  • IRCC offices in Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, and Niagara Falls are reopening for limited asylum-related services.

  • IRCC will schedule appointments via epost with clients who need to collect or submit documents, provide their biometric information, or come in for an interview.

  • If this pilot goes well, IRCC offices in Vancouver (Hornby), Montréal, and Etobicoke will open in the future to provide these services.

As noted above, there are currently no plans for in-person appointments in many IRCC Offices, including Winnipeg. Previously, we have reported on how Manitoba is reopening and the ecomony is getting back on track. We are currently in the second wave of COVID-19 cases although, in my opinion, Manitobans should be celebrated as one of the best places on the planet that is dealing with this crisis.

WFP: Audit of Deportation Orders

The widely reported report by the Canadian Auditor General describes the significant backlog and delays in the removal process for individuals who have enforceable removal orders, including deportation orders. These removals are carried out by CBSA Officers and we have many clients who are affected by these orders. We are in contact, almost daily, with CBSA Officers on behalf of our clients to ensure our clients fully cooperate with law enforcement and Canadian regulations. At the same time, we advise our clients on their legal rights.Deportation

The report focuses on failed refugee claimants who have deportation orders. Let me make a brief comment on this group. It is important to note that even when the refugee claimant’s risk may not rise to the level of risk per sections 96 or 97 of IRPA, they may still face significant risk or hardship and/or persecution. The fact is that the legal bar to refugee status is a high legal test and claimants must go through a rigorous adjudicative process, including examination and cross-examination of testimony. Another key fact is there is a shortage of competent legal counsel and claimants may be poorly prepared for their hearing.

Winnipeg Free Press reporter Eva Wasney published an article on the Auditor General’s report that discussed the challenges faced by CBSA:

Winnipeg immigration lawyer Alastair Clarke said some of the criticisms in the report are valid, but the audit is a an “oversimplification” of the removal process because it doesn’t include specific case examples.

“My concern is that the public reads this report, they don’t understand the details, the individuals who are behind these numbers, and this type of report causes undue or exaggerated anxiety in the public,” Clarke said. “The individuals who are under enforceable removal orders in the serious criminality category are generally only a small fraction of individuals in that entire pool.”

Of the more than 34,000 cases in the agency’s wanted inventory, 2,800 were criminal.

Indeed, to a certain extent, this report provides a limited perspective on the current state of removals and it fails to provide a nuanced approach to a complex procedure. I have spoken many times on this topic. Canadian laws require CBSA Officers to adhere to procedural fairness and, in our experience, CBSA Officers in Manitoba are vigilant in following Canadian laws and regulations.

In addition, I strongly agree with my friend and advocate Dr. Lori Wilkinson who has been doing significant research at the University of Manitoba’s Immigration Research West group:

While Wilkinson said she is glad to see the immigration removal audit, she is worried that the report could have a negative impact on people who are in Canada legally.

“There could be backlashes against immigrants,” she said. “Lots of people make the leap that if the deportation system isn’t working, then the immigration system must not be working.”

This is absolutely correct. In my view, IRCC Officers and CBSA Officers are working hard to ensure integrity in the system and they take deportation orders seriously.

On the flip side, let us be reminded of deportations that have been rushed and have led to disastrous results. One example that comes to mind is the case of Lucia Vega Jimenez from 2014. She was a failed refugee claimant from Mexico with an enforceable removal order as described in the Auditor General’s report. While she was on the verge of being deported, she took her own life in Vancouver. Advocates point to the serious risks to her life. On its face, I believe anyone can understand that if she was so afraid to go back to Mexico she would take her own life to prevent deportation, she had genuine fear.

In my view, it is important to consider the people behind these numbers. Every case is different, and I can tell you from many years of experience, immigration is messy. As correctly noted by the report, CBSA Officers focus their resources on serious criminals and ensuring the safety of the Canadian public. This is exactly how the system is designed to work.

COVID19 – UPDATE 7/APR/2020

UPDATE: 7/APRIL/2020

Please note that we will not be providing additional updates to this page. There have been many changes to laws, regulations and policies due to COVID19. We have been in contact with lawyers from across Canada to stay up to date with changes and amendments.

If you have any specific questions on how the changes may impact your application or your situation, please book a consultation with a lawyer.

UPDATE: 24/MARCH/2020

OK – to mitigate the spread of COVID19, the Ontario government declared that all non-essential services must close starting tomorrow and we expect Manitoba will follow suit soon. The numbers of infected continue to rise and the governments are doing everything in their power.

LAWYERS ARE “ESSENTIAL” SERVICE

The list is out. Lawyers and law firms are considered an essential service. We will continue to monitor the situation. Again, most staff at Clarke Law are working remotely. We only have 2 staff in the office to keep things up and running; however, we are not holding in-person meetings in the office. Feel free to drop off documents and we have been getting daily packages.

NOTE: Immigration consultants are not on the list. As per usual, please contact an appropriate expert for assistance.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

I have to commend our valiant leader PM Trudeau who is working from home in isolation. He is managing his busy household, with 3 young children, by himself while leading our country through very difficult times.

We watch his daily briefings and he remains poised. Lead by example. Well done Sir!

BORDERLINES PODCAST

My colleagues in Vancouver have published an episode on The Canadian Immigration Consequences of COVID19. This does not seem to appear on their website (yet) so I would encourage you to find it in your podcast app.

In particular, it is nice to hear some optimism from Deanna!

START IN-CANADA REFUGEE CLAIM BY EMAIL

As the IRCC Offices across Canada have closed due to COVID19, refugee claims in Canada are being submitted by email: IRCC.RefugeeClaim-Demandedasile.IRCC@cic.gc.ca

We have been in regular contact with the IRB-RPD (Western Region) and we have been advised that all hearings have been postponed until 1 MAY 2020.

UPDATE: 23/MARCH2020

We had a busy weekend. The land border with the USA closed at midnight on Friday due to COVID19, causing a lot of confusion. I am not sure how “Tutor” became part of the definition of “immediate family member”.

COVID19

COVID19

IN-PERSON MEETINGS CANCELLED

In our office, most of our staff are working from home. We will continue to work on files and submit applications to maintain high standards. At the same time, we must do our part to fight this COVID19 virus from spreading. We encourage all our clients to contact us by telephone – 2045996966 or by email info@apply2manitoba.ca

MANITOBA STATE OF EMERGENCY

The provincial government has declared a State of Emergency to manage the spread of COVID19. These are extreme measures for extreme times. We are all taking these measures very seriously and we fully support any and all measures to protect the health and safety of residents.

This means that groups over 50 people are banned. Gyms are closed. Most retail will close. See the government website for details. We are taking this day by day.

UPDATE: 20/MARCH/2020

ASYLUM SEEKERS FROM USA

The Canadian government has further restricted border entries. Asylum seekers (refugee claimants) who seek to enter Canada at Ports of Entry will be refused entry. Asylum seekers (refugee claimants) who attempt irregular crossings into Canada will be returned to the US as part of an “exceptional measure” to protect residents in Canada.

During a news briefing, Minister Blair has acknowledged exceptions, including unaccompanied minors, to filing a refugee claim at the border. Claims at the US-Canada border have decreased by half from ~40 daily to ~20 daily. They will be returned to the USA and the Minister has advised that they will not be detained.

QUARANTINE ACT LEGISLATION

Emergency legislation through the Quarantine Act limits entry to Canada, including “immediate family members” as defined by the new Order. This provides clarity on the previous announcements that will limit access to Canadian soil.

Individuals crossing from the US may be required to spend a period of 14 days in the US due to COVID19 before they will be allowed to enter Canada.

FASTER PROCESSING TIMES

Minister Freeland has indicated that IRCC may be processing applications faster than usual. She has indicated that we need to recognize the need for “speed over attention”. She has emphasized the importance of processing files quickly. We are waiting for confirmation and details from Minister Mendicino’s office.

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UPDATE 19/MARCH/2020

US VISA OFFICES – CUTTING SERVICES

The US Government has announced that Visa Offices around the world will be cutting services and canceling appointments. This is an unprecedented decision that will impact thousands of applications.

We believe the Canadian government may issue a similar order to Canadian Visa Offices. If you are in process of submitting an application, we encourage you to submit ASAP while the Visa Offices are still open.

CANADA/USA BORDER RESTRICTIONS

Through a mutual agreement, the Canadian and US government have agreed to limit travel across the land border to essential travel only. This is an attempt to limit tourism and cross-border shopping. There are exemptions for trade and/or trucking. Governments are working hard due to the numbers of COVID19 infections.

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UPDATE 18/MARCH/2020

Please note that we have been dealing with the pandemic and monitoring the developments closely. We are trying to reply to all concerns in a systemic and orderly manner.

IRB – HEARINGS POSTPONED

Please note that most hearings at the tribunal have been postponed. This included refugee claims, admissibility hearings, and appeals. If you have a hearing that has been scheduled, we will provide updates from the IRB. Currently, the IRB front offce is closed to the public and they have released this message, published in 16/MARCH/2020. IRB Members are working on current cases and we received a positive decision today.

ENTERING CANADA

Please note that the Government of Canada has temporarily restricted entry to Canada. Previously, only Canadian citizens, PRs and a few exemptions have been permitted entry. Today, there may be additional restrictions. The situation has been changing daily, based on the risk assessment. If you or your loved ones are seeking entry to Canada, please review the changes that are published on news outlets, including CBC News.

REMOVALS AND DEPORTATIONS

CBSA has currently suspended all removals from Canada, including Departure Orders, Exclusion Orders and Deportation Orders; however, there are exceptions.

APPOINTMENTS WITH IRCC

IRCC has suspended in person meetings with Officers. Currently, they have announced that meetings may resume on 13/APRIL/2020; however, that may change depending on the pandemic.

Successful applications who are scheduled to land and become Permanent Residents, need to contact IRCC if they are unable to travel. This includes COPR and PRV cases.

BIOMETRICS

All biometrics appointments inside Canada have been cancelled until further notice. IRCC has granted an automatic extension of 90 days.

For biometrics appointments outside Canada, please contact the appropriate VAC or ASC.

CITIZENSHIP APPLICATIONS

Please note that CPC Sydney has temporarily closed and the office is not accepting packages. We will be submitting documentation as soon as they resume operations.

CROSSING THE BORDER & POEs

Please keep in mind that CBSA Officers at the border are on the front line. They have put in place measures to keep the Officers safe and, at the same time, follow instructions from Ottawa. We have been advised by other law firms in Canada that POEs may refuse to process applications that are not urgent.

PR APPLICATIONS

Applications for Permanent Residence and many other applications are being accepted. IRCC is encouraging all applicants to submit online, if possible.

FEDERAL COURT – APPLICATIONS FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW

The Court has issued a Notice regarding deadlines and ALJR. This information is effective 17/MARCH/2020

MIGRANT WORKERS & FARMING

We have been monitoring the situation. IRCC is acutely aware of the needs of the farming and agricultural sector. Current border restrictions may impact many workers who have travel plans. At this point, we encourage all temporary workers to monitor the situation closely.

LEGAL AID MANITOBA

LAM has announced that it will accept application online and their office is currently closed.

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13/MARCH/2020

We want to thank all our clients and partners for continued patience, cooperation and understanding during this COVID29 pandemic. We have taken unprecedented actions to keep our staff safe and healthy. These precautions have been put in place to ensure that we can continue to work and serve our clients. We will continue to do the work that we love; however, we also need to stay safe & healthy.

If you have come to the office recently, you have noticed the new signage. We announced the ban on shaking hands at the beginning of 2020 and we have put in place additional measures to limit personal contact and adhere to social distancing. In addition, starting on March 11th, we have put in place additional cleaning and other procedures to protect the office from viruses. We have added purification systems and many other measures for protection.

We have also put in place additional procedures so that staff can work remotely from home, if necessary. We are monitoring ourselves regularly to make sure we are safe and healthy. We are taking the COVID19 pandemic seriously and we want to make sure that we follow all precautions so that we are not infected and that we do not infect anyone who comes to our office.

Please take all measures to stay healthy.

Success: Refugee Appeal

refugee appeal

This photo is used with permission.

In early 2018, a Somali man came to us in distress and he asked us to help with a refugee appeal. His claim for refugee status was refused by the Refugee Protection Division (RPD). He was represented by a lawyer who was going through mental health issues and, unfortunately, that lawyer did not prepare a strong case. We agreed to assist with this individual with a refugee appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) based on the fact that significant evidence had not been considered and his particular circumstances.

We worked with the Somali community in Manitoba and our client’s network of supporters. We were able to prepare significant new evidence. For some reason, the previous lawyer did not prepare a strong case even though the documents were available. Based on the evidence, we put together a strong package on behalf of our client.

After ten (10) months, the RAD granted our appeal and overturned the RPD refusal. The RAD Member agreed with our significant legal arguments and agreed with our submissions that the new evidence may have had a significant impact on the refugee claim. To ensure full disclosure, we were fortunate to have a sympathetic RAD Member decide this refugee appeal. In this case, the client opted not to file a complaint against his former lawyer.

A refugee appeal is challenging and most appeals are dismissed. In 2019, only 12% of RAD appeals in the IRB Western Region were allowed. Building on our success with other appeals, we are thrilled with this decision and we strongly agree with the RAD. Our client’s previous lawyer did a terrible job and, thankfully, we have been able to fix this mess.

NOTE: Clarke Immigration Law accepts Legal Aid Certificates for RPD hearings only. Based on the amount of work involved with refugee appeals and the low rate of approval, we only accept refugee appeals on private retainer agreements and our fees are published online. Typically, our clients pay $500 monthly based on our flexible payment plans.

 

Refugee Law & Climate Change

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

A Brief History of the “Eco-Refugee”

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

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

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

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

One Non-Binding Decision

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canadian Context

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

Climate Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Membership in a Particular Social Group”

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

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

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

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

Lessons From 2019

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

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

  1. Applicants Remain Vulnerable

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

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

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

  1. Canada is the New Hope2019

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

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

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

  1. Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst

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

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

  1. Uncertainty on the Horizon

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

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

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

Apologies and Action

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

As reported by Global News:

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

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

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

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

Timing is Everything

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

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

As noted by Global:

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

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

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

 

Slaw: On the Importance of Language

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

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

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

In her words, as reported by CTV News:

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

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

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

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

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

They go on to explain:

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

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

CBC National News: Loopholes

Alastair was recently interviewed by CBC The National news on the topic of loopholes in the immigration system. There have recently been reports of individuals who are crossing at the Ports of Entry into Canada using a loophole in the law that was not widely known. These individuals are helping family members enter Canada through the loophole.

For the full interview, click here to watch this clip from CBC News.

From an immigration perspective, this so-called loophole is not new. It has always been in the law; however, based on the chaos and anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States, the loophole was rarely used by immigrants and refugee claimants who were in Canada. Prior to the current situation in the United States where many people from around the world recognize the pro-immigrant culture of Canada, they realize how Canada is much different from the United States.

We expect that the numbers of individuals and families who are crossing the border into Canada to increase as long as the US Government continues its rhetoric that shows discrimination and anti-immigrant sentiment.

In the meantime, we will continue to fight for our clients and make sure that everyone has their rights protected.

We continue to implore the government to suspend or repeal the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). We have been calling for change for almost 2 years when it became clear that the Agreement, and the loopholes within it, are causing unnecessary danger and risk to people simply seeking safety.

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!