True North Initiative: News Scan 02 24 17

TOP STORIES

High fees blamed for sharp decrease in Canadian citizenship applications

The number of immigrants applying for citizenship has plunged by a whopping 50 per cent at the same time as Ottawa has stripped a record number of Canadians of their citizenship. According to the latest data from the Immigration Department, only 56,446 new citizenship applications were received in the first nine months of last year, a sharp decline from the 111,993 during the same period in 2015. (Toronto Star)

Refugees crossing U.S. border heading to Toronto, agencies say

Many of the asylum seekers crossing the Canadian border in places like Manitoba and Quebec will wind up in Toronto, say those who care for refugees. Those who run shelters or provide medical care for newcomers say they're keeping a close eye on the situation, as more and more people leave the U.S. for Canada. The City of Toronto said it's already seen a sharp increase in the number of would-be refugees winding up in its shelter system at the beginning of 2017. (CBC)

Canadian children being held as ‘guests’ in immigration detention centres: report

Between 2011 and 2015, over 200 Canadian-born children like Aaliya were held in the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre (IHC), the largest of its kind in Canada, according to a new report by the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program. The report, titled “Invisible Citizens: Canadian Children in Immigration Detention,” states that dozens of Canadian children of non-status parents were held in that facility each year as de facto detainees or “guests” alongside formally detained children, in that time period. (Global News) (CBC)

UN monitoring asylum seekers crossing Canada-U.S. border

The United Nations refugee agency is keeping a careful eye on the situation at the Canada-U.S.. border, where dozens of people have been crossing illegally in recent weeks to seek asylum. The agency’s representative in Ottawa recently spent a day watching people make their way through an unofficial border crossing in Quebec and says he plans to keep up visits over the next few weeks. (Globe and Mail) (CTV)

Anyone crossing the border illegally whose claim is rejected will be sent home, not back to U.S.

The men, women and children hiking over the Canada-U.S. border to seek asylum in Canada are risking more than freezing conditions – they’re cutting off all roads back to the United States and risk being sent back to the countries they fled. “Usually the U.S. is considered a safe place to seek asylum,” said Jacqueline Bonisteel, an associate at Corporate Immigration Law Firm in Toronto. (Global News)

'A waiting game': Families wonder why immigration applications in limbo with influx of asylum seekers

With the steady stream of asylum seekers sneaking across the border, some families are wondering why it's taking so long to process immigration applications to get their family members to Canada. "I have all the sympathy for all the refugees and everyone who wants to come Canada because Canada is definitely a better place," Shaw told CBC News. "But what about processing the files that are already in the pipeline?" (Yahoo) (CBC)

Iranian Montrealer facing deportation can stay in Canada

Roghayeh Azizi Mirmahaleh, who was set to be deported to Iran next week, has been granted a two-year temporary residency permit and can stay in Canada, her lawyer has confirmed. The 60-year-old who lives in Montreal spent three years in an Iranian prison for political activism. Her husband was executed in Iran before she moved to Canada five years ago. (CBC)

Trudeau defends giving US border agents more power in Canada

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday defended plans to give more powers to U.S. border agents stationed in Canada, saying travelers would at all times be protected by domestic laws. As part of a 2015 deal between Canada and the United States, Trudeau's government has introduced draft legislation allowing U.S. border agents based in Canada more leeway to question and search people wishing to enter the United States. (Business Insider)

Operation Ezra Yazidi families arrive in Winnipeg, support refugee resettlement plan

A group of children held welcome signs as a crowd erupted in cheers at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport on Wednesday as a Yazidi family came down the escalator getting the first glimpse of their new home and community. The family of nine, including seven children, came to the city through Operation Ezra, a Winnipeg multi-faith grassroots group that is privately sponsoring Yazidi refugee families. (CBC)

Fredericton mayor considers becoming a 'sanctuary city' for refugees

The mayor of Fredericton says he would like the city become a sanctuary city by opening its doors to people seeking refuge in Canada. Mayor Mike O’Brien says it would mean the city would be open to any refugee that doesn’t have citizenship status. However, he says it might make more sense for the province to be declared a sanctuary province since it would bear many of the responsibilities for caring for refugees, like education and health care. (Globe and Mail)

Montreal dad ‘crushed’ by son’s arrest after reporting jihadi tried to recruit him

When the Montreal man learned that his 17-year-old son had been targeted by a stranger trying to recruit him to join jihad, he did what he thought was the right thing – he alerted the RCMP. He didn’t expect what followed. His son was taken into custody in front of media cameras. The young man’s case was associated with an investigation into eight other Montrealers who were arrested on their way to Syria. And U.S. border guards are now asking questions about the family. (Globe and Mail)

 

OTHER STORIES (Domestic and International)

Refugee vetting in U.S. and Canada already ‘extreme,’ experts say

U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans for “extreme vetting” of migrants may seem a stark contrast to Ottawa’s “openness” approach, but the two countries’ systems are more closely aligned than many people would like to believe. Trump’s stance on immigrants and refugees cannot be more different from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s. That contradiction was on full display at their joint news conference at the White House after the two leaders’ recent first meeting in Washington. (Toronto Star)

After more than 60 years in Canada, B.C. man faces deportation to the Netherlands

At age 60, Len Van Heest is facing deportation to the Netherlands because of a string of crimes he admits he committed. But Van Heest doesn't speak Dutch and doesn't know a soul in the land of his birth. The Courtenay, B.C., man said his crimes were the result of a severe mental illness he developed as a young man and is appealing to Canadian immigration officials to let him stay. (CBC)

No pledge to create new Canadian health care jobs in Chinese takeover

The Trudeau government came under fire on Wednesday for its decision to allow a Beijing conglomerate with ties to powerful families in China to gain a foothold in Canada’s health-care system despite a murky ownership structure. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended letting Anbang Insurance buy a retirement-home chain that is British Columbia’s highest-billing provider of assisted-living and residential-care services, saying it is part of his mandate to “create middle-class jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians.” (Globe and Mail)

Chinese conglomerate Anbang defends takeover of B.C. retirement-home chain

Anbang, the massive Chinese conglomerate that has purchased a foothold in Canada’s health-care system, finally broke its silence Thursday to defend its takeover of one of B.C.’s largest retirement-home chains, arguing the deal was approved after great scrutiny at multiple levels of government. (Globe and Mail)

MPs investigate use of national security exceptions in federal procurement

A group of MPs is trying to get to the bottom of how and why the government invokes national security exceptions on so many of its federal contracts. The study comes after CBC News reported on how Shared Services Canada has blanket authority to invoke such exceptions on all of its information technology contracts. (CBC)

Canadian vice-admiral denies any wrongdoing after being removed from post

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, who was abruptly removed as the second-in-command of Canada’s military, denies that he’s done anything wrong and looks forward to being “cleared,” according to his lawyer. High-profile Toronto lawyer Marie Henein, who successfully defended broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi, now has Norman as a client and, in a forceful statement, said she hopes he can soon return to his post. (Toronto Star)

Manitoba announces help for refugee services

The government of the western province of Manitoba has announced several measures to support refugees streaming across its border with the United States, while calling on the federal government to help. Since January, about 100 refugee claimants have braved freezing temperatures and deep snow to come to Canada at places other than official border crossings. Under current law, arrival at official points would require border guards to turn them back to the United States. (Radio Canada) (CBC)

Trudeau's Privy Council Office budget the highest in a decade

The budget for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Privy Council Office is set to rise by 20 per cent this year, making it one of the largest budgets for the office in a decade. According to spending estimates tabled in the House of Commons Thursday, the budget for the Privy Council Office will jump to $144.9 million for the coming fiscal year from $120.7 million. (CBC)

Liberal MLA takes stand on immigration 'backlog' with legislature sit-in

Liberal MLA Cindy Lamoureux spent the night hunkered down in support of newcomers who feel they've been left in the dark or misled by Manitoba's immigration application system. The representative for Burrows staged a 33-hour sit-in Wednesday and Thursday at the legislature to push for improvements in Manitoba's immigration nominee program, which she says is plagued by delays and communication issues. (CBC)

Wall with Canada? White House spokesman, media share laugh over question

White House spokesman Sean Spicer laughed off the idea of building a wall along the northern U.S. border Thursday after a journalist from Montana floated the notion during his daily media briefing. Spicer and the assembled reporters had to guffaw when the NBC News reporter, taking part via video link, asked whether there were plans to apply to Canada the same treatment U.S. President Donald Trump has directed at Mexico. (Toronto Sun)

U.S., Mexico at odds over deportation, border wall as officials meet

Senior Mexican officials on Thursday expressed "worry and irritation" about U.S. policies during a visit by two of President Donald Trump's top envoys, who in turn sought to cool tempers after weeks of tension between the neighbours. (CBC)

 

EDITORIAL AND OPINION PIECES

Candice Malcolm: Liberals pretend our laws don’t matter

The steady flow of illegal migrants continues across Canada’s southern border. And the Trudeau government has no plan, no strategy, for dealing with the unprecedented surge in illegal migration. Rather than addressing the problem — the serious threat of unscreened migrants risking their lives to arrive on our doorstep — Liberal politicians have been sending the wrong message. (Toronto Sun)

Lorre Goldstein: Here’s why I fear Islam, Prime Minister

With the greatest respect to Justin Trudeau, Liberal MP Iqra Khalid and the federal Liberal caucus, it’s none of your damn business whether I have a fear of Islam, which is what “Islamophobia” means. As a Jew, my fear of Islam -- pertaining specifically to that malignant and widespread strain of it that hates Jews -- is completely rational. But even if it was irrational, it is not the business of the government to tell me how I should FEEL about anything. (Toronto Sun)

Tony Keller: Canada has never had a real migrant crisis. Trump may have just changed that

When it comes to the treatment of immigrants and refugees, it’s easy for Canadians to look south and feel smug. Immigration, always a hot-button issue for Americans, is now driving them completely around the bend. Canada’s immigration system really is better than the American system, morally and practically. But that’s not because Canadians are better people than Americans, morally and practically. It’s because our immigration policies have been smarter than those of our neighbours. And our policies have been able to be smarter because our geography has been luckier. (Globe and Mail)

Konrad Yakabuski: Denis Coderre's needless test of Canadian tolerance

Sorry to burst our national bubble, but Canadians aren’t any more tolerant of immigrants than Americans or Europeans. What has sustained our generous attitudes toward newcomers is public faith in the integrity of our immigration and refugee systems. It helps that we’ve also been insulated from the chaotic influx of migrants that has produced ugly backlashes elsewhere. More than most countries, we still control who gets in and the conditions of their entry. (Globe and Mail)

Kelly McParland: If the Liberals drop the migrant ball, Canadians will lose patience quickly

When Angela Merkel threw open Germany’s borders to migrants pouring into Europe to escape Mideast chaos, she made both a generous gesture and a serious mistake, from which Canada should learn. The gesture and the mistake were simultaneous. Merkel declared Germany would accept as many people as could survive the Mediterranean crossing, the border fences, the guards and the increasingly hostile populations that separated them from German borders. But she failed to anticipate the extent of the complications this would create, or make adequate preparations to deal with it. (National Post)

Susan Delacourt: For Trump and the Trudeaus, the past is back

It is hard to imagine a better gift for Donald Trump than the one Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave him during that recent White House visit: a framed photograph of Trump and Pierre Trudeau on stage together at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in 1981. For Trump, who expertly played the politics of nostalgia in the presidential campaign — you know, making America great again — the photo captures him in a heady time for U.S. Republicans, and an era that many American voters might regard as really great in retrospect. (Toronto Star)

Andrew Macdougall: Lose the anger, Conservatives, and recall your inclusive heritage

Reputations are built over time and lost in an instant. It’s a vaudeville saying that’s grown more relevant in our digital age. It also applies to parties and movements. These are the stakes now facing the Conservative Party of Canada as it searches for its new leader. Build, or be lost. Which makes the squalid tussle over Liberal MP Iqra Khalid’s Motion 103 on Islamophobia even more depressing. Have Conservatives learned nothing from the last election? On cultural issues there is no benefit given to Conservative doubt. It might not be fair, but it’s a fact of life. Conservatives are supposed to be in favour of facts. (Globe and Mail)

 

REPORTS, COMMITTEE HEARINGS, LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

  • Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities met yesterday for committee business (In Camera)
  • Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration meet later today to study Family Reunification (In Camera)
  • Standing Committee on National Defence will met on Wednesday to study Suicide Mortality in the Canadian Armed Forces (Public)
  • Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development met yesterday to study Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act and Special Economic Measures Act (In Camera