True North Initiative: News Scan 03 03 17

TOP STORIES

Illegal border crossings from U.S. not yet a crisis: federal government

Despite a surge in asylum claims filed at the Canada-U.S. border, Canadian officials say they are monitoring the situation and maintain illegal crossing has not reached a crisis level. In the first two months of 2017, some 1,700 refugee claims were filed at the land-border entry, more than double the 728 reported in the previous year, officials said during a media briefing in Ottawa Thursday. However, officials said the number of “irregular crossers” have been about the same monthly entrants as last year. From Feb. 1 to 21, the Mounties intercepted 290 people crossing into Quebec, 94 in Manitoba and 51 in British Columbia. These were people who entered outside of an official port of entry. (Toronto Star) (BBC) (Macleans)

Officials confirm rise in asylum seekers crossing illegally into Canada, but RCMP lay no charges

Canadian officials are keeping close tabs on the number of people illegally crossing the border into Canada, but they don't expect the winter increase will necessarily lead to a spring surge. Government officials, who spoke on background and did not wish to be named, provided journalists with an update on illegal crossings today and confirmed an increase in three provinces. (CBC) (Globe and Mail)

Refugees in Canada Rely On Welfare, Odd Jobs To Repay Debt To Federal Gov't

The CCR reports 76 per cent of government-assisted refugees use social assistance to meet loan requirements, while cutting back on basic expenses such as housing, food and clothing. “It is a real handicap for many [refugees] and for some absolutely devastating,” Janet Dench of the Canadian Council of Refugees (CCR) told HuffPost. (Huffington Post)

ISIS is still trying to recruit Canadians on social media, CSIS warns

Terrorism remains the most immediate threat to Canada’s national security, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) said in its annual report released Tuesday, as ISIS continues to use social media to recruit thousands of people, including Canadians. The public report, which covers the country’s security concerns from 2014 to 2016, warned the terror group continues to use its large online presence to recruit people on social media to travel to Syria and Iraq. (Global)

Facial recognition technology is coming to Canadian airports this spring

Facial recognition technology is coming to major Canadian airports as part of a new traveller screening program under development by Canada Border Services Agency, CBC News has learned. The technology will be part of a new generation of self-service border clearance kiosks for travellers entering or returning to Canada. The kiosks are being pitched as part of a broader effort to modernize and streamline clearance procedures at Canadian airports, and will eventually replace the more limited kiosks currently in use. (CBC)

Most Canadians say refugee claimants crossing border not a threat: Nanos survey

A majority of Canadians believe that refugee claimants illegally crossing the border into Canada from the U.S. are not a threat to the country, according to a new Nanos survey. The survey found that 62 per cent of Canadians don’t believe the border-crossing refugees are a threat. Five per cent said the refugees pose a terrorist threat, while another five per cent saw them as a threat to Canadian jobs. Eighteen per cent said the refugees are both a terrorist threat and a threat to jobs. (CTV)

Most asylum seekers slip into B.C. through Peace Arch Park

The surge of asylum seekers walking across the Canada-U.S. border, in Surrey B.C., accounts for 80 per cent of the people who have made refugee claims in Vancouver, B.C., since April 2016.  Of the 1,140 refugee claimants who have reached the Lower Mainland, 912 simply walked through Peace Arch Park at the B.C.-Washington border. (CBC)

Manitoba aid agencies brace for new wave of refugees crossing U.S. border

Manitoba aid agencies warned Thursday they are becoming overwhelmed by a wave of refugee claimants coming across the U.S. border near the community of Emerson. Some 169 people have crossed the border on foot in sub-zero temperatures this year — an unprecedented amount for the cold weather months, according to Immigration Partnership Winnipeg, one of 23 agencies that work with The United Way to help newcomers. “Can you imagine what is going to happen to us when the weather improves?” said Abdi Ahmed, a co-ordinator with the group. (Toronto Star)

Concordia bomb threat suspect charged with inciting fear of terrorism

Hisham Saadi appeared briefly at the Montreal courthouse Thursday afternoon via video conference from Bordeaux Prison to face charges of inciting fear of terrorist activities, issuing a death threat and interrupting the students and personnel of Concordia University from their activities. (Toronto Sun) (Yahoo) (CTV)

 

OTHER STORIES (Domestic and International)

Canada’s immigration department acknowledges drop in LGBT refugees from Iran

Canada’s federal immigration department has acknowledged it resettled fewer LGBT Iranians from Turkey, in order to make space for the late-2015 Syrian airlift. The comments, made by a senior official at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, came on Feb 21, 2017, two weeks after an Xtra investigation found that Canada started referring LGBT Iranians to the United States for resettlement. Under the previous Harper government, Conservatives gained international praise for the program that brought hundreds of LGBT asylum seekers from Turkey. (Daily Xtra)

Identifying Yazidis seeking resettlement to Canada a 'complicated process'

Resettling Yazidi women and girls in Canada has a unique set of challenges, but one of the biggest is identifying those in most urgent need who are willing to relocate from northern Iraq, says the UN refugee agency's representative to Canada. Jean-Nicolas Beuze said Canada's program narrowly targets a group of people who are close to their community, and have not necessarily revealed their experience of rape or sexual slavery to their own family members, let alone community service providers. (CBC)

Liberal support slides to lowest levels since 2015 election

Support for Justin Trudeau's Liberals has sharply declined over the last three months, dropping to its lowest levels since the last federal election. The party has taken a hit in the polls in every region of the country, boosting both the Conservatives and New Democrats as a result. But despite the governing party's worsening fortunes, the Liberals still have as much support today as they did when they secured a majority government in October 2015. (CBC)

PM under fire for saying Grassy Narrows 'very much' Ontario's responsibility

Frustrated indigenous leaders and human rights advocates called out Justin Trudeau on Thursday after the prime minister described mercury contamination at Grassy Narrows First Nation as "very much" an Ontario issue. Chief Simon Fobister accused Trudeau of "passing the buck" when it comes to the federal government's responsibility for an ongoing toxic leak that has plagued the remote northwestern Ontario community for half a century. (CTV)

Canada asked to both help and negotiate with U.K. amid 1st-ever Commonwealth trade talks

The United Kingdom is turning to traditional partners like Canada for help as it prepares to withdraw from the European Union and do something it hasn't done in decades: negotiate its own trade deals. A first-ever Commonwealth trade ministers meeting next week in London could kick off negotiations to bolster the British economy once it leaves the privileged EU zone. (CBC)

Candidate pulls out of Liberal nomination fight, saying process is ‘neither open nor fair’

A candidate pulled out of a Liberal nomination fight for a federal byelection in Ontario on Thursday, days after she said the race was set up to favour one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s aides. Juanita Nathan issued a statement saying her efforts to appeal to the party’s leadership have fallen on deaf ears and that she won’t try for the nomination in the Toronto-area riding of Markham Thornhill. (National Post)

Senate committee leaves door open to covering legal fees for retired senator

A former Liberal senator says the Senate should cover about $82,000 in legal fees she incurred after she was named in a critical audit of spending in the upper chamber, then cleared of any wrongdoing. The only questions Sharon Carstairs faced in the auditor general’s review released two years ago were about her primary residence and $7,528 in living expenses that landed her case before the Mounties. (Macleans)

Canada’s Immigration System, Lauded by Trump, Is More Complex Than Advertised

Canada’s merit-based immigration system received a loving mention by President Trump this week in his speech to Congress. Mr. Trump, who has railed against illegal immigration and talked tough about tightening borders, said adopting that kind of system would cost American taxpayers less and help increase wages for poor workers. (New York Times)

Trump defends under-fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions

President Donald Trump has defended Attorney General Jeff Sessions as "an honest man" amid calls for him to quit. The Democrats say Mr Sessions "lied on oath" at his confirmation hearing about contacts with the Russian ambassador. (BBC)

Why China doesn't want you to meet 'the petitioners'

We'd arranged to meet a woman in her village in China's central Hunan Province and to then travel with her by train to Beijing, filming as we went. But we never did get to meet our interviewee. The story we ended up with, however, reveals more about the exercise of power in China than any interview ever could. (BBC)

 

EDITORIAL AND OPINION PIECES

Chris Hall: Should Liberals let asylum seekers from U.S. enter Canada safely at border crossings?

It was probably unavoidable that when federal bureaucrats met with reporters on Thursday to discuss how the government is handling the growing number of people entering Canada illegally from the U.S. it would boil down to numbers. In just the first two months of 2017, nearly twice as many people have made refugee claims in Canada compared to all of 2016. Over that same brief period, 435 people have crossed illegally into Canada and were arrested by the RCMP. And then there was this number: officials said no one has been charged, at least not yet, for doing so. (CBC)

Barry Campbell: How we handle who’s coming could make or break Canada

What Canada is about to experience will test our values and the limits of our tolerance as never before. We have seen a trickle; but now may see a wave of desperate “illegal aliens” (as the Americans so charmingly call them) crossing our land border with the U.S. and seeking refuge here. How we treat “the stranger in our midst” not in their thousands; but in the tens of thousands may change, or reinforce how we see ourselves and each other. How we handle this could make or break this country. The issue will not play out in isolation; but has the prospect of poisoning our politics here and complicating an already fraught trading relationship with the U.S. (Toronto Star)

Sean Speer: Conservatives need to build a concrete vision

This past weekend’s Manning Centre conference in Ottawa was a chance for conservatives, libertarians, and others who make up Canada’s centre-right movement to assess the current state of the country’s intellectual and political life. (Toronto Sun)

 

REPORTS, COMMITTEE HEARINGS, LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

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