True North Initiative: News Scan 03 20 17

TOP STORIES

Mexican asylum claims to Canada increase by 2,500%: report

Canada is once again dealing with a surge in asylum claims from Mexico, according to new data exclusive to the Postmedia Network. In January 2017, Canada experienced a 700% rise in asylum claims from Mexico compared to the number of claims made in January 2016. February 2017 saw an increase of 2,500% from February of the previous year, according to a new report by the True North Initiative based on data from the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lifted the visa requirement for Mexican travellers in December 2016, against the wishes of some immigration and border security experts, and in turn, hundreds of Mexicans are now taking advantage of Canada’s generous asylum program. (Canoe) (Toronto Sun)

Canada has detained more Mexicans in 2 months than in all of 2016

The Canada Border Services Agency detained more Mexican migrants in the first two months of 2017 than it did in all of 2016, new statistics show. According to the CBSA, 444 Mexicans had been detained in Canada as of March 9. In 2016, 410 Mexicans were held by Canadian border officials. The spike comes immediately after Canada's federal government lifted its visa requirement for Mexican citizens in December. In January alone, 70 Mexicans made refugee claims upon arriving in Canada. (Yahoo)

Almost half of Canadians want illegal border crossers deported - Reuters poll

Nearly half of Canadians want to deport people who are illegally crossing into Canada from the United States, and a similar number disapprove of how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is handling the influx, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Monday. A significant minority, four out of 10 respondents, said the border crossers could make Canada "less safe," underlining the potential political risk for Trudeau's Liberal government. (Daily Mail)

No need for ‘Canadian values’ tests for immigrants: immigration minister

The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sees no need to institute a ‘Canadian values’ test for prospective immigrants to Canada, said federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen. Speaking to Radio Canada International in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the 19th National Metropolis Conference on Friday, Hussen reacted to a recent poll commissioned by Radio-Canada. The internet poll surveyed 2,513 people across Canada about a variety of issues affecting the country. (Radio Canada)

Officials can't say how many asylum seekers enter Canada illegally

At first they seem to be simple questions. How many asylum seekers have come into Canada? How many are being allowed to stay?  We've been asking, and the simple answer is: it's not that simple. From their very first steps over the border, asylum seekers are quickly caught up in a system involving numerous federal, provincial and non-governmental agencies, all of which keep information and statistics in different ways — but none of which specifically track the number of people filing asylum claims after crossing the border illegally. (CBC)

Brian Pallister stresses need for asylum seeker aid amidst health deal clash

While Manitoba and Ottawa continue to fight it out over a new health deal, Premier Brian Pallister hopes those negotiations won't taint the federal government's willingness to help the province handle an influx of asylum seekers seeking refuge across its borders. "That would be a most unfortunate linkage," he told host Terry Milewski on CBC Radio's The House, when asked whether holding out on the health care deal could jeopardize federal assistance for dealing with the border issue. (CBC)

Kevin O’Leary campaign organizer accused of vote buying

A signed affidavit provided to The Globe and Mail alleges that one of Conservative leadership candidate Kevin O’Leary’s key organizers in the Sikh-Canadian community in Brampton, Ont., offered to pay for party membership – a clear breach of party rules. The affidavit is being used by leadership candidate Maxime Bernier’s camp to target the reality-TV star as a hypocrite after the O’Leary team accused his Quebec rival of committing mass membership fraud last week. (Globe and Mail)

Conservative Party strikes 1,351 names off membership list after investigation

The Conservative Party of Canada has removed 1,351 names from its membership list after discovering they were purchased anonymously and inappropriately.  The announcement from the party comes a day after reality TV star and Tory leadership candidate Kevin O'Leary alleged "widespread vote rigging" in the race to replace Stephen Harper as the next permanent leader of the Conservative Party. "Upon an expedited review, we found 1,351 memberships purchased through two IP addresses which were not purchased by those members. Those purchases were made anonymously through the Conservative Party of Canada website," communications director Cory Hann said in an email to CBC News. (CBC)

Omar Khadr’s lawyer says ‘it’s time for the government to . . . apologize to him’ and settle suit

As the Canadian government offers an apology and millions in compensation for Ottawa’s role in the detention and torture of three Canadians held in Syria and Egypt, federal lawyers appear to be digging in for a long fight against former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr, who was 15 years old and grievously injured when he was captured in 2002. Lawyers for Khadr, now 30, have been fighting the federal government since 2004 regarding abuses they say occurred to the Toronto-born captive under the Liberal and Conservative administrations. (Toronto Star)

 

OTHER STORIES (Domestic and International)

Jason Kenney sets unite-the-right plan in motion after Alberta PC leadership win

Alberta Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney says the wheels are in motion on his unite-the-right plan, with the goal of a new party and an elected leader in place a year from now.

"This is not written in stone (but) if there's any way that we can accelerate that timeline, I'm all ears," Kenney told reporters Sunday after he met with the Progressive Conservative board of directors. "I want us to go as quickly as we can ... but not jeopardize the unity project by speeding this up unnecessarily." (CTV)

Trudeau Challenger O’Leary: ‘I Don’t Want Anybody Just Walking Into Our Country’

Businessman and television personality Kevin O’Leary, a candidate for leadership of Canada’s Conservative Party, said Canada’s border must be protected to “maintain” sovereignty and urged the government to stop migrants from entering the country over the border without documentation and receiving public benefits. (PJ Media)

What Canada’s ‘Yellow Peril’ teaches us about this migrant moment

It’s September 7, 1907, and a parade has just started on Main Street, just outside Vancouver’s City Hall, with hundreds marching to the tune of “Rule Britannia.” The song was a strange choice, given that the protesters were actually objecting to Britain’s rule, which had recently told the province of British Columbia to stand down when it tried to get tough on Asian immigration. (Macleans)

Supreme Court to hear 'honour killing' extradition case

A long-running legal battle heads to the Supreme Court on Monday as two B.C. residents accused of arranging the honour-killing of a young relative in India continue to fight the federal government's efforts to extradite them. Jaswinder (Jassi) Sidhu was found dead in a canal in India in 2000. India has been trying for years to extradite Malkit Sidhu and Surjit Badesha, both of Maple Ridge, B.C., to face trial. (CBC)

From Somalia to Manitoba: A look at the long journey of asylum seekers

The snow-covered fields around the Emerson, Man., border have become a pathway for many asylum seekers hoping to make a refugee claim in Canada — a colder trek than most have experienced on their long journeys from around the world. Many of the people coming into Manitoba are originally from Somalia, a country located in the Horn of Africa, bordered by Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya. (CBC)

Internal review questions number of diplomatic passports

Federal officials are raising questions about whether Canada should be issuing so many diplomatic passports each year, including some to retired officials who perform no diplomacy. The problem arises from "unclear, inconsistent or outdated eligibility provisions," according to an internal document from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), which runs the passport program. (CBC)

Canada hopes to attract talents from India through its policy

Canada hopes its new global skills strategy will attract highly specialised professionals from India and elsewhere who will contribute to the growth of Canadian companies, according to a senior Canadian minister.  Canada has launched the Global Skills Strategy aimed at facilitating faster access to top global talent for the firms committed to bring new skills to the country and create jobs. (Business Standard)

Northern aliens: Around 100,000 Canadians live under the radar in U.S. as illegal immigrants

It was the late 1990s when the Canadian man crossed the border into the United States, a visitor like millions of others, free to stay up to six months. Except that he never actually left the U.S., and never obtained U.S. government permission to stick around. He simply made a new life for himself in America. For the last 18 years, the Canadian has been an illegal immigrant. “He has a business in the U.S. and it’s active and he has employees,” says Fadi Minawi, the man’s Toronto-based lawyer. “He came to me and asked: ‘How do I get legal?’” As unlawful immigrants become a target for President Donald Trump’s administration a surprising number of Canadians could be asking the same question right now. (National Post)

Canadian government apologizes to 3 men tortured in Syria

The Trudeau government has given apologies and compensation to three Canadians who were tortured in Syria. The government said Friday it had settled long-simmering lawsuits filed by the men over the federal role in their painful experiences, though details of the settlement were not made public. In October 2008, an inquiry led by former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci found Canadian officials contributed to the torture of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin by sharing information with foreign agencies. (Global News) (CBC)

MPs take steps to protect themselves as anti-Islamophobia motion sparks threats

With threats against some federal politicians on the rise as a motion condemning Islamophobia makes its way through the House, MPs have been taking measures to keep themselves and those around them safe. In response to rookie Liberal MP Iqra Khalid’s (Mississauga-Erin Mills, Ont.) private member’s motion, M-103, introduced in December and last debated in February, a number of Liberal MPs have received nasty and racist comments via email, phone, and on social media. (Hill Times)

Canadian envoy visits Pakistani town where Toronto-area man allegedly led mob that stormed mosque

Canada sent a diplomat to a town in Pakistan last week to meet leaders of the Ahmadiyya minority whose mosque was stormed by a mob that allegedly included a Toronto-area man, an official said. The visit by an envoy from the Canadian High Commission in Islamabad came three months after Rashid Ahmed of Mississauga, Ont., was spotted in the crowd during the storming of the mosque. Ahmed has since returned to Canada, drawing complaints from Canadian Ahmadiyya leaders, who want him investigated. He has denied being a leader of the Dec. 12 assault in the Chakwal area. (National Post)

Canada to give $119M in aid to Middle East and African countries suffering food crises

Canada will provide $119 million to help people in countries in the midst of food crises. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen told reporters in Toronto on Friday that the money will go toward those in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen who are facing extreme food insecurity. "These 20 million people need humanitarian assistance now," he said at the Keele Street Community Hub. "We know that Canadians care and want their government to respond to the needs of people in these regions." (CBC)

Police shoot man at Paris Orly Airport

A man who tried to seize a soldier's gun at Paris Orly Airport on Saturday, March 18, was shot and killed by security forces. The man had been involved just hours earlier in a carjacking and a shooting at a police traffic checkpoint, French authorities said. (CNN)

China to US: Be 'cool-headed' on North Korea

China urged the United States to take a "cool-headed" approach to escalating tensions with North Korea, calling for a diplomatic solution to North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in the Chinese capital Saturday after issuing the administration's bluntest warning yet to North Korea, saying that no option -- including military action -- is off the table. (CNN)

Germany's defense minister to Trump: No, we don't owe NATO money

Germany's defense minister has rejected claims from US President Donald Trump that her country owes NATO "vast sums of money." In a statement released on Sunday, Ursula von der Leyen said "there is no debt account in NATO. To relate the 2% defense spending that we want to reach in the next decade solely to NATO is wrong. (CNN)

Venezuela has a bread shortage. The government has decided bakers are the problem.

Facing a bread shortage that is spawning massive lines and souring the national mood, the Venezuelan government is responding this week by detaining bakers and seizing establishments. In a press release, the National Superintendent for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights said it had charged four people and temporarily seized two bakeries as the socialist administration accused bakers of being part of a broad “economic war” aimed at destabilizing the country. (Miami Herald)

Trump Russia claims: US intelligence chiefs to give evidence

Two US intelligence chiefs are set to testify before Congress about possible links between Russia and President Donald Trump's election campaign. They will also address Mr Trump's unsubstantiated claim that he was wiretapped by predecessor Barack Obama. (BBC)

PALESTINIANS GIVE AWARD TO UN OFFICIAL WHO CONDEMNED ISRAEL

The Palestinian president has awarded his people's highest honor to a former U.N. official who was forced to resign last week after authoring a report that accused Israel of establishing an "apartheid regime." The official Palestinian news agency Wafa said Sunday that President Mahmoud Abbas informed Rima Khalaf by phone that she would receive the Palestine Medal of the Highest Honor in recognition of her "courage and support" for the Palestinian people. (Associated Press)

Israel threatens to 'destroy' Syrian air defence systems

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday threatened to destroy Syrian air defence systems after they fired ground-to-air missiles at Israeli warplanes carrying out strikes. "The next time the Syrians use their air defence systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation," Lieberman said on Israeli public radio. (Yahoo)

 

EDITORIAL AND OPINION PIECES

Candice Malcolm: Trudeau still talks like we have open borders

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has once again taken to social media to proclaim that Canada’s borders are open to any and all who want to come here.  Using the Prime Minister’s official government Twitter account – supposedly run by impartial civil servants in the PCO – the following message was posted on Thursday morning, quoting Trudeau:  "Regardless of who you are or where you come from, there’s always a place for you in Canada." (Toronto Sun)

Neil Macdonald: Forget 'values tests.' One would-be Tory leader has other ideas that will horrify Liberals

Rick Peterson, the private-sector firecracker competing with 13 other candidates to lead the Conservative Party, wrote the other day, politely taking issue with my contention that the race is less exciting than televised darts and devoid of big, serious ideas. So I called him back. He wasn't terribly keen on discussing the cruelly boring race itself. The debates — if that's what you want to call them — have mainly consisted of canned, timed answers to excessively polite questions, punctuated by snippy potshots from Kellie Leitch, the elite surgeon and former cabinet minister now posing as an anti-elite warrior, and Steven Blaney, her loud francophone doppelganger. (CBC)

Rex Murphy: A whiff of BLM grapeshot, and Niki Ashton waves the surrender flag (I dare not call it ‘white’, in this context)

It is a great wide world in which the strangest things bring people together. Two prominent feminists, from different political parties, one of whom is already a leader, the other seeking that status, have found themselves in the judgement court of the inquisitional Black Lives Matter branch plant in Canada. Just over a month ago, our pridefully feminist Prime Minister was left withering in the rhetorical wind from a blast issued by BLM Toronto’s megaphonic Yusra Khogali. (National Post)

Campbell Clark: If Don Meredith won’t quit, the Senate has a duty to police its own

Dodge, obfuscate, duck, weave. That was the path that Senator Don Meredith took when the Red Chamber’s ethics officer investigated allegations he had a relationship with a teenage girl. Now that a damning report has been issued, the senator insists God has forgiven him. But the Senate has no right to be so forgiving. The Red Chamber can’t judge whether Mr. Meredith can be redeemed. It must decide whether he crossed a line with conduct that damages the dignity of the Senate, such as it is, and whether he is in contempt. His deceit, in the relationship with the teenager and when Senate ethics officer Lyse Ricard investigated, means the answer is yes. (Globe and Mail)

 

REPORTS, COMMITTEE HEARINGS, LEGISLATIVE UPDATES 

-       Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration meet later today to discuss Subject Matter of the Supplementary Estimates (C) 2016-17 and get a briefing on the Updated Ministerial Mandate Letter (3:30pm) (Public)

-       Standing Committee on National Defence meet tomorrow to get a briefing by the Commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment (Public)

-       Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development meet tomorrow to discuss (Partly public/in Camera):

  • Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act & Special Economic Measures Act
  • Yezidis, Christians and Other Religious and Ethnic Minorities in Syria and Iraq
  • Situation in Eastern Europe and Central Asia 25 Years after the End of the Cold War