True North Initiative: News Scan 03 21 17

TOP STORIES

Refugee claims in Canada spiked in last 2 months. 1/5th crossed the border illegally.

A spike in refugee claims for the first two months of 2017 put Canada on track for the highest number since at least 2011. A fifth of those claimants were caught crossing the border illegally. Growing numbers of asylum-seekers are coming to Canada in the wake of the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has pledged to crack down on refugees and undocumented immigrants. (Global)

Caught on camera: Manitoba-U.S. border sees record weekend for illegal crossings

Manitoba had the largest weekend influx of refugees illegally entering the province from the United States so far this year -- a situation that has local officials on edge, with many more expected follow in their footsteps as the weather improves. Video obtained by CTV News shows 29 people walked into the province from neighbouring U.S. states on Saturday and Sunday in a series of groups. (CTV)

Stephen Harper's ex-spokesman admits he wrongly suggested Muslim group had terrorist ties

Former prime minister Stephen Harper's one-time communications director admits he was inaccurate when he suggested a Canadian Muslim group had ties to a terrorist organization. Jason MacDonald makes the admission as part of a settlement in a libel suit launched two years ago by the National Council of Canadian Muslims. The lawsuit was prompted by comments MacDonald made to the now-defunct Sun News Network after the council complained about a controversial rabbi who accompanied Harper on an official trip to the Middle East. (CBC)

Failing to extradite pair for 'honour killing' trial would undermine global justice, government lawyer says

Canada could undermine the global justice system by failing to extradite a pair accused of orchestrating the honour killing of a 25-year-old B.C. woman, a government lawyer argued today before the Supreme Court of Canada. Janet Henchey, a lawyer for the Attorney General of Canada, made the case to extradite two B.C. residents to India to face trial for their role in the murder of Jaswinder (Jassi) Sidhu in 2000. (CBC) (BBC)

Feds postpone initial Access to Information reforms, cite need to 'get it right'

The Liberal government is delaying promised Access to Information reforms that would bring ministerial offices under the openness law, saying it needs more time to get right what it describes as a complex initiative. The government had pledged an initial wave of legislative changes by the end of winter -- what Treasury Board President Scott Brison called "early wins" on overhauling the creaky law intended to give Canadians access to federal files. (CTV)

Global Affairs bans use of life-size cardboard cut-outs of Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau may still be a big draw on the international circuit, but his cardboard stand-ins have fallen flat. Global Affairs has instructed diplomatic missions in the United States to stop using life-size cardboard cut-outs of the prime minister to promote Canada. The order follows the revelation last week that prime ministerial replicas turned up at an event last June organized by the Canadian consulate in Atlanta and earlier this month at a Canadian music festival in Austin, Tex. (CTV)

The FBI’s director just confirmed it’s investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia

FBI Director James Comey has just dropped a bombshell — confirming for the first time that the FBI is investigating links between Trump allies and Russia. “[The FBI is] investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts,” Comey said. (VOX) (Times Colonist)

Electronics banned on some US flights from Middle East

The US has announced a ban on large electronic devices from cabin baggage on passenger flights from eight Muslim majority countries. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said extremists were seeking "innovative methods" to bring down jets. Bombs could be hidden in laptops, tablets, cameras, DVD players and electronic games, it said. The measure will affect nine airlines operating out of 10 airports. (BBC)

 

OTHER STORIES (Domestic and International)

No plans for airport sales in Liberals’ federal budget

Wednesday’s federal Liberal budget won’t announce plans to sell off Canada’s major airports, even though such a move could raise billions in one-time revenue for a government that has little room left for new spending. The Globe and Mail has learned that, while the the issue of airport privatization will continue to be debated inside government, it will not be resolved in this week’s budget. (Globe and Mail)

Gender-based violence report urges mandatory training for judges, RCMP

"Addressing the issue of harassment in public places and the victim blaming-and-shaming that occurs throughout the reporting and judicial system will be key to prevent violence and to ensure that survivors do not suffer further at the hands of the police, the RCMP and the judiciary," Conservative MP and committee chair Marilyn Gladu told a news conference Monday. (CBC)

Immigration paperwork interrupts 'happily ever after' for Harvey couple

Love knows no bounds — except maybe if Citizenship and Immigration Canada is involved. Matthew Clark has been trying to get a work permit and permanent resident status since he and his wife, Katherine, were married in 2015. But instead of making progress down that road, Clark is about to fly home to the United Kingdom because, he says, of a glitch in his paperwork. And there's no guarantee the Harvey resident will be able to return to Canada. (CBC)

International students flooding some Canadian B-schools with applications

Some Canadian business schools are awash in international student applications this year, enabling recruiters to select from a deeper pool of candidates than usual and add to diversity in the classroom. What accounts for the uptick – more than 20 per cent higher volume this year over 2016 in some cases – is a bit of a mystery. Inward-looking policies in the United States and Britain might seem like the obvious answer, but school officials caution against jumping to conclusions given other factors: their own marketing efforts and growing awareness abroad of Canada as a viable study destination. (Globe and Mail)

‘We are not going to just drop these people’: sponsors promise more support for Syrian refugees

Syrian refugees now living in the Shuswap are facing another big transition when their official sponsorship periods end. After a year in Canada, they are no longer guaranteed financial support. In Salmon Arm, groups have sponsored 45 Syrian refugees. Many arrived in early 2016 and are now starting to time out of their official sponsorship period. (Global)

Ottawa torture victim declares victory in long fight for justice

Ottawa’s Abdullah Almalki has declared victory in his long fight to win justice from the Canadian government for the torture he suffered in a Syrian prison. Almalki received an official apology Friday — and an unspecified financial settlement — from the federal government for the role its officials played in his overseas arrest and mistreatment. The settlement ends a $100-million civil lawsuit launched by Almalki and his family more than a decade ago. (Canoe)

Canadian military works to iron out challenges ahead of Latvia deployment

Some NATO allies are calling it "Noah's Ark." The description of the Canadian-led battle group being assembled in Latvia this summer is more than just a cheeky reference to the disparate collection of nations that make up the force of 1,500 heavily-armoured troops. (CBC)

High-tech sector looks to federal budget to spark innovation boom, deliver skilled workforce

Kirk Simpson's high-tech firm Wave is an example of the type of company the Liberal government is trying to help as it prepares to table its second budget. Simpson has big plans for Wave, a Toronto based tech firm that builds financial services apps for small businesses. He plans to double his workforce of 150 over the next two years — if he can find the people he needs. (CBC)

Human rights agency calls emergency hearing on concerns under Trump administration

A pan-American commission will hold an emergency hearing in Washington to investigate the impact of U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive orders on human rights in the country. Tuesday’s hearing by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was prompted by the requests from advocacy groups in Canada and the United States to review what they called “ongoing and deteriorating” conditions faced by asylum-seekers and other migrants under the Trump administration. (Toronto Star)

Trump pressures 'sanctuary cities' that won't hold undocumented immigrants

In a move to put public pressure on "sanctuary cities," the Department of Homeland Security on Monday published a list of 118 localities that have refused to cooperate with federal requests to detain undocumented immigrants.President Trump ordered the department to publish a weekly list of all detention requests turned down by local jails, listing the agency, the undocumented immigrants and the charges they face. In an executive order signed Jan. 25, Trump said the list is necessary to "better inform the public regarding the public safety threats associated with sanctuary jurisdictions." (USA Today)

Britain to trigger Brexit process on March 29, government says

Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 on Wednesday 29 March, starting the process of the UK leaving the EU. The move paves the way for two years of negotiations with the EU, meaning that the country will leave the bloc in March 2019. It comes nine months after the country voted to leave in the June referendum. (FOX News)

France election: Leading candidates clash over burkini in TV debate

The two leading candidates in the French election have traded barbs in an occasionally fiery TV debate. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and centrist Emanuel Macron clashed over the full-body "burkini" swimsuit worn by some Muslim women. Ms Le Pen said multiculturalism must end, but was accused by Mr Macron of making enemies of Muslims in France. (BBC)

Ousted S Korean President Park Geun-hye faces prosecutors

Ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye is being questioned by prosecutors over a corruption scandal that brought her down. After arriving at the office, she told reporters she was "sorry". Ms Park resisted efforts to question her when she was president, but lost her immunity when judges upheld parliament's decision to impeach her. (BBC)

Crazed North Korean despot Kim Jong-un’s troops blow up US aircraft carrier and shoot down bomber in propaganda video

KIM Jong-un has released a propaganda video showing a US aircraft carrier being blown up and a bomber shot down in flames. Snaps from the secretive state’s recent ballistic missile launches are shown alongside the haunting message: “A knife will be stabbed into the throat of the carrier.” (Sun.co.uk)

 

EDITORIAL AND OPINION PIECES

Candice Malcolm: Canada needs to stand with brave Iranian activists

Winter is over (officially) and the first day of spring also marks the most important day in the Persian calendar, Nowruz, or Persian New Year. Nowruz ushers in the start of a new year, filled with hope and optimism for the year ahead.  For Persians around the world, and especially those suffering under the cruel and heavy-handed regime in Iran, let us hope this Nowruz brings an end to the mullahs' reign of terror. (Toronto Sun)

Toronto Sun: Liberals need to listen to Canadians' border concerns

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s open borders talk doesn’t sit well with most Canadians. While people aren’t overly concerned about the safety risks posed by migrants crossing our borders, they do want our laws upheld and illegal crossers sent back. After President Trump announced his temporary travel ban, Trudeau took to twitter to state: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada” (Toronto Sun)

Tasha Kheiriddin: One law for border-hoppers, another for everyone else?

What should Canada do about our Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States? Part of the U.S.-Canada Smart Border Action Plan, the agreement states that refugee claimants must request protection in the first ‘safe’ country in which they arrive, unless they qualify for an exception (for family members, unaccompanied minors, certain document holders, and people who could face the death penalty in the U.S. or a third country). (IPolitics)

Martin Patriquin: Don Meredith would like your sympathy now

By claiming to be the victim of racial persecution, he’s insulting the actual victims. Senator Don Meredith (Don Meredith would like you to know) is a victim of Canada’s prevailing and overwhelming racism. As a 52-year-old black man, he is seen as a predator, sexual and otherwise, who has risen too high in life for this racist society to bear. So he has been publicly shamed as a result. (IPolitics)

Andrew Macdougall: Mud thrown during the Conservative spring cleaning

Nothing concentrates the mind like the prospect of a hanging, and right now Conservative Party leadership candidates are checking their necks for the presence of a noose following allegations of membership vote-rigging. These kinds of allegations, while extremely serious, are sadly nothing new; dodgy party membership sales are as old as leadership races. And it’s even happening right on cue: the membership mud typically flies once the front-runners have separated themselves from the pack but before membership sales close. The deadline for membership sales – and the leadership vote it buys – is March 28. (Globe and Mail)

Stephen Gordon: A funny thing about the Liberals and their messaging: they aren’t helping the middle class

The Liberals have made the middle class the focus of their government, at least as far as their communications strategy goes. But as we head into their second budget, Canadians at the middle of the income distribution could be forgiven for being puzzled. Although it has been the primary focus of the Liberals’ message, the middle class hasn’t actually been the primary focus of policy attention. There have always been some odd elements to the Liberal government’s messaging about the middle class, mainly to do with its reading of recent Canadian economic history. (National Post)

 

REPORTS, COMMITTEE HEARINGS, LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

-       Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration met yesterday 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 later today to get a briefing by the Commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment (Public)

-       Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development meet later today to discuss (3:30PM EST) (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