True North Initiative: News Scan 03 31 17

TOP STORIES

A smile and arrest welcome asylum seekers to Canada

Roxham Road is about as nondescript as any corner of the United States could be. Yet the country lane lined with trailer homes that dead-ends at the Quebec-New York border is an easily recognized thoroughfare for asylum seekers leaving the uncertainty of Donald Trump's America for the welcoming unknown of Canada. It's at the end of Roxham Road that RCMP officers greet people entering the country illegally with a smile, handcuffs at the ready. (CBC)

Court tells public safety minister to hurry up and decide on Iranian refugee

Being busy is not an excuse for indecision, even if you are in charge of the country’s national security. That’s the message in a ruling from Federal Court Chief Justice Paul S. Crampton to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, whose office has taken an “unreasonable” amount of time to decide if the government should let Iranian refugee Morteza Momenzadeh Tameh become a permanent resident. (Toronto Star)

Seeking Asylum: Where do Somali asylum-seekers settle after a risky trek to Canada?

In the wake of the U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban and immigration crackdown, many people are leaving the states in fear of being sent back to their home counties. Since January 2017, more than 250 people in the U.S. have illegally crossed the Canadian border to Emerson, Man., hoping to seek refuge. And with the weather warming up more more asylum seekers may start making the risky trek up north. (Global News)

Few signs of Canadian investigation into Abu Sayyaf beheadings in Philippines

After learning last April that John Ridsdel had been beheaded in the Philippines by members of Abu Sayyaf, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would "work with international allies to bring those responsible to justice, however long it takes." RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson echoed this, saying the Mounties were working with authorities in the Philippines. (CBC)

Poverty not source of terrorism, ex-CSIS specialist tells Hamilton forum

There's a myth that needs to be shattered when Canadians imagine the standard template of a radicalized terrorist, according to Canadian terrorism expert Phil Gurski. Many people believe the usual profile of a terrorist is a disenfranchised and alienated young man who came from a bad home environment, is poorly educated, has poor job prospects and may have some mental health issues. (The Spec)

Sask. explosion may be 'domestic terrorism': police

Saskatoon police are investigating the explosion of what they are calling an “improvised explosive device” near the doors of the provincial courthouse in the city. Insp. Randy Huisman of the Saskatoon Police says that investigators do not believe the explosion, which occurred just after 11 p.m. Wednesday, is “linked to any type of international terrorist activity.” However, Insp. Huisman told reporters on Thursday, that police have not ruled out that the explosion may have been “a domestic terrorism incident.” (CTV)

Saskatoon police want public 'to be aware but not afraid' after courthouse bombing

The Saskatoon Police Service is cautioning the public to not panic after an improvised explosive device was set off at the city's provincial courthouse Wednesday night. There were no injuries, but the exterior of the building was damaged. "We want to encourage the public to be aware but not be afraid," said Saskatoon Police Sgt. Randy Huisman. "We would like them to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity." (CBC)

 

OTHER STORIES (Domestic and International)

As refugee numbers surge, federal legal aid funding shrinks

Despite a skyrocketing number of asylum claims, Ontario faces a 37 per cent funding reduction from Ottawa this year for legal services for refugee claimants. In its 2017 budget announced last week, the federal government said it would provide $62.9 million over five years — or $12.6 million annually until 2022 — for provincial legal aid services across the country to assist with asylum claims, with the budget falling back to $11.5 million a year thereafter. (Toronto Star)

Lengthy waitlist for provincial nominee program nearly clear, Manitoba says

In an email Thursday – a day before Ian Wishart's March 31 deadline – a spokesperson for the minister said about 80 files from 2014-2015 remain in the queue. The outstanding files need extra documents from applicants "in accordance with the program’s fairness and integrity provisions." In April 2016, there were over 5,100 applications pending, the spokesperson said, with some dating as far back as 2013. (Metro)

Victim loses 'thousands' in phone scam alleging immigration complaint

A man is out thousands of dollars after falling prey to a scam involving calls from people claiming to be from Immigration Canada and Halifax police. Halifax Regional Police said Thursday they received a report from a 23-year-old man who said he was contacted by an alleged Immigration Canada employee about a complaint against him and that he needed legal representation costing hundreds of dollars. (CBC)

Don’t ask, don’t tell: Sanctuary city advocates

Social workers and advocates who work with immigrants told the community and protective services committee on March 30, that Ottawa needs to declare itself a sanctuary city. “Their journey is never easy and when they get here, their struggles aren’t over,” said Siffan Ramadan, with the Somerset West Community Health Centre. (Ottawa Community News)

Calgary mosque tainted by 'dark element' of radicalization to close doors this week

A Calgary mosque that became a focus in terrorism investigations after several men who prayed there left to fight abroad is closing its doors Friday — a move that leaves its imam and community with a sense of relief. Nearly three years ago, CBC News revealed the identities of Salman Ashrafi, Damian Clairmont and others who left Canada to fight with jihadi groups in Syria and Iraq. All had attended prayers at the 8th and 8th mosque in downtown Calgary — whose name originates in its location at 835 8th Ave. SW. Many were killed abroad. (CBC)

PM won't clarify business ties between friend, Liberal Party

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau avoided a question today about why the Liberal Party hired his close friend Tom Pitfield to train people to use the party's database. CTV News reported Wednesday that the Liberals hired Pitfield's company, Data Sciences, to help campaigns use the database, known as Liberalist -- including provincial Liberal campaigns. Speaking at an event in Brampton, Ont., Trudeau was asked how he responds to allegations of cronyism over the contract for Data Sciences. Rather than answering directly, he talked about the Liberals' outreach in the 2015 election campaign. (CTV)

Liberal MPs’ trips appear to violate Trudeau’s rules against outside groups paying for travel

A Liberal member of parliament whose trip to Tanzania was paid for by a registered lobbyist appeared to violate the Prime Minister’s ethics code barring parliamentary secretaries from accepting such gifts — and she wasn’t the only one. Brampton MP Kamal Khera was the parliamentary secretary to the minister of health in April 2016 when World Vision Canada spent $5,210.50 to take her on a seven-day trip to Tanzania. (Canada.com)

Bill C-23: Canadians wary of proposal to expand U.S. customs pre-clearance program

As the federal government works to expand the practice known as “preclearance,” in which Canadians traveling to the U.S. go through customs on Canadian soil, a new public opinion poll from the Angus Reid Institute finds Canadians divided on some key elements of the bill that would enable this expansion. More Canadians support Bill C-23 than oppose it, but fully half are worried that the bill gives “too much power to U.S. border guards on Canadian soil,” and significant minorities oppose provisions allowing U.S. agents to conduct physical searches, including strip searches, and to detain travelers for questioning if they try to abandon the preclearance process partway through. (Angus Reid)

Trump to order probe of 16 countries' trade practices, including Canada

Donald Trump is about to order a study on the U.S.'s major trading partners to determine which ones are using abusive trade practices to run export surpluses -- and Canada is among the countries to be examined. The president will sign an executive order Friday demanding a study within 90 days of all the ways other countries allegedly pull a fast one on the United States through anti-competitive trade practices. (CTV)

EU sets out 'phased' Brexit strategy

The EU has outlined its strategy for Brexit negotiations, suggesting talks on a trade deal could begin once "sufficient progress" is made on a separation settlement with the UK. The draft guidelines, issued by European Council President Donald Tusk, argue for a "phased approach" in talks. (BBC)

Israel approves first new West Bank settlement in 20 years

Israel has approved the establishment of its first new Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank in two decades. The security cabinet voted unanimously late on Thursday to begin construction on a hilltop known as "Geulat Zion", near the Palestinian city of Nablus. (BBC)

Removing Assad no longer a priority – US

The US representative to the United Nations has said that the US is no longer prioritising the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters on Thursday "we can't necessarily focus on Assad the way that the previous administration did". (BBC)

US warns China it is losing patience over North Korea

The US ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday said China can and must do more to force North Korea to halt its nuclear and missile programs. Ambassador Nikki Haley said President Donald Trump would raise the issue next week at his first summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. And, amid reports that Pyongyang is preparing another banned nuclear test, Haley said Washington would not settle for holding another UN debate. (Daily Mail)

Venezuela Muzzles Legislature, Moving Closer to One-Man Rule

Venezuela took its strongest step yet toward one-man rule under the leftist President Nicolás Maduro as his loyalists on the Supreme Court seized power from the National Assembly in a ruling late Wednesday night. The ruling effectively dissolved the elected legislature, which is led by Mr. Maduro’s opponents, and allows the court to write laws itself, experts said. (NY Times)

Trump says trade gap will make China meeting 'a very difficult one'

U.S. President Donald Trump set the tone for a tense first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping next week by tweeting on Thursday that the United States could no longer tolerate massive trade deficits and job losses. The White House said Trump would host Xi next Thursday and Friday at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida. It said Trump and his wife, Melania, would host Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, at a dinner next Thursday. (Reuters)

 

EDITORIAL AND OPINION PIECES

Howard Anglin: What happened to free speech?

The old standard for free speech was the apocryphal line from Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” How quaint and naive that ideal seems today. A new survey by the Canadian Constitution Foundation shows Canadians are lukewarm on free speech rights. Majorities think the government should be able to ban “hate speech” (60%) and speech that praises terrorists and terrorism (72%), apparently without regard to who decides when insults cross the line into prohibited “hate”, who defines a “terrorist” and what constitutes “praising” one. (Toronto Sun)

Mark Bonokoski: Waste-of-time Tories should get off ballot

If not for the convoluted rat’s nest that federal Conservatives have concocted to choose their next leader, Friday’s midnight deadline to get off the ballot might have had a few takers. But the odds are good no one will pull the pin, and that includes the truly hopeless among the baker’s dozen-plus-one vying to kick interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose out of Stornoway, and take on the Pied Piperism of Justin Trudeau in 2019. (Toronto Sun)

Farzana Hassan: West still bowing to Saudi Arabia

A petition recently circulated in the UK demanded a halt to UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the release of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi and an investigation into possible Saudi war crimes in Yemen. While many Western nations line up to sign business contracts with Saudi Arabia, they turn a blind eye to its medieval laws and policies. The recent ban on electronics larger than a cell phone from the cabins of direct flights coming into the U.S. from 10 countries included Saudi Arabia. (Toronto Sun)

Sue-Ann Levy: Be vigilant in fight against hate crimes: Police

Despite the fact that Toronto police has 17 hate-crime coordinators and each incident is taken seriously, it is very challenging to lay a charge against a perpetrator, a town hall on security and anti-semitism heard Wednesday night. Toronto police services (TPS) Insp. Myron Demkiw told a crowd of several hundred at Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda synagogue that crimes (such as defacing property and vandalism) normally take place under the “cover of darkness” and often provide no forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony that would withstand a “legal test” in court. (Toronto Sun)

Thomas Walkom: Not all economic nationalists are Donald Trump

Nationalism is in bad odour. It need not be. True, an ardent form of nationalism has fuelled the rise of right-wing political leaders, such as Donald Trump in the U.S. and Marine Le Pen in France. Nationalism is driving Britain from the European Union, a move that — whether justified or not — threatens to deal a major blow to the continent’s common market experiment. (Toronto Star)

 

REPORTS, COMMITTEE HEARINGS, LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

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