True North Initiative: News Scan 04 13 17

TOP STORIES

Malala becomes honorary Canada citizen, praises refugee welcome

Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai on Wednesday received honorary Canadian citizenship and praised Canada's open embrace of refugees under the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Canada last year accepted 25,000 refugees from Syria and in January, when U.S. President Donald Trump issued an immigration ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries, Trudeau pointedly tweeted that refugees were welcome in Canada. (Business Insider) (CTV) (Globe and Mail)

Report: Canada’s privately-sponsored refugee system flawed, wait times too long

The federal government needs to allocate more resources to reduce wait times for privately sponsored refugees, especially those coming from places other than Syria, a new survey says. The report was commissioned by Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), an Ottawa-based Christian charity that tries to influence public policy debates on a number of issues, including refugee rights. (Metro)

Mexicans – from farm workers to software developers – increasingly look to Canada for jobs

Mexicans are increasingly looking to Canada for work, as U.S. President Donald Trump talks tough on immigration policy, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau uses exactly the opposite rhetoric. The share of Mexican searches for jobs in Canada was up by nearly 50 per cent in March, compared to the week before the U.S. election in November, according to online jobs site Indeed.com. (Global)

Illinois woman plotted Valentine's Day Canada mall massacre

A US woman has admitted plotting to carry out a mass shooting in a Canadian shopping centre on Valentine's Day. Lindsay Kantha Souvannarath, 25, made the surprise plea to conspiracy to commit murder, during a routine court hearing. She was charged alongside Canadian Randall Steven Shepherd for planning a massacre at the mall in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 2015. They wanted to use rifles and gas bombs to kill shoppers at a food court. (BBC) (CBS)

Police warn organized crime, including the Hells Angels, has infiltrated the medical marijuana market

Organized crime groups, including the Hells Angels, have managed to obtain legal personal production licences for medical marijuana, only to turn around and illegally sell the product across the country, CBC news has learned. Several sources described to CBC how organized crime groups have obtained personal grow licences and are using them to try to hamper police attempts to shut down their operations. (CBC)

CSIS waiting on Liberal reforms before using threat-disruption powers

Canada’s spy agency has put the brakes on using its most controversial powers to disrupt terrorism threats until the Liberal government decides what national security reforms it will propose, the Star has learned. Nearly two years ago, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was granted expanded legal authority to actively disrupt threats to national security, not simply gather information about such threats. The change was made when the former Conservative government passed Bill C-51 in June that year. (Toronto Star)

RCMP brass don't back officer protest but won't discipline Mounties

The RCMP's top cop says no Mounties will be subjected to retribution or discipline for altering their uniforms to protest their pay and working conditions, but Commissioner Bob Paulson is asking members to reflect on their actions. "I get why some of you felt it was necessary to do that, I really do. I won't do it and I have to tell you how worried I am about the impact this will have on the citizens we serve," Paulson wrote in a force-wide email and later posted to the RCMP website. (CBC)

Trudeau government calls on Russia to end support for al-Assad

The Trudeau government is calling on Russia to stop backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in light of a chemical-weapons attack by Damascus against civilians last week, saying Moscow must decide whether it wants to remain aligned with a “murderous regime” that kills its own people. Canada’s Liberal government also sharpened its call for Mr. al-Assad to step down, with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland saying simply that “Assad must go.” (Globe and Mail)

 

OTHER STORIES (Domestic and International) 

'I wanted to kill myself' : Chinese investor testifies his family destroyed in alleged B.C. immigration-investment scam

Chinese investor Jiang Yicheng sobbed violently while telling a B.C. Securities Commission panel that his family has been ruined by disastrous financial losses in a fraud allegedly perpetrated by prominent B.C. immigration businessman Paul Oei. Jiang is one of about nine Chinese investors scheduled to testify in the three-week Securities Commission hearing for Oei, who is a prominent figure among ultra-wealthy Chinese immigrants in Vancouver, and also a big donor to the B.C. Liberals. (Province)

One taxi driver's mission to help refugees reach the border

Victor Pizarro, who runs a cab company in Plattsburgh, N.Y., started noticing something unusual in January, around the time of President Trump's inauguration. People who didn't speak English were getting off at the bus station in the city, located about 20 miles from the Canadian border, and handing his drivers a piece of paper that read, "Take me to Roxham Road. How much?" Pizarro had never heard of Roxham Road. It's a narrow street that dead-ends in a ditch marking the border between the U.S. and Canada. (MPR News)

Immigrants subject to French language spot check even after passing government test

It was hailed by former premier Jean Charest as a way to fast-track immigration to Quebec. But now hundreds of foreign students risk having their residency applications rejected after having spent thousands of dollars on government-approved French courses. The students are graduates of the Programme d'expérience québécoise (PEQ), a vocational and French-language study program run by the province's school boards. (CBC)

Canada’s immigration detainees being locked up based on dodgy risk assessments

Canada's border police have left vital records blank and said they lack the expertise to assess the risks posed by immigration detainees, documents filed in federal court reveal. "I am not a medical or mental health professional," one Canada Border Services Agency officer wrote on a risk assessment form in 2015. "I have not received any training on the completion of the form. This assessment is cursory in nature and should not be construed as an accurate representation of the subject's risk or mental health status." (Hamilton Spec)

Kevin Page slams Liberal government’s proposed changes to PBO

Canada’s first Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, is expressing strong objections to the Liberal government’s plans to rewrite the rules governing the spending watchdog. Buried inside a controversial 308-page budget bill tabled Tuesday are changes to the Parliament of Canada Act that would make the PBO position an independent officer of Parliament, rather than a part of the Library of Parliament. (Globe and Mail)

Parliamentary Budget Officer raises concerns over ‘restrictions’ in Liberal bill, says wasn’t consulted

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has raised major concerns with the budget implementation bill the Liberal government introduced Tuesday in the House of Commons. The bill would make the PBO an official officer of parliament, which Jean-Denis Fréchette said Wednesday is a good thing — it currently falls under the authority of the Library of Parliament — but, he says, the bill also introduces new “restrictions.” (National Post)

Sharafat Ali Khan smuggled terrorist-linked immigrants

Federal authorities wrangled a guilty plea Wednesday from a Brazilian man who ran one of the Western Hemisphere’s more flagrant alien smuggling operations, sneaking dozens of illegal immigrants from terrorism-connected countries into the U.S. from 2014 to 2016. Sharafat Ali Khan specialized in smuggling illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh over to the West, where they would be staged in Brazil before being sent north to try to penetrate the U.S. (Washington Times)

Russia Votes 'No' on U.N. Security Council Resolution To Condemn And Investigate Syria; Haley Hits Back Hard

On Wednesday morning, hours before a crucial vote that, according to Fox News, "would condemn the reported use of chemical weapons in northern Syria and demand that all parties provide speedy access for investigators," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley continued to hammer Russia: (Daily Wire)

Borussia Dortmund attack: Iraqi suspect 'linked to IS'

German prosecutors say they have no evidence so far linking a man held over the bomb attack against the Borussia Dortmund team bus to the crime. But they have requested an arrest warrant to keep the 26-year-old Iraqi national in custody. The man, identified only as Abdul Beset A, is suspected of membership in an affiliate of so-called Islamic State. (BBC)

Syria war: Anger after Russia vetoes resolution at UN

Russia has vetoed a draft resolution at the UN Security Council that would have condemned last week's alleged chemical attack in Syria and demanded that Damascus cooperate with investigators. The resolution was presented by the US, UK and France, who reacted angrily to Russia's decision. It was the eighth time Russia has protected its ally at the council. (BBC)

Venezuela protests: Teenage protester in Barquisimeto killed

A teenage demonstrator has been killed during growing unrest in Venezuela, as political and economic crisis deepens. The 14-year-old boy and another protester were shot dead in the western city of Barquisimeto on Tuesday night. The local governor blamed armed government supporters. Two students were killed during protests last week. (BBC)

Kim Jong Un is ‘preparing to detonate a nuclear bomb in a tunnel’ to mark ‘Day of the Sun’ celebrating birth of North Korea’s founding father Kim Il-Sung

A Voice of America journalist tweeted that US government sources believe North Korea had placed a nuclear device in a tunnel and it could be detonated as early as this weekend. It comes after Washington-based 38 North, a website that monitors North Korea, said satellite images from Saturday showed vehicles and trailers at the Punggye-ri test site and signs that communications cables may have been laid to a test tunnel. (Sun.co.uk)

North Korea may be capable of sarin-tipped missiles: Japan PM

North Korea may have the capacity to deliver missiles equipped with sarin nerve gas, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday, amid concerns that the reclusive state could soon conduct its sixth nuclear test or more missile launches. "There is a possibility that North Korea already has a capability to deliver missiles with sarin as warheads," Abe told a parliamentary session. (Reuters)

 

EDITORIAL AND OPINION PIECES

Candice Malcolm: Malala Yousafzai an example for us all

Malala Yousafzai is an inspiring young activist, and it’s an honour for Canadians that she is now a fellow citizen. As a young teenager in Pakistan, Yousafzai — known internationally as Malala — stood up to the deeply misogynistic forces in her society and began to advocate for the rights of girls and women to be educated. She nearly paid the ultimate price for it. (Toronto Sun)

Daniel Lang: Get on Canada's team – and revoke terrorists' citizenship

This week the Senate will continue debating a bill that weakens Canadian citizenship on several fronts. These measures, as is, are unacceptable to most Canadians. Bill C-6, which proposes changes to the Citizenship Act does a number of troubling things: (Toronto Sun)

Andrea Gunn: Refugee deportation an example of flawed system

Abdoul Kadir Abdi was six years old when he fled Somalia with his sister and two aunts, after most of his family, including his parents, had been killed in the ongoing conflict that has torn the country apart for decades. He arrived in Nova Scotia as a child refugee, sponsored by Sydney River United Church, in August 2000 and received permanent resident status. Today Abdi is 23, the father of a four-year-old girl, and a prisoner at Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick, where he’s three years into a five-and-a-half-year federal sentence. He is also currently fighting the federal government to stay in Canada. (Chronicle Herald)

Douglas Todd: Many Syrian refugees struggling after 12 months in Canada

Syrian refugees are struggling with mixed results as they transition through what many call “Month 13” in Canada. Immigration Department evaluations of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s effort to welcome 26,000 refugees from war-torn Syria reveal high rates of unemployment, costly barriers to rental housing and difficulties shifting from Arabic to French or English. (Vancouver Sun)

John Ibbitson: Will voters notice Trudeau’s use of ‘ominous bills'?

When Stephen Harper, finally in possession of a majority government, began ramming omnibus bills through Parliament, he had been prime minister for more than five years. But Justin Trudeau is resorting to the tactic after less than two years in office. Which is why we can predict what is likely to come: Obstruction and delay by angry opposition MPs will prompt the government to impose closure. This is how we govern ourselves. (Globe and Mail)

Andrew Macdougall: Trudeau throws another promise under the (omni)bus

“We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny.” Those words – taken from the 2015 Liberal platform – are admirably direct. It’s what makes them an effective petard onto which to hoist Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose government is having a torrid time explaining away 2017’s legislative trickery. The latest sleight of hand? Tabling a 300-plus page omnibus budget bill in the House of Commons, a practice Liberals used to rage against when the door-stoppers were being dropped by Stephen Harper. (Globe and Mail)

 

REPORTS, COMMITTEE HEARINGS, LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

-       The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development meet today to discuss United States and Canadian Foreign Policy (Public) (8:45am EST)