True North Initiative: News Scan 05 16 17

TOP STORIES

Number of asylum claims down slightly in April

The total number of would-be asylum seekers intercepted by the RCMP along Canada’s land borders last month dropped slightly, compared to the high of nearly 900 people recorded in March. According to new numbers released by Citizenship and Immigration Canada on Monday, 859 people were intercepted by the police trying to cross the border and claim asylum in April. (Global News) (CTV)

Asylum claims drop overall but some provinces see jump

The total number of illegal border crossers coming into Canada decreased slightly last month — but two provinces did see increases in their own tallies. According to the latest monthly asylum numbers released Monday by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the total number of RCMP interceptions of asylum seekers decreased from 887 to 859 in April. That follows a jump from 658 in February to 887 in March. And while Manitoba — which has become one of the epicentres of illegal border crossings in recent months — and British Columbia saw a drop in the number of interceptions, Quebec and Saskatchewan (IPolitics)

Number of asylum-seekers crossing into Canada declines in April, but still triple the number arrested in January

The number of asylum-seekers arrested by the RCMP after making irregular border crossings into Canada declined slightly in April from the month previous, though it was still close to three times higher than the number arrested in January. A total of 859 asylum-seekers were arrested in April, down from the 887 irregular border crossings recorded in March, but up from 315 in the first month of 2017 (National Post)

Liberals’ refugee system overhaul postponed indefinitely despite increase in asylum seekers

A Liberal election promise to overhaul the way asylum claims are handled has been postponed indefinitely despite that increased numbers of people seeking refuge that have put the system at risk, The Canadian Press has learned. One of the options on the table, multiple sources have told The Canadian Press, is rejigging the historic Immigration and Refugee Board and handing some of its authority to the Immigration Department. (National Post)

Body of Canadian fighter recovered from ISIS five months after he was killed in Syria

Five months after a Canadian was killed by ISIL, his body has been recovered in northern Syria and preparations are underway to get him home, a Kurdish community leader said Monday. The Kurdish Peoples Protection Units, the rebel force better known as the YPG, retrieved Nazzareno Tassone’s from ISIL, said Ihsan Kaya, president of the Toronto Kurdish Community Centre. (National Post)

Aga Khan island that hosted Trudeau owned by company with offshore ties, records show

The Bahamas island where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a vacation that is now the subject of an ethics investigation is owned by a company connected to a secretive web of corporations located in countries known to be offshore tax havens. Bell Island, a private property nestled in the turquoise waters of the Exumas, has been widely known as the tropical retreat of the Aga Khan, a longtime Trudeau family friend. (CBC)

Trudeau violated conflict guidelines amid KPMG probe, ethics advocacy group says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has violated his own conflict of interest guidelines for cabinet ministers, the head of Democracy Watch, a government ethics advocacy group, says. The alleged conflict stems from the appointment in June 2016 of John Herhalt, the national "public sector leader" for accounting firm KPMG, as treasurer of the Liberal Party. That appointment came the same month that a Liberal-dominated parliamentary committee halted its investigation of KPMG's offshore tax dodge in the Isle of Man, according to an investigation by the CBC's The Fifth Estate. (CBC)

Liberals under fire for delaying release of defence policy update

The Liberal government will release its defence policy update on June 7, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Monday -- ensuring the long-awaited review remains under wraps until after Justin Trudeau's meetings next week with NATO leaders. The surprise move sparked questions and criticism, including complaints from the opposition Conservatives about U.S. officials getting a sneak preview of the new policy before it's made available to Canadians. (CTV)

Are Liberals screening out Conservative-appointed refugee judges?

A reapplication process for judges in the Immigration and Refugee Board is a sham, used as a false pretense to let go of Conservative-appointed appeal judges with expiring three- to five-year mandates, say two experienced appeal judges. Between the immigration and refugee appeal divisions, 14 appeal judges with expiring mandates were not renewed, despite most of them reapplying for their jobs, and left the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) since August 2016. Those appeal divisions now have 29 vacancies, and another 29 mandates are set to expire before the end of this year out of a full complement of 102 appeal judge positions. (National Observer)

 

OTHER STORIES (Domestic and International) 

Canadian Conservative Leader to Leave Politics for Wilson Center

Canadian interim Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose is leaving politics to join the Washington-based Wilson Center as her party prepares to choose her successor. The announcement is set to be made Tuesday ahead of the party’s leadership convention later this month. (Bloomberg)

House of Commons passes Ambrose's bill on sex-assault training for aspiring judges

Three months after a judge resigned for asking a rape complainant why she did not keep her knees together, the House of Commons has given unanimous consent to an opposition bill that would require training in sexual assault law, myths and stereotypes for anyone wishing to become a federal judge. But the judicial establishment is skeptical about its usefulness amid questions about who will design the program, and what its content will be. (Globe and Mail)

'Last resort': Why Canada indefinitely jails immigration detainees, including kids

The federal government is in the final phase of consultations to "transform" Canada's immigration detention policies, just as a landmark legal challenge tries to end the contentious practice of indefinitely jailing detainees. Lawyers for Alvin Brown, who spent five years in maximum-security provincial jails before being deported to Jamaica last fall, are currently arguing before the Federal Court that the man's constitutional rights were violated. (CBC)

'Significant' health gaps found between Canadian and immigrant seniors

Eighty-year-old Sung-hak Choi keeps active and healthy by volunteering in the community and caring for her seven grandchildren. “There are many challenges for immigrant seniors to stay healthy. Many come with their children, at an older age. They are cut off from the support network in their old country” said Choi, who immigrated to Canada in 1982 with her family and four children. (Metro)

Canada needs to let in refugees who sheltered Snowden in Hong Kong, lawyers urge

The families who sheltered U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden in Hong Kong need to be brought to Canada immediately while the country processes their asylum claims, their lawyers said Monday. Hong Kong-based attorney Robert Tibbo said Canada needs to take this “exceptional” step and allow the seven people to enter the country after the Hong Kong government rejected their asylum applications last Friday. (Toronto Star)

Nepalese families leaving Quebec City in droves for Ontario

Saroj Kumar Chhetri's voice almost breaks when he talks about his life in Quebec, a life that started in 2009 when he and his wife Bhima were finally settled in Canada after spending 17 years in refugee camps in Nepal.  "Quebec has given me everything, all my identity, my son," he said. (CBC)

Cubans Stranded by Repeal of “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” Policy Seek Refuge in Canada

Movimiento Democracia (Democracy Movement) made a request to the Canadian government to provide shelter to thousands of Cuban migrants who have been stranded across the Americas due to Obama’s repeal of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy. According to the Cuban newspaper 14ymedio, Ramón Saúl Sánchez, leader of the movement that made the petition, announced the Canadian government’s response. The official letter says that the application was reviewed and forwarded to the Secretary of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Canada, Ahmed Hussen. (PanAm Post)

Chrystia Freeland's foreign policy speech to launch peacekeeping push

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will use a speech to Parliament this month to outline the Trudeau government's approach to international affairs and start a push to educate Canadians on the risks of modern peacekeeping. Freeland's speech — and the announced June 7 release of the long-awaited defence policy review — will be followed by an effort to prepare Canadians for the realities of participating in a United Nations peacekeeping mission that could cost Canadian lives. (CBC)

How the Pierre Trudeau government turned a blind eye to Africa massacres

There was disturbing news in the cables from the Canadian diplomats in Harare. High-level sources had revealed to the Canadians that Robert Mugabe’s soldiers were slaughtering thousands of dissidents in western Zimbabwe. The Canadian high commissioner called it a “reign of terror.” But the response from Ottawa was muted. A few days later, the high commissioner admitted to colleagues that his instructions from Pierre Trudeau’s government were “very broad and soft.” (Globe and Mail)

French President Macron's five ideas for fixing Europe

Mending Europe's frayed unity is such a high priority for new French President Emmanuel Macron that he's visiting neighbouring Germany and its Chancellor Angela Merkel on his first day in office. That should give a welcome burst of energy to the much-maligned European Union and efforts to fix it, even if Macron and Merkel won't necessarily agree on how. Here's a look at five key Macron ideas for Europe: (CTV)

Trump administration accuses Syria of mass executions

The Trump administration accused the Syrian government Monday of carrying out mass killings of thousands of prisoners and burning the bodies in a large crematorium outside the capital. It also stepped up criticism of Iran and Russia for supporting the Syrian government. The allegation came as U.S. President Donald Trump is weighing options in Syria, where the U.S. attacked a government airbase last month in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians. (CBC)

Hillary Clinton launches political organization called ‘Onward Together’

Stepping deeper into the Democratic resistance, Hillary Clinton launched a new political organization on Monday designed to push back against President Donald Trump’s agenda. The former Democratic nominee used social media to announce the creation of “Onward Together,” an adaptation from her campaign theme, “Stronger Together.” The group, she tweeted, will “encourage people to get involved, organize, and even run for office.” (Global)

Trump revealed classified info about ISIS with Russians: report

U.S. President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to senior Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting last week, putting a source of intelligence on the Islamic State at risk, The Washington Post reported. The disclosure late Monday drew strong condemnation from Democrats and a rare rebuke of Trump from some Republican lawmakers. White House officials denounced the report, saying the president did not disclose intelligence sources or methods to the Russians, though officials did not deny that classified information was disclosed in the May 10 meeting. (CTV)

Two killed as protests erupt in western Venezuela

Chaos erupted in western Venezuela during another round of protests against the socialist government, with buildings set afire, tear gas swirling around protesters and at least two people killed. A grisly video purporting to show the final moments of one man left dead in the turmoil capped Monday's unrest as a morning of initially peaceful demonstrations turned violent outside Caracas, with two deaths reported at separate demonstrations in Tachira, a mountainous state bordering Colombia. In the video, a crowd surrounds a man identified as Diego Hernandez, 33, lying lifeless on the pavement, his eyes wide open. A bystander rips open his blue T-shirt, revealing a bloody wound underneath. (CTV)

 

EDITORIAL AND OPINION PIECES 

Anthony Furey: Canada must keep watch as North Korea arms itself

Over the weekend North Korea conducted its most successful missile test to date. This is a threat not just to the region and the United States, but Canada as well. While the Hwasong-12 missile that was launched Sunday didn’t have the range to strike North America directly, the 800 kilometres it traveled eastward would be enough to strike the U.S. Anderson Air Force on the Pacific island of Guam. Plus a North Korean announcement threatened that they now have the ability to strike the North American mainland. This is almost definitely not true, but such a claim shouldn’t be laughed off. (Toronto Sun)

Lorne Gunter: Canada's justice system coddling criminals

For a long time now – since Pierre Trudeau was justice minister back in the 1960s – there have been two fundamentally conflicting views of what the purpose of Canada’s justice system is: To keep ordinary Canadians safe or to rehabilitate criminals. It would be nice if our politicians, courts, prisons, criminologists, parole officials and others could keep both goals in the front of their minds simultaneously. Unfortunately, too often, when push comes to shove they side with the criminals. (Toronto Sun)

Tasha Kheiriddin: Have the Liberals decided refugees make for bad politics?

Is the Liberal government backing away from its commitment to refugees? After campaigning on compassion, Ottawa is now facing a perfect storm of surging asylum claims, an overburdened system and political pressure. All three factors, refugee advocates say, have led the government to back down on its pledge to overhaul the way asylum claims are processed (according to the Canadian Press) and stop risking both money and political capital on an issue that could cost them support at home and abroad. (IPolitics)

John Ibbitson: The real wedges in the Conservative leadership race

There are several different kinds of conservatives: social, economic, geopolitical. Looking at where the 13 federal leadership candidates stand on key issues reveals the sort of challenge the winner will face in uniting these strands. Although, given the lead Quebec MP Maxime Bernier appears to enjoy, the real question may be how he merges his own strongly libertarian views with the traditional wings of the party. (Globe and Mail)

Joyanne Pursaga: Jumping border not ‘a free ticket’

The federal government says fewer asylum seekers rushed into Manitoba through unofficial border crossings in April than the previous month. But a key local official questions the data and the level of federal support provided to address the influx. (Winnipeg Sun)

Jerry Agar: Appropriate my culture, please!

Please go ahead and appropriate my culture. Recently, there have been many examples of foolishness, such as telling a white person that quoting a song sung (but not written) by a woman of a different skin colour is “cultural appropriation”. Or telling the same thing to white visual artists, or writers, whose work was inspired or influenced by artists or writers from other cultures. Well, I am not that protective. I subscribe to a culture that has a set of values I would love to have other people copy. I recommend it. (Toronto Sun)

Ezra Levant: Canadian liberals turn on each other over “cultural appropriation”

So a sensitive liberal author, Hal Niedzviecki, wrote an opinion article in a sensitive liberal magazine — except he said something he shouldn’t, about "cultural appropriation": “Anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities.” (Rebel)

 

REPORTS, COMMITTEE HEARINGS, LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

-       Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration met yesterday to meet with Immigration Consultants and continue study on 2011 LGBTQ Refugee Pilot Project (Public)

-       Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security met yesterday to study Bill C-23, An Act representing the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the US (Public)

-       Standing Committee on National Defence meet later today to study Canada and the Defence of North America (3:30PM EST) (In Camera)

-       Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development meet later today to study Canada’s Development Finance Initiative (8:45AM EST) (Public)