True North Initiative: News Scan 04 24 17


Two Canadians added to most-wanted U.S. terror list

The United States has quietly added two Canadians fighting in Syria to its most-wanted terror list, saying the individuals pose a serious risk of committing acts of terrorism that could threaten America’s security, citizens or economy. Farah Mohamed Shirdon, an Albertan of Somali heritage, is alleged to be a recruiter and fundraiser for Daesh, also known ISIS and ISIL. Quebecker Tarek Sakr is identified as having conducted sniper training for the Al Qaeda-linked al-Nusrah Front. The decision was made last week and published Wednesday in an official register of U.S. government regulations. (Toronto Star) (CTV) (National Post) (CBC)

Changes at passport offices due to terrorism concerns

The federal government has been quietly making changes to passport offices in a bid to improve security and address concerns that the facilities could be easy targets for a terrorist attack. Civil servants in passport and other government offices have for years faced bomb threats, and hostility from individuals who are disgruntled, drunk or suffering mental illnesses. Internal government documents show that senior officials have more recently worried that someone with extremist views might see a passport office as prime target for an attack, particularly if the federal government revoked their passport privileges because they wanted to go abroad to join a terrorist group. (Canoe)

Asylum seekers paid up to $2K US each to be smuggled into Canada, border agents allege

U.S. border patrol officers claim to have documented multiple instances where they believe Nigerian nationals were smuggled into Canada from North Dakota. The apparent asylum seekers paid $2,000 US each and filed refugee claims after reaching Canada, according to affidavits obtained by CBC News. The RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency announced human smuggling charges against 43-year-old Michelle Omoruyi of Regina on Wednesday. (CBC)

Handful of Syrian refugees paid sponsors to come to Canada, evaluation reveals

A handful of Syrian refugees paid their sponsors to come to Canada, a government study published Friday reveals. The Immigration Department evaluation of the Liberals' landmark refugee program surveyed 581 of the 8,918 privately sponsored Syrian refugees who arrived between November 2015 and March 2016. Just over 26,000 Syrians were resettled in Canada during that time. Of those surveyed, 23 said they paid someone to complete their sponsorship application, or to provide for their own support while in Canada, with some suggesting they were asked to pay. (CBC)

Canada could be called on for troops in event of war with North Korea

Should the tense standoff on the Korean Peninsula escalate into war, the United Nations could come calling on Canada for a military commitment. But Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Friday the Trudeau government would prefer to focus its attention on diplomacy. (CBC)

Saudi Arabia elected to UN women's rights commission

Saudi Arabia was elected to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. The addition of the Gulf nation was first flagged by UN Watch, a nongovernmental body that monitors the United Nations. The Commission on the Status of Women’s main mission is to assess the challenges to reaching gender inequality, according to the U.N. website. The organization’s executive director slammed the election, which occurred in a secret vote during the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council. (The Hill)

Kellie Leitch vows to deport border crossers after visit to Manitoba border town

Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch is vowing to deport asylum seekers who are caught sneaking into Canada, following a visit to the Manitoba town that's been a hotspot for border crossers. Leitch was in Manitoba on Friday to meet with town officials and residents from the town of Emerson and also made stops in Altona and Morris, Man. "This is a serious issue and it needs a plan," Leitch told CBC. (Yahoo) (CBC)

'This is where I want to be': Canadian woman on fighting ISIS in Syria

A B.C. fashion model-turned-freedom fighter is speaking out about her decision to rejoin the fight against ISIS in Syria. Hanna Bohman, 48, has travelled to Syria twice. She returned to Vancouver in June, 2016 after rejoining other foreigners in a faction of Kurdish fighters. "I needed to do something with my life. I was bored. I didn't feel like I had done anything that I felt was really important," she told CTV Vancouver. (CTV)


OTHER STORIES (Domestic and International)

Border towns quietly mobilizing to help asylum-seekers coming to Canada

As the flow of asylum-seekers crossing into Canada continues, residents in towns along the Canada-U.S. border are quietly mobilizing to help the travellers who pass through in search of better lives. Janet McFetridge, a resident of Champlain, N.Y., said she started seeing taxis passing by her house in November, around the time Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. “It’s just unusual because you don’t usually see cabs out here, so it’s very noticeable” she said. (Globe and Mail) (Toronto Star)

Liberals accused of 'house-cleaning' of Tory appointees at refugee board

A slew of seasoned decision-makers tasked with hearing refugee and immigration appeals have either left or will depart from their job in what some call the Liberals’ “house-cleaning” of Conservative appointees. In light of what some critics call inadequate funding and a growing backlog stemming from the recent spike in asylum seekers crossing into Canada via the United States, the loss of the adjudicators on the immigration and refugee appeals tribunals is expected to toss the system into disarray. (Metro)

Study finds gender imbalance in children born to Indo-Canadian women

Fewer girls than boys are born to Indian women who immigrate to Canada, a skewed pattern driven by families whose mother tongue is Punjabi, according to a new study. One of the most surprising findings of the study, to be published Monday in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada, is that the preference for boys does not diminish, regardless of how long women from India have lived in Canada. “It’s counterintuitive,” said Marcelo Urquia, a research scientist at the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Health Policy and lead author of the study. “We know that the longer immigrants are in Canada, the more likely they are to align to the host country.” (Globe and Mail)

Canadian family blames ‘bureaucratic lunacy’ after losing fight to remain as rural Scottish shopkeepers

The fight by a Canadian family to remain in Scotland and keep running a rural Highland community’s only general store has ended in bitter defeat. Jason and Christy Zielsdorf, originally from Calgary, along with their five children, have reluctantly shuttered their “wee shop” and café, are packing their belongings and one-way tickets to Toronto are booked for May 4 after a public battle with Britain’s immigration office. (National Post)

Immigration fraud employees from Richmond jailed

Three women have each been sentenced to 18 months behind bars for their parts in a large-scale, Richmond-based immigration scam that has already sent their former employer to prison for seven years. Jin “Fanny” Ma, Ming Kun “Makkie” Wu and Wen “Vivian” Jiang, all of Richmond, were sentenced after previously pleading guilty to several charges, including representing on immigration matters without authority, passport offences, misrepresentation, forgery and tax evasion. (Richmond News)

Panel told alleged fraud dropped several politicians' names to woo investors

A B.C. Securities Commission panel has heard allegations that Paul Oei claimed a number of politicians were supporting a Metro Vancouver recycling plant project, allegedly the centre of an immigration-investment scam. Oei, a prominent B.C. Liberal donor, is accused of an extensive fraud on Chinese investors, whom he allegedly impressed by “rubbing elbows” with B.C. politicians. Investor Sui Zhang on Friday added Richmond Conservative MP Alice Wong’s name to the list of B.C. politicians the panel has heard Oei mentioned to investors, a list that includes Premier Christy Clark. (Vancouver Sun)

'Embarrassment to Canadians': abuse, humiliation occurred at bases across country, soldiers say

The alleged abuse of Canadian soldiers at the hands of their own military during training exercises was widespread during the '80s and '90s, according to former military members. After a Go Public investigation into a 1984 training exercise at Canadian Forces Base Wainwright, which was described by some participants as "torture," we were contacted by about a dozen ex soldiers who had similar stories. They say the alleged abuses occurred not just in Wainwright, Alta., but across the country — from Gagetown, N.B., to Petawawa, Ont., to Chilliwack, B.C. (CBC)

Ontario police forces share carding data with Mounties, CSIS

Ontario's counterterrorism plan directs local and provincial police to share relevant information gleaned from street checks — or "carding" encounters — with Canada's intelligence agency and the RCMP, according to the written plan reviewed by the Toronto Star. Municipal police services "should ensure" that intelligence they gather "is shared regularly with key partners," including the Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police's anti-terrorism section, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the RCMP, according to the 2014 document — the most recent version of the plan — that was posted online by two small Ontario police services, then apparently removed. (Hamilton Spec)

Former CSIS head says mystery around Norman suspension 'unprecedented'

Former CSIS director Richard Fadden says the lack of explanation around the suspension of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman is “unprecedented.” Norman held the second-highest ranking job in the military when he was abruptly suspended from his job in January. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has said the suspension was not related to national security concerns, but that the decision had to be made. (CTV)

Syrian father of 6 speaks of year of successes and struggles

A Syrian father who spoke of his struggles to raise his family of eight in Halifax a year ago says major challenges remain, but he's not under the same financial stresses thanks to a new home and a better sense of how to budget in his new country. Last year, Waleed Alghdayan said after living expenses there was only about $100 a month left for groceries, clothing and other expenses for his six children, now aged 2 to 12. (CBC)

On their own: After a year of government support, Syrian refugees are still struggling to settle in Toronto and face an uncertain future

After school rush-hour at Leaside Towers in central-east Toronto is when the general rules of how many people can reasonably cram into an elevator are suspended. Ahmad Al Rasoul, black hooded jacket straining over his belly, pulls in his shoulders, trying to take up as little room as possible. His three sons, sporting backpacks bigger than their torsos, cluster together in one corner. Their friends are squished in on the other side of the elevator, out of sight, but not out of range to continue the conversation they began when walking home from school. A tired-looking woman in a parka inhales, sharply sucking in her stomach, and presses her back against the wall. Two more kids enter the elevator in this final phase of human Tetris and finally, with 15 on board, the doors close. (Globe and Mail)

Social media a vital lifeline for Canada’s Syrian refugees: report

Social media and messaging apps have proven to be a vital link for the roughly 40,000 Syrian refugees who have come to Canada over the last few years. A government study published Friday digs into some of the challenges the refugees have faced in Canada. The Immigration Department evaluation of the Liberals’ landmark refugee program surveyed 581 of the 8,918 privately sponsored Syrian refugees who arrived between November 2015 and March 2016. Just over 26,000 Syrians were resettled in Canada during that time. (Global)

'It's an outburst': Canadian trade experts advise calm following Trump remarks

In the aftermath of U.S. President Donald Trump’s disparaging remarks about Canada’s trade practices in several areas including dairy, softwood lumber and energy this week, the former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. and advisor to the current Liberal government says it’s important that Canadians don’t overreact. In an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV’s Question Period, airing Sunday, Derek Burney described Trump’s comments as a “tirade.” (CTV)

Trump's talk on immigration leads to push back from farmers

The head of Bethel Heights Vineyard looked out over the 100 acres of vines her crew of 20 Mexicans had just finished pruning, worried about what will happen if the Trump administration presses ahead with its crackdown on immigrants. From tending the plants to harvesting the grapes, it takes skill and a strong work ethic to produce the winery's pinot noir and chardonnay, and native-born Americans just aren't willing to work that hard, Patricia Dudley said as a cold rain drenched the vineyard in the hills of Oregon. "Who's going to come out here and do this work when they deport them all?" she asked. (CTV)

Young immigrants not comforted by Trump’s ‘rest easy’ comments

Young immigrants protected by executive action from deportation say they won’t “rest easy,” even if President Donald Trump says they should. Several “dreamers” told The Associated Press on Friday that they were not comforted by Trump’s pledge, in an AP interview, that he wouldn’t target the 800,000 people brought to the U.S. as children and living in the country illegally under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Trump told the AP that his administration is “not after the ’dreamers,’ we are after the criminals.” (Globe and Mail)

Trump supporters don't have buyer's remorse but some Clinton voters do: Poll

Anecdotal stories about disillusioned supporters of Donald Trump are overdone. The fact is that, on a broad scale, Trump supporters say they aren't disappointed. In fact, a poll showed they were more pleased than disappointed, by about 5 to 1: "...The Pew Research Center released a poll showing very little buyer's remorse among Trump voters. The poll showed just 7% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say Trump has performed worse than they expected him to. Fully 38% - five times as many - say he has performed better." (Calgary Sun)

French election: Marine Le Pen wins through to final presidential showdown against Emmanuel Macron

Marine Le Pen has made it through to the final round of the French presidential election. With almost all of the 47 million ballots counted, the leader of the far-right Front National (FN) had secured 21.6 per cent of the vote. She will face centrist Emmanuel Macron, the former Socialist minister who set up his own party to run for president. He won the first round with about 23.8 per cent. (

North Korea detains US citizen

A Korean-American was detained in North Korea amid heightened tensions in the region, sources told the Yonhap news agency in South Korea. The U.S. citizen, who is reportedly a former professor at China's Yanbian University of Science and Technology and is in his late 50s, is only identified by his surname, Kim. (The Hill)

North Korea 'ready to sink' US aircraft carrier Vinson

North Korea is "ready to sink" a US aircraft carrier heading for the peninsula, state media have said. A commentary in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper warned that the USS Carl Vinson could be sunk "with a single strike". A battle group headed by the Vinson is expected off the peninsula this week. It was despatched by President Donald Trump amid a warning that US "strategic patience" over the North's nuclear ambitions had come to an end. (BBC)

Venezuela's President Maduro calls for talks with opposition

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has called for talks to resume with the opposition. He also said he wanted local elections to take place. His comments came as another large demonstration is planned for Monday after three weeks of tense protests across the country. Demonstrators have been calling for presidential elections due next year to be brought forward and for President Maduro to step down. (BBC)

Civilian casualties from airstrikes grow in Iraq and Syria. But few are ever investigated

A recent airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq is believed to have caused more than 270 civilian deaths, a tragedy that provoked an international outpouring of grief and outrage. But the uproar over the March 17 deaths in the Jadidah neighborhood of Mosul masks a grim reality: Hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of other civilians have died in hundreds of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria during the war against Islamic State, and it appears likely that the vast majority of those deaths were never investigated by the U.S. military or its coalition partners. (LA Times)



Candice Malcolm: Canada weakens citizenship while Australia strengthens it

Canada now has the weakest immigration rules in the English-speaking world. Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada has reduced the barriers for citizenship while others across the West are heading in the opposite direction. Our allies are strengthening citizenship rules to meet the new reality that our borders—and, increasingly, our values—are under siege. (Toronto Sun)

Toronto Sun: How to control Canada’s border

The Trudeau government must stop pretending there’s no problem with asylum seekers illegally crossing into Canada from the United States at unmanned border crossings. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen seem paralyzed by the situation, as does the RCMP. (Toronto Sun)

Celine Cooper: Let's act to regularize flow of asylum seekers

Is the United States still a safe country for asylum seekers? It’s debatable. But the rising number of asylum seekers crossing illegally into Canada — and Quebec in particular — suggests that migrants from many countries are growing fearful that they won’t receive a fair hearing in the United States. The numbers of irregular asylum seekers arriving in this country are comparatively small. By dint of geographic circumstance, it’s unlikely that Canada will ever experience the sorts of massive, unregulated human flows — people fleeing war, conflict and economic devastation currently rocking Europe, the Middle East and parts of Africa. (Montreal Gazette)

Lawrence Solomon: Trump just might make us put on our big-boy pants and make Canada great again

“Let’s not pretend we’re in a global free market when it comes to agriculture,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally told a persistent John Micklethwait, Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief, in an interview Thursday. Trudeau had been bafflegabbing Micklethwait’s inquiry into Canada’s position on NAFTA and free trade, in an attempt to avoid admitting Canadian hypocrisy in preaching free trade while practicing protectionism. (National Post)

Mark Bonokoski: Conservative candidates need to step up to the front

News flash! There is a leadership race underway within the Conservative Party of Canada. What? Really? How long has this been going on? Forever it seems, not that many have noticed amid the drama of the ruling Liberals’ marijuana legislation, its pandering Islamophobia motion, its leader’s questionable Aga Khan vacation destination, its outright lie about changing the federal voting system before the next election, and the tabling of an omnibus bill that they supposedly would never do. (Canoe)

Lorrie Goldstein: Six flip-flops by Premier Wynne

Six months ago, Premier Kathleen Wynne was against imposing a foreign homebuyers’ tax on real estate deals, saying it could have “unintended consequences.” On Thursday, she reversed herself, saying a foreign homebuyers’ tax is necessary, apparently regardless of “unintended consequences.” This raises the question of whether voters can trust any statement Wynne makes, or doesn’t make. In that light, let’s review Wynne’s record on five other major issues: (Toronto Sun)

Robyn Urback: For some, Kathleen Wynne's sexuality is an issue. For most, it's her government's record

If you ask any Ontarian with a pulse who isn't somehow connected to the provincial Liberals why Premier Kathleen Wynne is so unpopular, he or she would probably rattle off a whole bunch of the government's boondoggles: the exorbitant hydro prices, the alleged meddling in a provincial byelection, the secret payouts to teachers, the gutting of auditor general powers, the deleted emails, the laughable efforts at liberalized alcohol sales and so forth. (CBC)

National Post: National Post View: After a nuclear war, only cockroaches and Canadian supply management would be left standing

It tells you a lot that in the current Canadian political context, the only people actually talking sense on supply management are Donald Trump and a politician nicknamed “Mad Max,” for his supposedly maverick ideas. We only wish more of “Mad” Maxime Bernier’s fellow candidates for the Conservative party leadership were as touched by the madness on this file as he is. Alas, in his willingness to tackle Canada’s outdated system of supply management for dairy, eggs and poultry, the Quebec MP stands virtually alone. Lisa Raitt and Michael Chong are normally sensible folk, but both have resisted calls to modernize (aka abandon) the archaic regulations that require the vast majority of milk and other dairy products consumed by Canadians to be produced by a few thousand farmers who sell only to dairy boards. Kevin O’Leary, the self-professed capitalist in the room, has called this agricultural cartel “vital” and pledged to protect it during a likely NAFTA renegotiation. Erin O’Toole has made a lot of sense and impressed many over the course of the campaign, but rejects criticism of what he charmingly terms “family farms.” (National Post)



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