Passport delay task force wants something ‘tangible’ within weeks, minister says

Pure spin. IRCC and Service Canada are the responsible departments, Minister Fraser and Gould the responsible ministers. Conservative critiques of the task force as “a summer research project for Liberal ministers” is both clever and valid.

However, the broader systemic issue at play is that this government, in particular, but previous governments as well, are less interested in the nitty-gritty of service delivery as Heintzman recounts so well in Kathryn May’s The Achilles heel of the federal public service gives out again with passport fiasco:

The co-chair of a new cabinet committee struck to tackle massive passport processing delays says she’d like to see “something tangible in the next several weeks.”

Speaking at a funding announcement Tuesday in Toronto, Women and Gender Equality Minister Marci Ien said the committee is first speaking to the ministers responsible for files including passports, immigration and air transportation about the issues.

“We take that information and we go, so that process is happening right now, it’s started,” she said. “I would be a very happy camper, and I know my colleagues would be, if we had something tangible in the next several weeks.”

As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, Canadians are returning to international travel in droves, applying for a passport for the first time or renewing passports that expired during the pandemic. This has sparked long lineups at passport offices. In some cases, the police have had to be called due to altercations.

In response to the delays, the Prime Minister’s Office announced on Saturday the creation of a “task force to improve government services,” made up of 10 ministers and co-chaired by Ien and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller.

Asked about her understanding of the causes for the bottlenecks, Ien said “this is about listening first.

“That’s how I operate: I get the facts, I listen, and then I act, and my co-chair is the same,” she said. “I want Canadians to know that we are there for them, we are there with them, and we will get to the bottom of this.”

Unions representing workers who deal with passport intake and processing said they were flagging concerns to the government last year about imminent delays, partly due to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

“They didn’t give us a clear answer on what the plan was,” Crystal Warner, national executive vice-president of the Canada Employment and Immigration Union, told the Star last week.

“There didn’t seem to be a lot of concern or consideration.”

Warner’s union represents Service Canada workers, including those who deal with passport intake.

The task force has not reached out to the union whose members are responsible for processing passport applications, said Kevin King, national president of the Union of National Employees. But he said he’s ready to engage with the ministers “at any moment in time.”

Speaking from Montreal, where the delays have been particularly brutal, King said he was beginning to see some improvements, including extra security personnel and more managers from other departments assisting staff.

“But these are very early days,” King said.

Social Development Minister Karina Gould, who is responsible for the passport file, announced last week that some specialized passport sites in large cities would implement a triage system to prioritize individuals travelling within the next 24 to 48 hours.

The Conservatives blasted the task force as being comprised of some of the government’s “worst-performing ministers,” saying in a statement Monday that more bureaucracy is not the answer to tackling the delays.

“Rather than focusing on resolving the crisis, hard-working public servants will now need to divert their attention to help a task force of Liberal ministers study the problem,” the statement said.

“Canadians need front-line workers processing applications and working through the backlog, not a summer research project for Liberal ministers.”

Source: Passport delay task force wants something ‘tangible’ within weeks, minister says

Ontario judge upholds Tamil Genocide Education Week in battle ‘over who gets to write the history of the war’

Interesting case and verdict. With respect to Judge Akbarali, any such act can never be purely “educative,” as it reflects politics and relative strength of particular communities:

A court has dismissed a constitutional challenge over Ontario’s proclamation of Tamil Genocide Education Week — concluding that its purpose is purely “educative.”

In a case that cast a spotlight on tension between diasporas, several Sinhalese-Canadian groups took Ontario to court for designating the seven-day period each year ending May 18 — the date the Sri Lankan civil war ended in 2009 — to raise awareness of the Tamil genocide and other genocides in world history.

The Sinhalese applicants claimed that no Tamil genocide has been recognized under international law, arguing that the provincial government didn’t have the authority to adopt the term “genocide” and that the designation would promote hatred for one group over another.

In quashing the claim by the Sinhalese applicants, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice said the 26-year-old civil war ravaged Sri Lanka, but the fight has not ended.

“A new battle has emerged over who gets to write the history of the war,” wrote Justice Jasmine Akbarali in a ruling released Tuesday. “While this new battle does not intuitively seem like an issue for the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, it has in fact become one.”

The Tamil-Canadian diaspora welcomed the decision, saying education is one of the only ways available for the community to pursue justice and healing because the Sri Lanka government has been reluctant to recognize the atrocities and punish those responsible.

“Tamils across the province can now focus on what matters — commemorating and remembering the countless lives lost,” said Katpana Nagendra, a member of the Tamil Rights Group, one of the organizations granted intervener status in this case.

The Tamil Genocide Education Week Act, a private member’s bill tabled by Conservative MPP Vijay Thanigasalam, who is of Tamil descent, was passed unanimously in the Ontario legislature last year.

The preamble of the proclamation of the Tamil Genocide Education Week states that Tamil Ontarians have lost loved ones and have been physically or mentally traumatized by the genocide that the Sri Lankan state perpetrated against the Tamils during the civil war, which lasted from 1983 to the Tamil Tigers’ defeat in 2009.

Akbarali said the court heard evidence from “dueling” witnesses about the Sri Lankan civil war, and specifically, whether or not what occurred amounted to a genocide of Tamils.

“I am not deciding who bears the blame, or who bears more of the blame, for the tremendous suffering and trauma that occurred as a result of the Sri Lankan civil war,” the judge wrote in the 18-page decision.

“Nor am I deciding whether it was wise for the Ontario Legislature to pass the TGEWA. The wisdom of the legislation is a question that belongs solely to the Legislature, and more indirectly, to the voters of the province. The question before me relates only to the constitutionality of the TGEWA.”

While the court agreed with the claim that the proclamation recognizes a Tamil genocide, it said the act is in the spirit of educating the public about the event and other genocides to prevent such atrocities from occurring, and helping create an opportunity for Tamil Ontarians to share their stories and the intergenerational trauma the legislature has recognized.

“The TGEWA does not require any particular educational initiatives to be undertaken by any particular institution,” said Akbarali. “The dominant characteristic of the law is to educate the public about what the Ontario Legislature has concluded is a Tamil genocide.”

The province did not infringe on the federal jurisdiction in relation to the designation of genocide because the act didn’t contain a penalty or claim to determine that genocide has taken place “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“The perpetrator of the genocide recognized by the Legislature is … to be the Sri Lankan government. A claim or a finding of genocide perpetrated by a government or a state does not tar individuals who may be members of the same nationality, ethnicity, or religious affiliation as those people who dominate the government or state,” said the court.

ation of Tamil Genocide Education Week — concluding that its purpose is purely “educative.” In a case that cast a spotlight on tension between diasporas, several Sinhalese-Canadian groups took Ontario to court for designating the seven-day period each year ending May 18 — the date the Sri Lankan civil war ended in 2009 — to raise awareness of the Tamil genocide and other genocides in world history.

Source: Ontario judge upholds Tamil Genocide Education Week in battle ‘over who gets to write the history of the war’

No date set for IRCC to waive Canadian citizenship application fees

And so the platform commitment from the 2019 and 2021 election commitments remains unmet along with the earlier commitment to revise the Discover Canada citizenship study guide.

Will see whether the fee commitment is included in the next budget:

The Canadian government needs more time to fulfil its promise to waive citizenship fees for applicants.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser made this revelation in a recent sit-down interview with CIC News in Toronto.

The Canadian government announced shortly before the pandemic in late 2019 it would waive fees for new Canadian citizenship applicants. The pandemic delayed these plans and then Canada held a federal election last September. After the Liberal Party of Canada won their third straight election, Justin Trudeau asked his new immigration minister, Fraser, to follow through with the promise to waive citizenship fees. This is outlined in Fraser’s mandate letter, which contains his top immigration policy priorities.

When asked by CIC News on when this promise may be implemented, the minister responded “We don’t have a date for you, and I feel it’s best to be open.”

“The reason why is the decision to waive citizenship fees is not something that just exists within our [Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC] authorities.”

He explained that the authority to do so also exists within the federal budgetary process and no decisions have been made yet for the next federal fiscal year.

Canada has one of the highest citizenship uptake rates in the world with some 85% of permanent residents becoming citizens. Prior to the pandemic some 250,000 people became citizens each year. However, some advocates argued that Canadian citizenship fees created barriers for low-income individuals to go ahead and become citizens. This explains why the federal government went ahead and said it wanted to waive fees altogether. It appears the government believes this policy will prove popular. A 2019 policy document by the Liberals suggested the government expected Canadian citizenship applications to increase 40% by 2024.

The Canadian citizenship application backlog increased significantly during the pandemic, which Fraser explained is a function of factors such as IRCC employees needing to work remotely and the lack of in-person citizenship ceremonies at the start of the pandemic. In April 2020, the citizenship inventory stood at 240,000 persons but it grew to 468,000 persons by October 2021. Recent data suggests IRCC has been making progress, with the backlog now at 395,000 persons.

Permanent residents who which to become Canadian citizens must meet certain criteria, such as physically residing in Canada for at least 1,095 days during the five years before they sign their citizenship application. Canadian citizenship by descent is also available to the first generation born abroad to a Canadian parent.

Fraser provided assurances that he is committed to fulfilling the policy priorities in his mandate letter. “Once we have news on that [waiving citizenship fees], we will be broadcasting it as widely as possible so that people know what to expect and timing for it to actually come into effect.”

Source: No date set for IRCC to waive Canadian citizenship application fees

Tom Mulcair on Legault’s multiculturalism remarks

Of note:

The weather is getting better, the Canada Day long weekend is just around the corner and we could all use a break…so Francois Legault decided it’s the perfect time to attack multiculturalism!

Last weekend, the Quebec premier had this to say: “It’s important that we don’t put all cultures on the same level; that’s why we oppose multiculturalism…We prefer to concentrate on what we call interculturalism, where we have one culture, the Quebec culture…”

Legault, of course, is just repeating something that has become commonplace in Quebec: the notion that multiculturalism is a threat.

That’s one of the reasons why Legault has been fighting for full jurisdiction over the choice of immigrants to his province, especially the family-reunification category.


Not content to just tell people what language they should speak at work, he’s taken to musing about the language people should speak at home. He apparently doesn’t want families reuniting if they are going to be speaking a language other than French in their own house!

For forty years, Canada has had constitutionally guaranteed official bilingualism within a framework of multiculturalism.

The old “two founding peoples” vision (English and French) was replaced by a view that Canada is enriched by the vibrant diversity of all cultures present, and that irrespective of national origin, certain rights to services in both official languages were to be protected.

Things like access to official language minority schools have been guaranteed. That means, in turn, that the English-speaking community of Quebec and the French-speaking minority of, say, Manitoba both have the constitutional right to control and manage the Boards that oversee the schools their kids can attend.

Other language rights are protected by the Canadian constitution. For example, English and French must be used at all steps of the legislative process in Quebec, Manitoba and New Brunswick (the only officially bilingual province) and the right to use both languages is guaranteed in pleadings before the courts of those provinces.

In order to change the constitution in a way that affects guaranteed language rights, the 1982 Constitution Act says explicitly that you need a joint resolution of the House of Commons and the Senate. That’s what Quebec did when it replaced religion-based school boards with language-based institutions. Lucien Bouchard was the premier, I was in the Liberal opposition and both parties worked together to modernize the system.

Resolutions were obtained in both houses of the Canadian Parliament authorizing the change and It has gone into effect and worked since. Problem is, Legault has also attacked (with Bill 40) the right of the English-speaking community to control and manage its own school boards. The courts have had to intervene to enforce the constitution and stop him.

Since that rebuke, Legault seems to have resolved to never again let the Canadian constitution interfere with his plans to remove minority language rights. With Bill 96, Legault is now claiming to have unilaterally changed the B.N.A. Act, the founding constitutional law from 1867, to remove language guarantees for equality of English and French in official legal documents and before the courts.

No resolution of Parliament was required, in his view, and neither Justin Trudeau nor his Justice Minister David Lametti have stood up to defend the Canadian constitution or the citizens whose rights are being removed.

Those rights have been reinforced through a series of Supreme Court decisions and the bilingual nature of the courts and legislation in Manitoba, Quebec and New Brunswick are constitutionally sacrosanct. Lametti seems to be unaware.

After Bill 96 was enacted at the end of the legislative session in Quebec City, anglophone Quebecers woke up to the fact that they could no longer get a marriage certificate in English and an English birth certificate from B.C. may as well have be from the other end of the world. You need to have both officially translated – at your own expense! Of course this flies in the face of the constitution. But Trudeau and Lametti don’t want to make waves in the province where they both get elected, so they do nothing.

I was working in the legislative branch of the Quebec Justice Department in the late ‘70s when the Supreme Court ruled that the failure to respect the B.N.A. Act’s bilingualism obligations meant that all Quebec legislation could be struck down. A mad scramble ensued and the legislation was all reenacted, in both official languages, the next day.

Manitoba stonewalled but was eventually compelled to produce a full bilingual version of all of its legislation and the forms that come with it. I also worked in Manitoba for a couple of years to oversee that translation.

Imagine for one second that a Manitoba government would claim to be able to unilaterally amend the Manitoba Act, that mandates this official bilingualism! That was in fact a key argument the Manitoba government has tried in the past and it was rejected conclusively by the Supreme Court. If it were tried again, the Federal government wouldn’t waste a second challenging it.

Why then won’t the feds lift their little finger to protect the same right to use English in the courts in Quebec?


When the constitution allows for a difference for one province, it does so explicitly. For example, there is a different rule for access to English school in Quebec which is baked right into s. 23 of the 1982 constitution. There is, however, no difference allowed when it comes to the requirement to enact legislation, every step of the way, in both languages in Quebec. The use of both languages in legal documents before the courts is also guaranteed. So why this inertia in Ottawa?

To find an answer, it’s good to start with Bill 21, the Quebec law that openly discriminates against religious minorities generally and Muslim women in particular.

That law, like Bill 96, is so patently unconstitutional that Legault has preemptively used the notwithstanding clause to say that it applies despite the Charter of Rights.

Since that law was enacted, we’ve had various degrees of dithering from the different Federal parties, including Trudeau’s Liberals. But Trudeau is the Prime minister. Only he can refer these issues directly to the Supreme Court. Problem is, he won’t, because he’s terrified of Legault. As a result, the first time in our history, we have a federal government that refuses to defend the Canadian constitution.

In the meantime, religious and linguistic minorities are being left to fight the discriminatory and unconstitutional Bills 21 and 96 on their own. It’s a shameful abdication of responsibility by Trudeau and Lametti but such is the state of play when it comes to defending the rights of Canadians who happen to live in Quebec.

Against that backdrop, the Trudeau government has introduced language legislation to shore up the ageing Official Languages Act. Quebec has taken to sending in missives to the Feds telling them what changes have to be made to their law to harmonize it with Quebec’s language laws. This is very complex and detailed handiwork that appears to be beyond the grasp of the team Trudeau has tasked with shepherding the file through Parliament.

As a result, the fall session in Ottawa will no doubt see more than its fair share of debates on language.

For now, whether at the lake or in a local park, let’s just give ourselves that break and enjoy this weekend’s celebration of our fabulous country where, despite these ups and downs, we’re all so lucky to live together. Happy Canada Day!

Source: Tom Mulcair on Legault’s multiculturalism remarks

May: The Achilles heel of the federal public service gives out again with passport fiasco

Agree. Service delivery unfortunately the poor cousin compared to policy and program development. Previous governments missed opportunity with Service Canada to transform government around service delivery.

Valid risk concerns yet here we are again with service failures, driven in part by governments more interested in new policy and program initiatives, as our senior public servants most who rose through the ranks on their policy work:

Delivering services to Canadians has been an Achilles heel of the federal government for 30 years because of political disinterest and a senior management of “travelling salesmen,” who hop from job to job and barely know the business of the departments they lead, says the former senior bureaucrat who proposed the creation of Service Canada.

“You have deputy ministers and senior executives … who very rarely have deep experience and knowledge of departments, operations and services for which they’re responsible. They haven’t worked their way up in that department and are flying blind to a significant degree,” said Ralph Heintzman, who also launched the Institute for Citizen-Centred Service and the Public Sector Service Delivery Council.

This constant churn of executives moving in and out of jobs has created a public service with “little learning experience, no constancy of purpose or corporate memory.”  That makes it very hard for the government to “maintain a focus on service improvement or anything for a long period of time,” he said.

But Heintzman says those are foundational reasons for why service has never been given the attention it deserves. Then come all the operational problems: underfunding, old technology systems that never get replaced, poorly trained and disengaged employees, lack of planning and little accountability for poor service.

Passport and immigration backlogs with long lineups of frustrated and fuming Canadians at Service Canada offices across the country in recent weeks prompted the government to create a new ministerial task force to find ways to improve service.

The 10-member task force is expected to make recommendations outlining short and longer-term solutions that would reduce wait times, clear backlogs and improve the overall quality of services provided.

Big barriers to improving service are investment in technology and recruiting the right people. That’s money and, notably, the minister of finance is not a member of the task force. The task force also comes as the government is launching a strategic review to find $6 billion in savings.

“They now have two conflicting objectives and can’t have it both ways. Which objective will trump the other? If they want to improve service, they will have to spend some money on technology, training and staffing levels,” said Michael Wernick, a former clerk of the Privy Council and the new Jarislowsky Chairin Public Sector Management at the University of Ottawa.

But Heintzman says many of the problems with service delivery are the same as in 1998 when he first presented Treasury Board ministers with a plan for Service Canada, a single one-stop agency to focus on delivery and citizen satisfaction. When the plan was rolled out in 2005, it was billed as the single biggest operational reform in federal history.

And it was all built on putting citizens first, or what he calls serving Canadians “outside in” rather than “inside out.”

“The whole idea of Service Canada was to help increase the standard of service and citizens’ satisfaction with government service.  So, when I see those photos of people lined up around Service Canada offices, there’s a pang in my heart,” said Heintzman.

But what’s different now is trust in government is falling like a stone and a wave of populism is exploiting those backlogs to drive the message that government isn’t working.

Heintzman says the research is clear. The satisfaction of Canadians with service is directly tied to citizens’ trust in government.

“One of the reasons why governments should invest in and pay attention to the quality of service is citizen trust,” said Heintzman.

“It makes me even more anxious now, when there are people eager and willing to seize upon the failures of the government to use them as an excuse for attacks on democracy and on the public sector.”

Public servants have two jobs. They offer policy advice and deliver programs and services to Canadians.

Service delivery has long been the poor cousin to policy. The way services are designed and delivered is often dictated by the internal needs of public servants and all the processes and rules they must follow. That means users and frontline workers — who know the ins and outs of how programs work — aren’t always heard.

Frontline managers also rarely make it to the top and ambitious public servants opt for the policy jobs. Executives typically manage up and into ministers’ offices and the Privy Council Office, rather than “manage down to line operations and out to citizens,” said Heintzman.

Prime ministers, ministers, even deputy ministers, pay little attention to operations or service delivery until there’s a crisis. The focus is all policy and “announceables,” not execution.

Knowing politicians aren’t that interested, senior bureaucrats are reluctant to bring up operational problems or push for technology projects to help improve services – especially after the disastrous Phoenix pay system.

“Three-quarters of the responsibility for performance in service delivery rests with the public service,” said Heintzman. “It has to be a public service issue, not only for execution, but in making it a political issue by including it in their priorities to ministers and for funding.”

The government has pinned its efforts to improve services and trust on digital technology. But Heintzman worries the emphasis on technology loses sight of citizens and how to improve service. In many departments, service is rolled into the responsibilities of the Chief Information Officer where the focus is on the latest software, hardware and apps.

“There should be a chief service officer of the government to whom the people responsible for information [management] and IT report, but the tail should not be wagging the dog. The objective is promising a proper service to people of Canada not running an IM-IT operation,” said Heintzman.

A focus on technology brings an “inside-out” approach to service, which means services are built around the priorities of the managers and department, not citizens.

Departments also don’t pay enough attention to service satisfaction – tracking how Canadians view a service and rate it – which Heintzman argues is the only way to improve service.

Rather than measure satisfaction, the government focuses on results and inputs. The Liberals created a “results and delivery unit” modelled after the deliverology theory of Britain’s Michael Barber that did little to improve service.

Heintzman says departments don’t plan enough. They don’t set targets or deadlines built around how they want to improve a service over the long run.  Service standards are set “inside out” with promises to answer a call, fix a complaint or provide a service within a certain time, which are “set to suit the people inside and have nothing to do with what people want or need in the way of delivery.”

They also don’t study the drivers of customer satisfaction, which varies by type of service and whether accessed by phone, in-person or online. Timeliness is the big one, but competence, courtesy, fairness, outcomes and value all influence satisfaction.

Heintzman argues managers should be held accountable for the quality of service, perhaps by linking their annual performance pay to client satisfaction. Central agencies such as Treasury Board and the Privy Council Office abdicated leadership in service delivery by turning it over to departments.

And finally, the government should professionalize service delivery. The Institute of Citizen-Centred Service was created to train and certify public servants, at any level, who manage services. Service delivery needs a “holistic approach” that reinforces how the pieces connect; happy and engaged employees are the key to customer satisfaction, which in turn fosters trust in government.

“Service delivery is part of the proper functioning of a democratic government. If we can’t do that properly, we’re undermining our democracy,” said Heintzman.

Source: The Achilles heel of the federal public service gives out again with passport fiasco

Census 2021 data shows Australians are less religious and more culturally diverse than ever

Canadian diversity data will be released this October. Religion will be included (10 year cycle in contrast to the standard 5 year cycle).

Some of the same trends occurring in Canada:

Australians are increasingly unlikely to worship a god and more likely to come from immigrant families.

The 2021 census has revealed a growing nation — more than 25 million people — that is more diverse than ever.

It also depicts a country undergoing significant cultural changes.

For the first time, fewer than half of Australians identified as Christian, though Christianity remained the nation’s most common religion (declared by 43.9 per cent of the population).

Meanwhile, the number of Australians who said they had no religion rose to 38.9 per cent (from 30.1 per cent in 2016).

The data also shows almost half of Australians had a parent born overseas, and more than a quarter were themselves born overseas.

The census — a national household questionnaire carried out every five years — took place in August last year amid the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.

The nation’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, were in lockdown and residents of regional New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT were about to join them.

Yet Australian Statistician David Gruen said the census was a success despite this challenge, with the household response rate rising to 96.1 per cent from 95.1 per cent five years earlier.

About four in five households submitted their answers online.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will begin publishing census results today and release more data in coming months.

The information helps governments improve their services, and helps researchers and businesses better understand the community.

Beliefs and family traditions are changing

Christianity was the stated religion of about 90 per cent of Australians until 1966, when its dominance began to wane.

The ABS says migration has affected the trends since, though much of the change is due to the growth of atheist and secular beliefs.

The fastest-growing religions, according to the latest census, are Hinduism (2.7 per cent of the population) and Islam (3.2 per cent), though these worshippers remain small minorities.

The 2021 census was also the first to collect data since same-sex marriages were allowed in Australia.

Almost 24,000 of these marriages were officially recorded.

However, marriage itself is becoming less prevalent.

A generation ago (in 1991), 56.1 per cent of Australians aged over 15 were in a registered marriage. That has now dropped to 46.5 per cent.

New Australians are increasingly from India

Australia has long been one of the world’s great immigration nations, accepting more people than most other countries.

Last year, almost half of the population (48.2 per cent) were first or second-generation migrants, having at least one parent born overseas. That compares with 41.1 per cent 30 years ago.

Of the 27.6 per cent of Australians who were themselves born overseas, the most common country of birth was England.

However, India has become the second-most-common source country, overtaking China and New Zealand.

The census also asked Australians to report their “ancestry”, as opposed to their country of birth or ethnicity.

The top responses were English (33 per cent), Australian (29.9 per cent), Irish (9.5 per cent) or Scottish (8.6 per cent), with another 5.5 per cent saying Chinese.

Source: Census 2021 data shows Australians are less religious and more culturally diverse than ever

5 asylum bids. 17 aliases. Why a judge says one man showed ‘blatant disrespect’ for Canada’s laws

Good characterization:

He used an alias to get asylum in Canada 30 years ago and allegedly cheated the welfare system and committed fraud by using as many as 16 other names before exhausting all appeals and being deported in 2012.

Officials say they still don’t know who he is — but they know where he is.

In February, Chris Osho Oko-Oboh — a.k.a. Andrew Ighiehon, James Aigbe, Friday Adun, Okojie Lugard and Marek Orszula among others — whose true identity is still unknown, according to court, returned to Canada from Nigeria with a “modified” travel document and made yet another asylum claim. It was his fifth over the past three decades.

This time, the man, believed to be 63 now, was immediately nabbed by border-enforcement agents upon arrival in Montreal through fingerprint matching. He has remained in detention, though not without drama.

In March, a tribunal ordered his release but he was sent back into custody after the Canada Border Services Agency appealed to the Federal Court, based on his unconfirmed identity and the fear that he might not reappear for his removal.

In quashing the tribunal decision to release him, Justice B. Richard Bell made an unusual move to order Oko-Oboh to pay $3,000 to cover the costs of the government in the proceedings, saying his conduct “greatly undermines” the integrity of Canada’s immigration, law enforcement, social welfare and judicial systems.

“The respondent has shown a blatant disrespect and disregard for Canadian law. It is apparent the criminal-law procedures have been unsuccessful in deterring the respondent’s unlawful conduct. … There is an evident need to deter the respondent’s unlawful conduct in relation to immigration matters,” Bell wrote in a ruling last month.

“Canadian taxpayers should expect Canada to take all steps necessary to discourage those who would tarnish its generous immigration system. Canadian taxpayers should expect Canada to take all means necessary to recoup a portion of the costs it incurs in relation to its participation in court proceedings.”

Although refugees often rely on fraudulent travel documents for their escapes and many do spend years here as their cases wind through the arduous asylum system and myriad appeal mechanisms, few would have amassed such a long history with Canadian immigration and law enforcement, or have raised such ire in a judicial ruling.

According to the Federal Court, Oko-Oboh first arrived in Canada on March 12, 1991, via the United States under the name of Andrew Ighiehon, and he was convicted of fraud over $1,000 in Toronto less than four months later. In February 1992, he made a refugee claim under that name and was granted asylum in a month.

He was again convicted of fraud in 1993 and a deportation order was issued against him in 1997 based on “serious criminality,” said the court.

While he was fighting the revocation of his refugee protection status and subsequent removal, his rap sheet just got longer: attempted fraud, personation, uttering forged documents, false pretences, possession of credit card, counterfeit mark, mischief and assault. He was deported with the escort of border agents to Nigeria in February 2012.

“During his 21-year tenure in Canada, the respondent committed multiple crimes, for which he was convicted. The respondent’s refugee status was revoked in 2007. He was deported in 2012,” the court said.

“In February 2022, the respondent returned to Canada using a fraudulent travel document. He alleged, without any evidence, that Canadian officials working at the Canadian Embassy in Ghana perpetrated the fraud.”

During one of the detention reviews since returning to Canada, Oko-Oboh revealed he was once in the military in Nigeria and has five children, including three in Canada.

He also explained to the tribunal that his fraud charges stemmed from the “Money Mart” business he opened in 1998. He claimed people would come in with fake cheques and police would come and investigate but ended up charging him when they couldn’t find the actual culprits.

“He ended up always pleading guilty because he ended up taking the blame,” according to the tribunal in a hearing transcript.

Oko-Oboh’s son in Oakville, who works at a Dollarama, offered to put up a $3,000 bond for the man’s release and to supervise him along with an older woman they all call “grandma.”

“If I am released today, I will not disappoint you, the judge, the lawyer, the immigration officer, even God, and even myself. And I will listen to everything that I will be told to do, and I will do it,” he pleaded with the tribunal at a hearing on Feb. 18.

In a hearing in March, the adjudicator presiding over his case ordered him released in part due to the concern over the time it previously took — 15 years — for the border agency to remove Oko-Oboh following the issuance of his first deportation order in 1997.

The agency then challenged the release in court.

“Given the various identities of the respondent that I have already mentioned and what follows, I fail to see how the (Public Safety) Minister can be responsible for any of the 15 years necessary to process the removal,” chided Justice Bell in sending Oko-Oboh back to detention.

“The respondent, who most recently entered Canada with a counterfeit travel document, was prepared to allege that Canadian officials working at the Canadian embassy in Ghana committed the fraud. Asserting such fraud on the part of Canadian officials without any evidence speaks volumes to the trustworthiness of the respondent and his willingness to abide by any orders.”

Meanwhile, over the past few months, border officials have been trying to confirm Oko-Oboh’s real identity with help from Nigerian officials in Ottawa.

In May, a longtime friend of Oko-Oboh in Brampton, who works in real estate, also vowed to put down a $10,000 bond for the man’s release.

“Osho is a good person. He had that long dark stretch that is even difficult for me to explain even to members or people from back home if they were to ask me,” Gordon Isioroaji testified before adjudicator Sophie Froment-Gateau.

“I believe that he is a changed man from that period of time. So, I would plead … that you give him that chance.”

Oko-Oboh’s lawyer, Idorenyin E. Amana, said detention should only be used as “an exception” and the tribunal must explore other alternatives and consider his release under supervision.

“The gentleman in front of this tribunal has been known to the Canadian authority since 1991. His fingerprints and his biometrics, his blood group, everything about his unique, inalienable identity is in the Canadian database,” said Amana.

“I appreciate that the name or the date of birth is an issue. To say that Mr. Oko-Oboh or the individual is not known at all is not entirely correct.”

Border officials have already deemed Oko-Oboh safe to return to Nigeria, a decision that’s currently being challenged in court.

Froment-Gateau said she was not satisfied with either Oko-Oboh’s friend or “alleged son” being his bond person, raising concerns over their ability to ensure he complies with the release conditions

“I understand that you are being deprived of your liberty, and that every day in detention must feel like a long one for you,” the adjudicator said in her decision in May to keep the man detained.

“However, from a legal perspective, it is not considered yet as a long detention.”

Neither Amana, the man’s lawyer, nor the border agency would comment.

Source: 5 asylum bids. 17 aliases. Why a judge says one man showed ‘blatant disrespect’ for Canada’s laws

Roe vs Wade: How Disenfranchised Americans Can Immigrate to Canada

No surprise that various sites are highlighting this option, whether as clickbait or seriously.

The same happened during the Trump presidency but while interest was high, the actual numbers, while increased, were still relatively small:

The highly controversial move by the US Supreme Court to end women’s right to abortion is the latest example of how the country is lurching to the right on a number of important issues.

With the decision leaving many Americans feeling disenfranchised and frightened about the direction their country is headed, Canada could be an ideal destination for those who have simply had enough of the US.

Overturning Roe vs Wade triggered the closure of abortion clinics across the country, with some states already having laws in place to ban abortion in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision.

In the same week, as Democrat President Joe Biden celebrated the successful passing of mild gun control measures, the Supreme Court moved to make it easier to carry firearms by overturning a 1913 New York licensing law.

This came despite 225 mass shootings in the US in 2022 (or more than one a day), including the bloody massacre of 19 school children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas on May 24.

Same sex marriage and contraception could be next, with Justice Clarence Thomas suggesting the Supreme Court could reconsider a slew of decisions, placing further constitutional rights under threat.

The controversy dates back to the presidency of Donald Trump, when he was able to nominate three new Supreme Court justices – namely Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – and significantly shift the balance of the bench to the right with Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed amid controversy in 1992, leading the conservative bench.

The Trump appointees left many Americans fearful of the consequences, and now those fears are being realised.

Even before Trump’s Supreme Court picks, Americans were already considering their options to move north. His election victory over Hillary Clinton triggered a huge surge in the number of Americans researching how to move to Canada.

The number of American citizens becoming Canadian permanent residents rose in every year of the Trump presidency except the last, from 7,655 in pre-Trump 2015, to a peak of 10,900 in 2018, his third year in power.

After dropping off in 2020 due to COVID-19, the figure surges again in 2021 to 11,950, and is on pace in 2022 to exceed 12,000 for the first time.

Roe vs Wade: How Disenfranchised Americans Can Immigrate to Canada

Canada has a plethora of options for American citizens who wish to immigrate here.

In addition to economic programs, Canada also has an established family sponsorship immigration program, which include options for LGBTQ couples and common law partners.

With provincial programs also welcoming newcomers under a wide variety of criteria, American citizens interested in moving to Canada have many pathways open to them.

Source: Roe vs Wade: How Disenfranchised Americans Can Immigrate to Canada

Griffith: Passport delays risk undermining our trust in government

Interesting to see the reaction on Twitter to my op-ed in The Star. Most reaction to anything I have written over the past 10 years. A real mix. Beyond the usual Trudeau or Conservative derangement syndromes, some of the themes that emerged:

  • Interest in and support for the analysis and background
  • People have personal responsibility to renew in time rather than expecting government to ramp up quickly to meet demand
  • Not important compared to healthcare wait times, war in Ukraine, SCOTUS decision on abortion etc
  • Generalized distrust of media coverage

With some of the comments, clearly people reacted to the tweet or other comments rather than reading the op-ed (I have also been guilty of doing the same).

The depth and breadth of reactions, along of course with general media coverage, indicates the extent to which wait times and delays have captured public attention. But of course, this is very much a “first world” problem compared to the more fundamental short and longer term challenges facing Canada and the world:

Though the government anticipated that the relaxation of travel restrictions would mean long waits and delays in passport issuance, it neglected to act on the knowledge. This lack of attention to service delivery risks undermining overall trust in government.

Part of the reason for the government’s failure to ramp up capacity for the pent-up demand post-pandemic is the complexity of interdepartmental roles. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has overall policy and program responsibility; Service Canada is responsible for processing and service delivery; and Global Affairs Canada is responsible for international delivery, following the 2013 transfer of the passport program from Global Affairs to IRCC.

Service Canada has evolved from initially providing a limited receiving agent function (verification of passport applications at a number of locations) to being responsible for all in-person passport offices and passport processing centres.

As Service Canada’s responsibilities increased, co-ordination and accountability issues became more apparent. The 2020 evaluation of the IRCC passport program identified the need to “review and clarify departmental accountabilities and responsibilities for the Passport Program, as well as reconfirm decision-making authorities and governance processes to effectively support program management and delivery.” Given the pandemic, it is unlikely that this and other recommendations were fully acted upon.

So while IRCC, in its 2022-23 departmental plan, anticipated increased passport demand as travel restrictions were relaxed and Canadians resumed travel — “Forecasts predict that a recovery to pre-COVID-19 demand will begin in Spring of 2022” — this analysis was not acted upon by Service Canada, resulting in the delays we are seeing today.

Analysis by others confirms that while demand has increased significantly, it remains only about 55 per cent of pre-pandemic demand, highlighting the degree that Service Canada has failed to provide timely service.

Other consequences of these unclear accountabilities and responsibilities, along with weak management, include the absence of regularly published passport data on the open government portal website (also flagged in the 2020 IRCC evaluation), and the fact that the last Passport Canada annual report dates from 2017-18. The departmental plans of both IRCC and Employment and Social Development Canada have minimal details on the passport program.

While attention has understandably been placed on Service Canada as the public face of the delays, more attention needs to be placed on IRCC for failing to exercise policy and program oversight for passports. Unfortunately, this adds to IRCC management failings — as the large backlogs in temporary and permanent immigration, along with citizenship, attest.

These short-term problems cast doubt on the ability of IRCC and Service Canada to deliver on current passport modernization initiatives, particularly a new passport issuance platform to replace the current IT infrastructure and online applications. Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould has floated a longer-term goal of issuing “passports to people as they get their citizenship.” It’s a meaningful and overdue improvement, but highly improbable given the complexity of the IRCC/Service Canada relationship.

Passport delays are not the only government implementation problems being encountered by Canadians. Airport customs and screening delays are a related element impacting Canadians wishing to travel again, whether to see loved ones or to discover the world.

Despite the success of pandemic financial measures and vaccination efforts, these various delays are adding to a general sense of government not being able to deliver on its core responsibilities. 

This risks further undermining trust in government and public institutions. The government needs to focus as much on service delivery and implementation aspects as on policy and program development.

Source: Passport delays risk undermining our trust in government

Ibbitson: Ottawa needs to catch up to the private sector in digitalizing its operations

Good column. A real challenge that he identifies, an institutional and cultural one, is changing the culture from one focussed on policy and program development to one focused on citizen-centred service.

The original concept for Service Canada to do just that was smothered by senior leadership in the public service, dominated by the policy folks, who had understandable worries regarding the risks involved in such reversal of hierarchies.

But still a goal worth pursuing:

“Taking out the trash” refers to governments burying awkward news by announcing it late on a Friday afternoon, when journalists and opposition politicians have finished their regular duties and are preparing for the weekend. The Liberals have taken this dishonourable practice to a whole new level.

On Saturday morning, the federal government announced a new task force of cabinet ministers to address backlogs at government offices.

“The delays in immigration application and passport processing are unacceptable and the Government of Canada is urgently working to resolve them as soon as possible,” the release stated.

To deliver such news, not on a Friday afternoon, but on a Saturday morning, and on the St. Jean Baptiste Day holiday weekend, right after the House of Commons has risen for the summer (which means no Question Period for months), and while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is overseas – that’s some trash that needed taking out.

There are both temporary and deep-seated reasons for these backlogs and for interminable lineups at airports.

The waning of the pandemic has resulted in distortions, from sudden surges in travel to rising inflation. All governments are struggling to adjust.

But there are deeper issues. As the baby boomers retire, labour shortages are appearing in all sectors.

In the competition for workers, the federal public service is able to offer job security and handsome benefits. But bureaucrats are bureaucracies, and many workers prefer the more dynamic environment of the private sector. At the federal level, the bilingualism requirement for many positions can also be a liability.

It’s more than that, though. The federal public service is Sears and the world is Amazon.

To respond to the surge in passport applications, Families Minister Karina Gould told the CBC’s Rosemary Barton, “we’ve hired 600 new people to work in the passport section since January. We’re hiring an additional 600.”

To any problem, this government’s solution is: hire more people. Between 2010 and 2015, while the Conservatives were in office, the federal public service shrank from 283,000 workers to 257,000. On Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s watch, it has grown to 320,000, as of 2021. That’s a huge increase.

Meanwhile, the backlog of potential immigrants waiting to hear if their application has been accepted has ballooned to 2.4 million people. Airports are jammed with travellers waiting to board a flight. And people have been lining up at passport offices for days.

And while those backlogs will go away, the red tape that everyone has been complaining about for years won’t. Increasing the size of the public service has not increased its efficiency. Quite the opposite.

Corporations must adjust to changing circumstances or risk going out of business. Sears could not adapt to the digital efficiency of Amazon. But the federal public service is a monopoly, and resists innovation.

When dealing with the federal government, why is so much paper involved? Why do you often have to visit an office? Why are things sent through the mail? Why are wait times so long even in normal conditions? Ottawa is a generation behind the private sector in digitalizing its operations.

The relentless push to concentrate power in the centre also hampers service delivery. Front-line workers need the authority to make decisions, even if mistakes sometimes embarrass the government. Instead, authority is concentrated in the Privy Council and Prime Minister’s offices, creating further delay.

There’s another issue, one specific to this Liberal government. It considers announcing services more important than delivering them. Every budget contains a new child-care program or a new business development bank. It doesn’t contain mechanisms for delivering new and existing services more efficiently.

The federal government doesn’t need more people, it needs fewer people and more software.

Public service reform must start with a relentless focus on serving the customer, also known as the citizen. Reform means measuring the performance of the public service primarily through the lens of customer satisfaction.

Someday, the federal government will have to tackle this problem root and branch. Because the labour shortages are only going to worsen. The backlogs are only going to grow. People are going to get angrier. And no ad hoc task force will accomplish anything, Including this one.

Source: Ottawa needs to catch up to the private sector in digitalizing its operations