Canadian ISIL suspect with ties to Chatham could settle in Ottawa after repatriation

Sigh… An overly sympathetic treatment of an apparent ISIL member, UK born and raised, whose UK citizenship revocation allowed the UK government to “offload” him to Canada, despite his having never lived here. While I understand the desire of parents to do everything for their son, government should appeal this particular case (a Canadian is a Canadian need not necessarily be deemed a Canadian in cases such as this):

An activist working with the family of an alleged terrorist connected to Chatham and held for the past five years in Syria says Jack Letts could wind up living in Ottawa with his mother if he’s brought back to Canada.

Letts, a former British national nicknamed “Jihadi Jack” by the media there, is one of four Canadian men a court ruled last week must be repatriated to Canada. Stripped of his U.K. citizenship by the British government for alleged ties to ISIL, the Oxford-born Letts still retains a Canadian citizenship through his father, who is originally from the Chatham-Kent region but now lives in England.
Matthew Behrens, an advocate with the group Stop Canadian Involvement In Torture, which has been working with the Letts family on their repatriation efforts, said the “hope is that he will join his mom in Ottawa”He said Letts’ mother, Sally Lane, moved to the nation’s capital a few years ago after her son was stripped of his British citizenship. Behrens said Lane decided to move to Ottawa to maintain pressure on the Canadian government to bring her son home “because Jack is a Canadian citizen who has a right to return here.”

Source: Canadian ISIL suspect with ties to Chatham could settle in Ottawa after repatriation

Court orders government to repatriate 4 Canadian men detained in Syria

Of note. One of the arguments used against the previous government’s citizenship legislation revocation provision was that countries would “offload” their problem citizens to other countries. Jack Letts, a Canadian citizen by descent had his British citizenship revoked, forcing Canada to be responsible, despite him having minimal ties.

Gurski is likely correct that none of the returnees will ever be prosecuted given difficulties in obtaining evidence and witnesses:

The Federal Court has ordered the government to repatriate four Canadian men currently being held in northeastern Syria.

The Canadians are among a number of foreign nationals in Syrian prisons for suspected ISIS members that are run by the Kurdish forces that reclaimed the war-torn region from the extremist group.

Family members of 23 detained Canadians — four men, six women and 13 children — had asked the court to order the government to arrange for their return. They argued that refusing to do so would violate their charter rights.

The government agreed Thursday to move forward on repatriating the 19 Canadian women and children.

In the written decision, the judge cited the conditions of the prison and the fact that the men haven’t been charged and brought to trial.

“The conditions of the … men are even more dire than those of the women and children who Canada has just agreed to repatriate,” the decision reads.

“There is no evidence any of them have been tried or convicted, let alone tried in a manner recognized or sanctioned by international law.”

The judge also noted that the court was not asked to rule on why the applicants went to the region and that the government didn’t provide evidence that they took part in terrorist activities.

Lawrence Greenspon, the lawyer for most of the applicants, said that if there is any evidence the Canadians took part in terrorist activities, Canada should put them on trial here.

“These are Canadian citizens, they are being unlawfully, arbitrarily detained in either detention camps or in prisons, they haven’t been charged with anything,” Greenspon told CBC.

“There’s no likelihood that they’re ever going to be charged with anything over there. So bring them home.”

Jack Letts, who has been imprisoned in Syria for more than four years after allegedly joining ISIS, is among the four men.

Letts admitted in a 2019 interview to joining ISIS in Syria. His family says he made that admission under duress and there is no evidence that he ever fought for the group.

The former British-Canadian dual citizen, who was born and raised in Oxford, U.K., had his British citizenship revoked three years ago, leaving the Canadian government as his only viable means of escaping.

Barbara Jackman, the lawyer representing the Letts family, told CBC on Thursday that it is a violation of the detainees’ human rights to hold them without trial.

“This case was based on the human rights that are detained abroad and whether Canada, as a country, is obligated to help them,” she said.

Former CSIS analyst Phil Gurski told CBC News Network on Thursday that he doubts any of the adults returning would face justice for any crimes they may have committed.

“The witnesses aren’t here, the evidence isn’t here,” he told host Natasha Fatah. “As a Canadian citizen, I’m outraged that people are going to get away with it.”

Gurski said it would also put extra pressure on Canada’s intelligence bodies to monitor the individuals that do return.

In a statement Saturday, Global Affairs Canada said the department is reviewing the decision.

“The safety and security of Canadians is our government’s top priority. We remain committed to taking a robust approach to this issue.”

Source: Court orders government to repatriate 4 Canadian men detained in Syria

COVID-19 Immigration Effects – November 2022 update

The government continues to make progress on backlogs but the significant still not meeting service standards: temporary residence 44 percent, permanent residence 45 percent, citizenship 72 percent, visitor visas 70 percent in backlog (November 30 data).

PRs: Decrease compared to October. YTD 412,000,  2021 same period 360,000. Of note, an ongoing and dramatic drop in TR2PR transitions, from 251,000 in 2021 to 172,000 in 2022 YTD. Quebec YTD 63,000, 2021 same period 44,000 (despite public debates).

TRs/IMP: Flat compared to October. YTD 446,000, 2021 same period, 305,000.

TRs/TFWP: Slight decrease compared to October. YTD 133,000, 2021 same period 105,000.

Students: Flat compared to October. YTD 479,000, 2021 same period 415,000.

Asylum claimants: Small increase compared to October. YTD 80,000, 2021 same period 19,000.

Settlement Services (July): Decrease compared to June. YTD 1,031,000, 2021 same period 918,000.

Citizenship: Increase compared to October. YTD 347,000, 2021 same period 115,000.

Visitor Visas. Increase compared to October. YTD 1,097,000, 2021 same period 194,000.

Cyprus so far strips 222 people of ‘golden passports’

Cyprus’s program was the poster child of corrupt citizenship-by-investment programs (not alone…):

The government of Cyprus has stripped 222 wealthy investors and their family members of citizenship, an official said Wednesday, part of efforts to mend a reputation sullied by an investment-for-passports program that an inquiry found had unlawfully granted citizenships in hundreds of instances.

Deputy government spokeswoman Niovi Parisinou said the figure includes 63 investors and 159 of their relatives, including spouses, children and parents.

Over its 13-year run, the once lucrative and now-defunct program repeatedly broke its own rules and granted Cypriot passports to ineligible investors. Some allegedly committed criminal and other offenses while becoming citizens of the Mediterranean island nation.

A torrent of corruption accusations followed an undercover TV report in 2020 that allegedly showed the parliamentary speaker and a powerful lawmaker claiming they could skirt the rules to grant citizenship to a fictitious Chinese investor supposedly convicted of fraud in his country.

Source: Cyprus so far strips 222 people of ‘golden passports’

Crise des passeports: Jusqu’à deux fois moins d’employés en 2022

Of note. See my earlier op-ed Passport delays risk undermining our trust in government on the complexity of linkages between IRCC, responsible for passport policy, and Service Canada, responsible for delivery, and the failure of both to anticipate demand even if official planning documents expected a surge once travel restrictions lifted:

Ottawa a réduit considérablement les effectifs affectés au traitement des demandes de passeport entre 2018 et 2021. Résultat : ils étaient presque deux fois moins au début de 2022 pour répondre aux nombreuses demandes des Canadiens désireux de voyager après la levée des principales mesures de restriction pour les déplacements à l’étranger.

Selon des données obtenues par La Presse en vertu de la Loi sur l’accès à l’information auprès d’Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada, 1512 fonctionnaires étaient chargés de répondre aux demandes de passeport au début de l’année 2018. On n’en comptait plus que 893 en 2021, un nombre qui est passé à 1161 au cours de l’année suivante.

Cette baisse substantielle des effectifs a nui considérablement à la capacité de Passeport Canada de traiter le flot de demandes au cours de l’été 2022, signale Yvon Barrière, vice-président exécutif régional Québec à l’Alliance de la fonction publique du Canada (AFPC). « On avait entre 40 et 50 % de personnel en moins », précise-t-il.

Où sont allés tous ces employés ? Un très grand nombre ont été affectés à d’autres services au plus fort de la pandémie, alors que des mesures de restriction limitaient de façon importante les voyages à l’étranger. De nombreux fonctionnaires de Passeport Canada ont notamment travaillé au traitement des demandes de prestation canadienne d’urgence (PCU) au moment où la COVID-19 forçait l’arrêt de nombreux secteurs d’activité économique.

« Chaque fois qu’il y avait un nouveau programme d’aide aux citoyens, le gouvernement avait tendance à aller chercher du personnel à l’Agence du revenu, à l’Immigration et aux passeports. »

– Yvon Barrière, vice-président exécutif régional Québec à l’Alliance de la fonction publique du Canada

UN AN ET DEMI DE RETARD

Mais selon M. Barrière, la diminution des effectifs n’est pas la seule cause de la crise des passeports qui a fait les manchettes au cours de l’été 2022. Un retard important dans le traitement des demandes au plus fort de la pandémie a aussi aggravé la situation.

« Les demandes de passeport, alors que les gens ne peuvent pas voyager, ils peuvent patienter. Laissez-les de côté, disaient les gestionnaires », indique M. Barrière, qui estime qu’on a ainsi cumulé jusqu’à un an et demi de retard dans le traitement des demandes.

« Tous les ingrédients étaient là pour ce qu’on a connu [à l’été 2022] », soutient-il. Au moment où il n’y avait plus de restrictions pour voyager à l’étranger, les employés se sont donc retrouvés à traiter une hausse considérable de demandes de nouveaux passeports ou de renouvellement. Tout cela avec un retard important cumulé dans les deux années précédentes.

« Ils n’ont pas vu venir la crise », plaide Yvon Barrière. Il estime pourtant que celle-ci était parfaitement prévisible. « Si les gestionnaires avaient prévu le coup, on n’aurait pas eu les files d’attente qu’on a connues », soutient-il.

Quand Ottawa a entrepris d’embaucher du personnel face au flot de demandes, la situation ne s’est pas nécessairement améliorée, du moins pas à court terme. « Il fallait former les employés et souvent, on prenait les meilleurs pour les former. Ils n’avaient pas le temps de traiter les demandes. »

Le représentant syndical rejette par ailleurs l’argument voulant que le grand nombre d’employés en télétravail au cours des trois dernières années ait pu ralentir le traitement des demandes de passeport.

Selon les données obtenues par La Presse, au moins 80 % du personnel traitant les demandes de passeport a travaillé à distance en 2020, 2021 et 2022. « Les gens ont des quotas, ils doivent traiter un certain nombre de demandes chaque jour, qu’ils soient à la maison ou au bureau », explique Yvon Barrière.

« ILS ONT EU LEUR LEÇON »

La majorité des employés prêtés à d’autres services ont été rapatriés, estime-t-il, jugeant que le retard dans le traitement des demandes a été comblé.

« Ils ont eu leur leçon. Ils sont en train de reprendre le contrôle. On ne devrait pas vivre de nouvelle crise », conclut-il.

Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada n’a pas donné suite aux questions de La Presse, nous invitant à écrire à Emploi et Développement social Canada (EDSC). En réponse à notre courriel, EDSC a précisé ne pas être en mesure de répondre à nos questions vendredi.

Source: Crise des passeports: Jusqu’à deux fois moins d’employés en 2022

Demand for French Citizenship Soars Among Israelis After …

Of interest. More than just general interest given applications, not just enquiries, as was largely the case with many Americans following the Trump 2016 election:

The French embassy in Israel has witnessed a 13 per cent increase in applications for citizenship, following the November elections where the most-right wing and religious government the country has seen so far, was installed.

According to Zaman Israel, a total of 1,210 applications recorded in October reached 1,365 in November, with data for December anticipated to be even higher. The French Embassy in Israel said that nearly 60 per cent of those applying for citizenship are doing so for the first time. This is the highest rate for Israelis seeking French citizenship ever recorded, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

A source further reveals applications for French citizenship among Israelis have increased by almost 45 per cent compared to last year, with this share risking to be higher if the COVID-19 pandemic wouldn’t occur in 2021.

However, the demand for foreign citizenship among Israelis is noticed in other EU countries too, especially in Portugal. According to Dror Hayek, owner of a law firm designated to obtain Portuguese citizenship, the authorities in Portugal have recorded a 68 per cent increase in such applications. In October, a total of 100 applications were filed, with these rates reaching 168 in the following month.

He also pointed out the number of applications sixfold on the day after the election and nearly 115 applications were filed during December.

Since 2013, descendants of Sephardic Jews were eligible for naturalization in Portugal, following passed legislation that intended to welcome back those that were subject to Inquisition in Spain and Portugal during the 16th century. During this period, thousands of Jews were forced to emigrate or hide their Jewish identity.

However, due to a controversy over how Jewish Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich was able to obtain citizenship in Portugal, the government suspended the law and authorities are only processing past applications.

“From April to September, there was a mad rush for Portuguese passports in order to have time to issue them before the law changed. Since September, we have been working only on the promotion of old applications and granting citizenship to spouses and children,” Hayek noted.

On the other hand, the number of applications for German citizenship, as Toti Eschbel, a lawyer specializing in European citizenship pointed out, rose by ten per cent in the last two months. Similarly, a ten per cent increase in applications for Polish citizenship has been reported by experts on the field, while the Romanian embassy says no noticeable increases have been recorded but the rates for Romanian citizenship were always high as there is a significant number of Israelis of Romanian origin and rights to Romanian citizenship.

Source: Demand for French Citizenship Soars Among Israelis After …

Saudi Arabia amends criteria to grant citizenship – World

Of note:
The Saudi Arabian Nationality System has undergone a recent changeA change to Article 8 of the Saudi Arabian Nationality System was made, which gives the Prime Minister (PM) the power to confer citizenship. It has been authorised by higher authorities in the Kingdom.

The term “by decision of the Minister of Interior” in Article 8 was changed to “by an order of the Prime Minister based on Minister of Interior proposal” post revision.

According to Article 8 of the Saudi Arabian Nationality System “A person who is born in the Kingdom to a foreign father and a Saudi mother may be granted Saudi citizenship if certain requirements are met.”

The requirements are that he must be fluent in Arabic, have the status of permanent residency in the Kingdom when he reaches legal age, be of good behaviour and sound character, and should have never been convicted of a crime or sentenced to more than six months in prison for an immoral act.

Source: Saudi Arabia amends criteria to grant citizenship – World

Mason: We have questions about Pierre Poilievre’s passport story

Good thorough exposé. Clever gimmicks need to reflect the reality, and be confirmed by the reality. To date, neither “True North” or Rebel Media have picked up Polievre’s claims:

Have you heard the one about the guy from Calgary who couldn’t attend his own wedding in Cuba because he didn’t have a passport?

Even better – it was all Justin Trudeau’s fault.

This remarkable tale, with an emphasis on tale, comes courtesy of the great storyteller himself, Pierre Poilievre. The federal Conservative Leader posted a video online last week in which he chronicled a random meeting he had recently at the Ottawa airport with a man who identified himself as Mustafa, from Calgary.

When Mr. Poilievre asked what he was doing in Ottawa, Mustafa said he was there to get a passport. “You can get a passport in Calgary,” the Opposition leader told the man. “I thought so too, but I applied 10 months ago and it became desperate because I have a wedding in Cuba for myself and I need to get my passport to get there.”

“When’s your wedding?” Mr. Poilievre apparently said.

Dramatic pause.

“Yesterday,” Mustafa is said to have answered.

When Mr. Poilievre asked where the bride-to-be was, Mustafa said she was in Cuba waiting for him with 20 of his best friends.

“This is how everything operates with Justin Trudeau,” Mr. Poilievre says into the camera. “People still waiting 10 months for a passport.”

I have questions. Many others have questions too. But I guess my first one is: Does Mustafa actually exist? Because I have suspicions and I’m not the only one.

After watching Mr. Poilievre’s video, which he posted on Twitter, I put a call out on the social media platform for anyone who had more information on the man named Mustafa. Did anyone know him or know anything about his circumstances? I directed the question to Mr. Poilievre’s office as well. The last time I looked, my tweet had almost 254,000 views and incited the hashtag #whereisMustafa. There was nothing from anyone who could substantiate any part of the story. (Many expressed skepticism about it.) However, plenty of people relayed how quickly they were able to get their passports after applying. Some in less than 10 days.

But let’s assume for the moment Mustafa does exist. My first question to him would be: why would you organize a wedding in Cuba and send your bride-to-be and all your friends there when you didn’t have a passport? I mean, seriously. Many would say Mustafa was pretty dumb to organize a destination wedding when he didn’t have the necessary documents to attend it.

There were avenues he could have explored to expedite the processing time for his application. He could have gone to a passport office, explained his circumstances, and paid extra to get it quicker. He could have contacted his MP. Mostly, he could have said to his fiancée: “You know, we should hold off until I actually have my passport in hand.”

Regardless, it’s a pretty poor example for Mr. Poilievre to be holding up of why “everything is broken in this country.”

It also has echoes of MP Mark Strahl’s infamous constituent “Briane,” the single mom from Chilliwack who the Conservative politician insisted had her bank account frozen over a $50 donation she made to the Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa. However, the RCMP and the finance ministry cast doubts on the story and Mr. Strahl refused to provide any further details about her identity.

But back to his boss.

At some point Mr. Poilievre needs to begin showing that he is prime ministerial material, that he has the gravitas to ascend to such an important position. Because up to now, he’s been one of the least serious Conservative leaders we have seen in some time.

Yes, he’s articulate and can make a great video. But mostly he’s demonstrated an ability to whip up fear and stoke anger. Every conceivable problem in this country he lays at the feet of Mr. Trudeau. His predecessor, Erin O’Toole, recently said that some of the “hyperaggressive” rhetoric his party has been associated with in the last while is slowly “normalizing rage and damaging our democracy.”

He could have been looking straight into the eyes of Mr. Poilievre when he said it.

There are many things that the Liberal government in Ottawa can and should be criticized for. Its fiscal and monetary policy. Debt. Immigration policy. Our shrinking middle-power status. These are big, heady matters that demand a thoughtful critique, not gimmicky, attention-getting videos that don’t offer solutions but are seemingly designed solely to assign blame and agitate the masses.

Whether Mustafa actually exists is not the question here. The question is why is Pierre Poilievre talking about him in the first place?

Source: We have questions about Pierre Poilievre’s passport story

The world’s most powerful passport for 2023 revealed

The usual marketing by Henley & Partners. Bit of a silly list as visa free travel is not the only reason the rich and ultra rich choose to obtain citizenship-by-investment:
A trio of Asian passports offer their holders greater global travel freedom than those of any other countries, according to a new quarterly report released by London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm Henley & Partners.
Japanese citizens enjoy visa-free or visa-on-demand access to a record 193 destinations around the world, just ahead of Singapore and South Korea whose citizens can freely visit 192.
And now that Asia-Pacific is opening up post-Covid, its citizens are more likely to be making use of that travel freedom again.
Global travel is now at around 75% of pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest release by Henley Passport Index, which is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Below the Asian top three, a glut of European countries sit near the top of the leaderboard. Germany and Spain are tied on 190 destinations, followed by Finland, Italy, Luxembourg on 189.
Then there’s Austria, Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden all tied in fifth place, while France, Ireland, Portugal and United Kingdom are at No. 6.
New Zealand and the United States make an appearance at No. 7, alongside Belgium, Norway, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.
Afghan nationals sit at the bottom of the index once again, and can access just 27 countries without requiring a visa in advance.

Other indexes

Henley & Partner’s list is one of several indexes created by financial firms to rank global passports according to the access they provide to their citizens.
The Henley Passport Index ranks 199 passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa. It’s updated in real time throughout the year, as and when visa policy changes come into effect.
Arton Capital’s Passport Index takes into consideration the passports of 193 United Nations member countries and six territories — ROC Taiwan, Macau (SAR China), Hong Kong (SAR China), Kosovo, Palestinian Territory and the Vatican. Territories annexed to other countries are excluded.
It’s also updated in real time throughout the year, but its data is gathered by close monitoring of individual governments’ portals. It’s a tool “for people who travel, to provide accurate, simple-to-acess information for their travel needs,” Arton Capital’s founder Armand Arton told CNN in December.
Arton’s Global Passport Power Rank 2023 puts the United Arab Emirates in the top spot, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 181.
As for second place, that’s held by 11 countries, most of which are in Europe: Germany, Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, Spain, France, Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and South Korea.
The United States and the UK are at No.3, alongside Denmark, Belgium, Portugal, Norway, Poland, Ireland and New Zealand.

The best passports to hold in 2023, according to the Henley Passport Index

1. Japan (193 destinations)
2. Singapore, South Korea (192 destinations)
3. Germany, Spain (190 destinations)
4. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg (189 destinations)
5. Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden (188 destinations)
6. France, Ireland, Portugal, United Kingdom (187 destinations)
7. Belgium, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, United States, Czech Republic (186 destinations)
8. Australia, Canada, Greece, Malta (185 destinations)
9. Hungary, Poland (184 destinations)
10. Lithuania, Slovakia (183 destinations)

The worst passports to hold in 2023, according to the Henley Passport Index

Several countries around the world have visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 40 or fewer countries. These include:
102. North Korea (40 destinations)
103. Nepal, Palestinian territory (38 destinations)
104. Somalia (35 destinations)
105. Yemen (34 destinations)
106. Pakistan (32 destinations)
107. Syria (30 destinations)
108. Iraq (29 destinations)
109. Afghanistan (27 destinations)

Source: The world’s most powerful passport for 2023 revealed

ICYMI: N.S. judge banishes dual U.S.-Canadian citizen from country for 2 years, calls ruling ‘extremely extraordinary’

Strange case of banishment, share concerns limitation of mobility and right of return rights:

A provincial court judge in Shelburne, N.S., has banished a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen from the country temporarily for five years in what he described as an “extremely extraordinary” sentencing.

Allen Desrosiers, 64, was charged with two counts of criminal harassment last month after he was accused of stalking a 25-year-old woman in Yarmouth on two occasions, in October and December respectively.

The RCMP also issued a public notification in December describing Desrosiers as a high-risk offender.

Source: N.S. judge banishes dual U.S.-Canadian citizen from country for 2 years, calls ruling ‘extremely extraordinary’