Why We Bear Witness: Speaking Uncomfortable Truths About Immigration

Good series of individual stories behind the numbers:

Of all the questions I get asked every day, the one that crystallizes just how simplistic and uninformed the conversation about immigration is this: “Why can’t you just get legal?”

You ask what you don’t know. When it comes to immigration, most Americans I’ve met across the country—online and offline, from people calling for my deportation to people who want me to stay—don’t know a whole lot. Even journalists who cover the issue struggle to report and frame it outside a largely partisan, pro/anti-immigrant lens, too often using loaded language (“amnesty,” “anchor babies,” “chain migration”) that limits knowledge rather than expands it.

The search for genuine dialogue—the need for complexity and nuance—is manifested to great effect in We Are Witnesses: Becoming an American. With this video series, The Marshall Project has carefully curated a selection of stories that demonstrate the multiple dimensions of what we refer to singularly as “immigration.” The straight-to-camera testimonies don’t fit the typical legal vs. illegal binary that characterizes much of the discourse. The stories they tell are not laden with “talking points” that signal deference to any ideology. They tell truths that challenge and illuminate our understanding of how we got to where we are.

Teofilo Chavez, an undocumented minor from Honduras.

A 14-year-old in Honduras swam across rivers in search of a better life. He learned that when Border Patrol catches a minor, they don’t return them to where they came from—they help them look for their relatives in the United States. “So, I started looking for the Border Patrol,” Teofilo Chavez says. “I basically gave myself to them.”

Born in South Korea, Youngmin Lo arrived in the United States on a student visa. He lost his legal status when he started working to support himself. “You’re not supposed to work on a student visa. Once you lose your status, it’s done,” said Lo, who has been undocumented for 12 years. Asian immigrants—arriving at airports, not at the southern border—constitute a growing undocumented population. An estimated one out of seven Asian immigrants is here illegally.

Alena Sandimirova couldn’t be herself in Russia, where lesbianism is akin to pedophilia. She dreamed of living in the United States and managed to obtain a visa to move here. When the visa expired, she decided to stay illegally before realizing she could apply for asylum. “The heaviest weight fell from my shoulders,” she said, recalling the moment she became an American citizen. “I can breathe, fully.”

Fleeing political persecution, the Villacis-Guerrero family—Juan, Liany, and their twin daughters—left Colombia, where Liany’s family was targeted for being active in politics. Her father was kidnapped and she feared for her daughters’ security. The twins qualified for the Deferred Action and Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides a two-year temporary reprieve from deportation. But after a routine annual check-in with immigration officers, Juan was detained and then deported. Liany was deported, too. “They built all of this for us,” says one of the twins. “Now, they have to go.”

No matter how many times I am asked, “Why don’t you just get in line?” I can only respond one way: For most of us, there is no line.

I’ve spent my life grappling with the dominant narratives that have defined immigration since arriving in the United States in 1993. Born in the Philippines, I was sent by my mother to live with her parents, both legal immigrants who became naturalized citizens, in Mountain View, California, when I was 12. I discovered that I was “illegal”—that’s what the media called us and still calls us—when I tried to get a driver’s license at age 16. My grandfather explained that he couldn’t find a way to bring me here legally, so he saved up $4,500, a huge sum for a security guard who lived paycheck to paycheck, to pay a smuggler who got me fake papers. Since that realization 21 years ago, I have been living in some kind of purgatory, subjected to rules I didn’t create, my circumstances limited by documents I do not have and laws that many Americans, who had the luck of being born into American citizenship, struggle to articulate. Telling my story—insisting on its specificity to illuminate what is universal—has been a source of liberation.

In that vein, I saw my own story reflected in the stories captured in this video series. The trauma of family separation. The need to create a home for yourself even if you don’t feel at home. The resilience that is a central part of becoming American, whatever “American” may mean to you.

The videos play as a kind of a fugue, playing off each other, composing a melody amidst the dissonance. After watching Lee Wang, a journalist-turned-immigration lawyer, explain how long-time permanent legal residents are dragged into the deportation system, we meet Jose Molina, who has lived in the United States since he was a year old. He’s a legal permanent resident who in the late 1990s was locked up for three years after being convicted of assault. Years later, as his wife, daughter, and son looked on, he was detained and faced deportation. “When ICE came to my door, I just couldn’t believe it,” Molina says. “I’m a permanent resident. I’m not undocumented. They handcuffed me at my home.”

As I watched David Ward, a former Border Patrol agent, talk about how immigration is “continually being exploited by people that just can’t follow the law,” I hoped he would watch the video of Paul Schmidt, a former immigration judge who interpreted the laws, deciding the fate of many immigrants and refugees. “There’s no doubt about the fact that I’ve made mistakes,” says Schmidt, who served from 2003 to 2016. “I probably have sent some people home that I should have allowed to stay, and I probably have allowed some people to stay that maybe weren’t telling me the whole truth, but I couldn’t figure it out.”

Together, this video series accomplishes a task we have largely avoided: having an uncomfortable but truthful conversation about immigration. James Baldwin, who often described himself as a “witness,” said that “nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Let us face it, together.

Jose Antonio Vargas, the founder of Define American, is the author of “Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen.” For the release of We Are Witnesses: Becoming An American, The Marshall Project asked Vargas to reflect on how the film series explores the immigrant experience in America, including his own.

Source: Why We Bear Witness: Speaking Uncomfortable Truths About Immigration

USA: A Judge Blocked the Census From Asking About Citizenship. Here’s Why It Matters

One of the better analysis that I have seen:

A federal judge in New York has blocked the Trump Administration from adding a question about citizenship status to the 2020 Census, marking a victory for critics who have said the question is unnecessary and is intended to decrease the number of immigrants and minorities counted in the decennial survey.

The ruling is just the first in a series of cases on the issue, which has significant implications for future elections, political representation at every level and federal funding decisions for the next decade. The Trump Administration is also facing five other lawsuits over the Census question, and the battle is expected to end up at the Supreme Court.

But U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman’s decision on Tuesday was an important moment. The suit’s plaintiffs — a collection of immigrant advocacy groups, states and local officials — argued that the Trump Administration tried to add the citizenship question to intentionally dissuade immigrants from responding to the survey. The U.S. Census, which is conducted every 10 years, has not included a question about citizenship since 1950. More detailed sampling surveys have done so, but those go out to far fewer households.

Furman ruled that the way Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross added the question was “arbitrary and capricious” and violated administrative procedures.

“He failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices,” Furman wrote in his 227-page decision.

The judge also ruled that Ross’s explanation for the citizenship change — that the Justice Department said it was needed to help enforce the Voting Rights Act — was “pretextual.”

Ross initially offered voting rights enforcement as his official explanation, but documents released as part of the ongoing lawsuits revealed that he began pushing the issue on his own soon after becoming Commerce Secretary.

The Justice Department said it was disappointed in the ruling, while advocacy groups like the ACLU cheered the decision.

“This ruling is a forceful rebuke of the Trump administration’s attempt to weaponize the census for an attack on immigrant communities,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “The evidence at trial, including from the government’s own witness, exposed how adding a citizenship question would wreck the once-in-a-decade count of the nation’s population. The inevitable result would have been — and the administration’s clear intent was — to strip federal resources and political representation from those needing it most.”

As this was the first ruling in the cases against the citizenship question, evidence that came out during the trial could encourage those pursuing similar lawsuits, said William H. Frey, a demographer and expert on the Census at the Brookings Institution.

“This is good news for people who want to have a Census that represents America,” Frey told TIME. “You want to make sure that all groups are represented and it helps the proper apportionment of Congress, it helps federal spending that is allocated to different groups around the country.”

If immigrants and other minorities avoid responding to the census because of a question about citizenship, experts, including the Census Bureau itself, say it would likely result in a survey that significantly undercounts those populations.

The Census provides crucial data that is used for a wide variety of decisions, including how many representatives each state sends to Congress and how much federal money different areas receive for everything from highway funds to Medicaid. The data can also affect state representation and even the Electoral College, which is based on Congressional delegations.

The private sector often relies on Census numbers as well for decisions about where to open stores or where to base factories and other employment opportunities, Frey notes.

“The Constitution says that we need to count everyone in the United States and I think that as a scientist, as a demographer, as someone who has been doing this for a long time, the research is pretty unequivocal that that’s going to not be done if the citizenship question is on there,” he said.

Source: A Judge Blocked the Census From Asking About Citizenship. Here’s Why It Matters

Did Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed jump the queue with her speedy resettlement to Canada?

Good overview on the process followed:

Did Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun jump the queue over other refugees when Canada quickly opened its doors to the Saudi teen who was fleeing an allegedly abusive family?

Not according to Canadian immigration officials and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

While Rahaf’s plea for help on social media got her international headlines and drew the attention of the UNHCR to her plight, the emergency rescue effort was by no means unique — though the warm embrace by a foreign minister at the airport may be.

According to immigration officials, some 200 people are processed under Canada’s Urgent Protection Program each year, with about 50 resettled within the rapid timelines seen in Rahaf’s case. The 18-year-old arrived in Toronto Saturday — accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland — after a tumultuous week that began with Rahaf escaping from her family during a trip to Kuwait. Rahaf then flew to Bangkok, where she was detained by Thai authorities who prepared to deport her to Saudi Arabia, where she feared for her life.

“Canada has the flexibility to respond quickly to individual emergency situations for a small number of refugees,” said immigration department spokesperson Beatrice Fenelon. “These individuals are resettled on an expedited basis due to their particular circumstances.”

In a news conference in Toronto Tuesday, Rahaf, who has dropped her last name after she learned on social media that her family has disowned her, admitted she was “lucky.”

“I know that there are unlucky women who disappeared after trying to escape or who could not do anything to change their reality,” she told reporters.

People in need of protection cannot apply directly to the special Canadian program and requests must be made by referral organizations, such as the UNHCR.

Since Rahaf’s speedy resettlement to Canada — less than a week after she started a Twitter campaign while barricaded inside her hotel room — she has faced backlash not only from internet trolls criticizing her as a disgrace to her family and Islam but also from refugee supporters accusing her of being a queue jumper.

“A Syrian refugee from a war zone who lost everything is not welcome in the west. But a person from a golden palace in Saudi-Arabia who says ‘I am not a Muslim anymore’ is a hero and very welcome. Can someone explain this to me?” Arnoud van Doorn, a member of The Hague City Council in the Netherlands, asked on Twitter.

In Rahaf’s case, the UNHCR dispatched a team to her hotel room in Bangkok for an emergency resettlement assessment after learning from media reports that the teenager was going to be handed over to her family, who were en route to Thailand and planned to take her back to Saudi Arabia.

Among the 25.4 million refugees worldwide, less than 1 per cent end up being resettled, many of them after years in limbo.

“Emergency resettlement is extremely rare,” noted Jean-Nicolas Beuze, the UNHCR representative to Canada. “Based on agreed-upon criteria, we refer these cases to the 30 countries that offer resettlement programs. There are many situations. It could be for the lack of medical care or the fear of torture if someone is returned to the country of origin.”

At her hotel in Bangkok, Rahaf was given a formal interview where she was asked to provide the details and evidence to substantiate her claims of mental and physical abuse by her family. After she got her UNHCR refugee designation, she underwent a thorough security and criminal check, as well as a medical exam, before being admitted to Canada.

“Rahaf met those criteria and we referred her case to several countries. Canada was the fastest to respond. Rahaf can’t choose her destination. She didn’t jump any queue. It’s a different process with different criteria,” said Beuze. “It’s not a unique case, but it’s only unique because of all the media and social media attention.”

While some critics fear Rahaf’s case may set a precedent and open the floodgates for other Middle Eastern women to claim gender oppression, experts say resettlement is only available to those who make it outside their country of origin.

“The assumption is your country can protect you. You become a refugee because you don’t get the protection and other countries need to step in,” said Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees. “Due to the notion of sovereignty, you can’t be a refugee in your own country.”

While praising Canada’s quick response to Rahaf’s situation, Dench said government officials must not politicize the refugee resettlement process by only prioritizing cases of those “who have the ears of the Prime Minister or Immigration Minister and are the favourite of the month of the media.”

According to the UNHCR, 1.4 million refugees have been identified for resettlement in 2019, but only 80,000 spots are available, including 11,000 in Canada.

Source: Did Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed jump the queue with her speedy resettlement to Canada?

Christie Blatchford has a nice column on her strong character and independence, somewhat spoiled by her last editorial comments on grief and trauma counsellors:

She is a psychologically sturdy, resourceful and strong-willed young woman, this Rahaf Mohammed, recent “urgent protection” case freshly arrived in Toronto from Saudi Arabia via Kuwait and Thailand.

“I want to be independent, travel, make my own decisions on education, a career or who and when I should marry,” she said Tuesday at a big press appearance at COSTi Immigrant Services in the city’s west end.

“I had no say in any of this,” Rahaf said. “Today, I can proudly say that I am capable of making all of those decisions.”

She spoke in Arabic, her words translated and read in English by her COSTI settlement worker, Saba Abbas.

But there is no doubt she wrote it, said COSTI executive director Mario Calla with a grin, acknowledging he has seen evidence of the ferocious independent spirit himself.

For instance, he said, inundated with media requests from across the globe, Rahaf was crystal clear that she would do three interviews (with the ABC Australia network, the CBC and Toronto Star) and that was it, because “ ‘I want to get on with my life,’” Calla said.

“We suggested a press conference,” he said and she agreed to write a statement.

“That statement was all her,” Calla said. “She’s been very clear.”

As she said in it, “I understand that everyone here and around the world wishes me well and would like to continue to hear about how I am doing, but I will not be conducting any more media interviews for the time being.

“I ask everyone to respect my wishes.

“I would like to start living a normal private life, just like any other young woman living in Canada. This starts with me getting help in my settlement process and of course, learning English!”

As a government-sponsored refugee, Rahaf is entitled to 12 months of support (worth almost as much as social assistance, Calla said, lest the amount fuel local resentment), and COSTI will help with English classes, getting her settled into temporary accommodation (first with a family, later on her own) and has hired security guards as protection.

In defying her family and leaving behind the repressive guardianship system of Saudi Arabia, which infantilizes women from cradle to grave and makes them dependent on male relatives (father, husband, brother, etc.) for every decision, the 18-year-old has potentially put herself in danger.

Any country brazen enough to arrange to murder one of its own, as Saudi officials have acknowledged doing to journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, has a long and lethal reach.

As well, Rahaf has been vilified in the Arab world, with the Kingdom insisting the entire business is a family matter blown out of proportion. Amid all the love she has received on social media, inevitably for this new media world, there comes a backlash, and she also has received some threats. She has left Islam.

And Rahaf’s family has apparently denounced her in a tweet of its own; even discussing this was painful for her in the interviews she did.

“She finds it very difficult,” Calla said after her brief appearance before the cameras. “She does not want to talk about those things.” So she decided, he said, fine, she’d pull the Band-Aid off in one fell swoop: “’I’ll get it out there’” (in the interviews) and be done with it.

She arrived in Canada last Saturday after sneaking out from under her family’s grasp on the last day of their holiday in Kuwait, hopping a plane to Bangkok, and then, with her father and brother apparently enroute to retrieve her, barricading herself in an airport hotel room and launching a desperate Twitter campaign begging for help.

She had the savvy of her age group, to harness social media. It’s new, but refugees have long been innovative. As Calla said, “It’s a complex world. People do everything and anything to try to save themselves.” Some sneak over borders; some jump into little boats and try to cross perilous oceans; a few, and probably soon a few more, use social media.

For all her determination and resourcefulness, she’s also just a teenager. The first order of business, Calla said, after she arrived was to go to the mall.

Rahaf had been expecting to end up in Australia, where she was also welcomed, but the bureaucracy there was slower moving, and on the advice of the UNHCR, she landed in Canada instead, wearing just a little skirt. She needed winter clothes.

“And a phone package,” Calla said, smiling. “We did that on Saturday.”

In her new country, press-gangs of grief counsellors and soothers are brought into high schools and colleges at the first hint of trauma, discomfort, even disrespect. The cultural assumption here is that we are fragile beings. So, Calla was asked if Rahaf is receiving psychological support.

“She is not, right now,” he said. “We do have services at COSTI … We have not seen any signs of distress in that sense.” In the longer term, he said, “for any refugee, the big challenge is the loss — family and friends and a culture that was familiar to them.”

In that sense, one of the country’s newest arrivals is like a delicious throwback to an older and more self-reliant Canada.

Stay tough, darling.

Source: Christie Blatchford: Stow the trauma counsellors, this tough runaway is doing fine on her own

This Ontario man has a warning for permanent residents: ‘Get your Canadian citizenship’

Good advice. Other advice, always travel with photocopies of key documents as having their numbers can simplify things.

The other interesting question is why Ruijter’s didn’t bother getting a Canadian passport despite living in Canada for so many years, given the requirement to renew PR cards every 5 years (may not have been requirement in the 1960s):

For almost 60 years, Cornelis Ruijter has lived as a permanent resident in Canada, having immigrated to the country with his 14 brothers and sisters in 1961.

The Barrie, Ont., man never bothered becoming a full Canadian citizen, but after a theft abroad left him stranded in Europe for five weeks, he has some advice for any other permanent residents.

“Get your Canadian citizenship and get your passport,” he said.

Until last year, when he travelled out of the country, Ruijter would bring his Netherlands passport and his permanent resident card, getting around without fail.

But on Nov. 27, while on a family trip in Italy, he says a thief stole both documents.

The identification card Ruijter received when entering the country in 1961. (Marilyn Ruyter)

According to the Canadian government’s website, permanent residents are required to have their permanent resident card or a permanent resident travel document to enter the country.

“Once that’s gone, you’re not getting back into Canada,” he said.

After returning to his native country of the Netherlands, tracking down the right offices and filling out the required paperwork, Ruijter arrived back in Toronto on Jan. 7.

Now, he wants to share his experience with other permanent residents who haven’t made their citizenship official.

After a theft abroad left Cornelis Ruijter without his Netherlands passport or his Canadian permanent resident’s card, he began a difficult process to get back to the country, and his family. 0:32

After a few calls, he realized it would take some time to replace them and left his family vacation to go to the Netherlands.

He found out he’d have to travel to Vienna to get a new permanent resident card, so instead he went through the steps to get a new Netherlands passport.

After showing his few remaining pieces of ID — his driver’s licence and his health card —  officials there processed a passport and had it to him within a week.

The passport then had to travel to Vienna to get a permanent resident stamp so Ruijter could re-enter Canada.

‘It can take months’

According to immigration lawyer Mario Bellissimo, five weeks is a good news story for someone in Ruijter’s predicament.

“That’s as good as it gets,” he said.

“It can take months and months to get that documentation, so in his case, Netherlands acted quickly.”

Bellissimo said the loss of a permanent resident card can cause serious complications for travellers.

“When someone loses that card, they then have to move de facto to their original travel document, which would be the passport of a country they may not have lived in for 30, 40 years,” he said.

The reason for that, the lawyer said, is that authorities need time to confirm people are who they say they are if they don’t have formal documents.

Bellissimo has also seen cases of lost permanent resident cards in countries where it’s logistically much harder to get a replacement.

“Other countries … might not have the sophistication yet or the internal infrastructure to produce these documents in a timely way. He could’ve, if he was from another country, could’ve been sitting for many, many months; worst case scenario, years,” he said.

The lawyer’s advice if you’re eligible to become a Canadian citizen: Get your passport immediately.

“There’s still too many people that don’t access that right to apply for citizenship,” he said.

“Ultimately it gives you the ability to know that Canada is your permanent home, and in my view, especially with the trends in the world and what’s happening, there’s nothing more important than that for you and your family.”

‘We’re so lucky’

Back in Canada now, Ruijter and his siblings will be applying for citizenship right away.

“I plan on finishing that off and doing it,” he said. “It’s a warning for a lot of other people … if they ever lose that permanent resident card, they’ve got a problem.”

Ruijter’s wife, Marilyn Ruyter, is also relieved to have him home.

“We’re so lucky … Both of us have very large families, lots of friends, lots of contacts,” she said.

“I cannot imagine how somebody on their own could’ve done all this; it was extremely stressful.”

In the meantime, there are some perks to being back in Canada that Ruijter planned to enjoy immediately.

“It’s been a while since I’ve had a Timmies … and a good Canadian beer.”

Source: This Ontario man has a warning for permanent residents: ‘Get your Canadian citizenship’

Chris Selley: What — and who — comes after Rahaf Mohammed?

Appears the government overplayed its hand in its communication strategy, both with respect to the Ministerial welcome (all too tempting) and the ongoing (and understandable) gap between the welcoming rhetoric and actual numbers.

However, Ms. Alqunun’s social media sophistication and poise in her CBC interview is impressive:

If Canada were a proud and principled beacon unto the world’s most downtrodden, as so many so often claim, then one might have expected Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun to arrive at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Saturday with relatively little fanfare.

Canada resettles tens of thousands of refugees every year, after all, and many are fleeing circumstances just as horrific as the Saudi teenager’s abuse by her family. Canadian government officials are guarding Alqunun’s current whereabouts partly on grounds she might still be in danger even halfway around the world — an idea given credence by Dennis Horak, who was Canada’s ambassador in Riyadh until he was expelled over the summer.

Indeed, Saudi-Canadian relations are not in terrific shape just at the moment, thanks to our public rebukes of its treatment of activists, and granting immediate asylum to the world’s highest-profile Saudi refugee seems unlikely to help matters. One might very reasonably not give a damn about the House of Saud’s amour propre, but Ottawa would clearly prefer to repair those relations. Quite apart from anything else, it would give Canada more-than-zero leverage in lobbying on behalf of those activists — including imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, whose wife is a Canadian citizen.

There were no good reasons to make a big show of Alqunun’s arrival, in other words, and plenty of good reasons not to. Furthermore, Justin Trudeau has been very clear about what he thinks of using refugees as political props. He was at his most thespian back in 2015 when it was alleged Stephen Harper’s office had been sifting through applications from Syrian asylum-seekers in search of potential photo ops.

“That’s DIS-GUST-ING,” Trudeau hissed at a campaign stop in Richmond, B.C. “That’s not the Canada we want; that’s not the Canada we need to build.”

In the end, though, there was Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland with her arm draped around Alqunun, announcing that this “brave new Canadian” would not be taking questions. Luckily, Freeland herself had arrived equipped with some crimson talking points.

“I believe in lighting a single candle,” she said. “Where we can save a single person, where we can save a single woman, that is a good thing to do. … And I’d like to also emphasize, this is part of a broader Canadian policy of supporting women and girls in Canada and around the world.”

“Canada is a country that understands how important it is to stand up for human rights, to stand up for women’s rights around the world,” Trudeau chimed in.

It would be well-nigh impossible to argue against hearing, at the very least, Alqunun’s claim for asylum. But at this point, she is certainly also a political prop — a living symbol of the Liberal view of Canada’s place in the world, and an always-welcome opportunity for self-congratulation.

“We are demonstrating our moral leadership on the issue of gender equality,” University of Waterloo professor Bessma Momani wrote in The Globe and Mail. “It was another proud moment for Canada,” gushed Catherine Porter, The New York Times’ Toronto correspondent. It “further cement(ed) the country’s status as a bastion of refuge in a world where Western nations have become increasingly hostile to refugees,” the Times’ Twitter account effused.

“Any woman from Saudi Arabia should be able to make a credible case for asylum in this country based on the human rights abuses they endure there,” the Toronto Star’s editorial board averred. And on and on and on.

Saudi Arabia is a country of 33 million people. So no, not every woman there can claim asylum in Canada. I suspect the Liberals might balk at five high-profile claims in rapid succession. That’s what they do. The Liberals made a big show of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees while various European nations accepted many multiples of that; now they brag about how accepting Canadians are of refugees relative to Europe, as if one didn’t largely explain the other. They denounce any worries about asylum-seekers crossing the border illegally as rank intolerance, while waving the new arrivals into an interminable and disastrously under-resourced queue.

There are millions upon millions of displaced people around the world in whom you might expect a giant, wealthy and mostly empty country that prides itself on resettling refugees to take an interest. They aren’t even on the radar. NDP MP Charlie Angus has a more realistic take on what Canada is: “Thousands languish in camps and Chrystia Freeland promotes sale of death machines to Saudis as children die in Yemen,” he tweeted in response to Freeland’s airport press conference. “Foreign policy must be more than smug theatre,” he added.

Well, there’s the rub: Must it?

Canadians of all political stripes take inordinate pride in objectively modest contributions to all manner of global problems. There is nothing inherently disreputable in feeling pride when your country does the right thing — but only if you insist that your country does the right thing continually, coherently and consistently once the warm, fuzzy feeling fades away. Once she’s settled, if she is inclined to remain in the public eye, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun might be the ideal person to hammer that point home.

Source: Chris Selley: What — and who — comes after Rahaf Mohammed?

Australians do not want any more migrants: ANU poll

The annual Scanlon Mapping Social Cohesion Surveys provides a more nuanced of immigration related public opinion, but still showing 43 percent believing the number of immigrants is too high:

Support among Australians for a growing population is crumbling amid fears of overcrowded cities and homes priced out of the reach of ordinary people, a new survey by the Australian National University has revealed.

As both the Morrison government and Shorten opposition consider their own approaches to population policy in the run-up to this year’s election, the ANU poll found just three out of 10 Australians believe the nation needs more people.

A similar poll conducted in 2010 found support for a growing population at 45 per cent.

The 15 percentage point fall was driven by a huge drop in support among male voters who in 2010 showed majority support for a bigger Australia. Male support has now fallen to 38.4 per cent.

In 2010, 38.5 per cent of female voters backed a growing population but this has now fallen to 28.2 per cent.

Over the past year, the nation’s population has grown by 390,500 of which 61 per cent was from net overseas migration.

But with growing public concern about Australia’s immigration intake, the government is considering a reduction in the current cap of 190,000. The planned intake for the 2019-20 financial year, to be set in the April budget, is expected to be closer to 160,000.

Already, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has signalled a reduction in the number of migrants brought into the country, saying he had heard “loud and clear” that city roads were clogged, “the buses and trains are full”.

It appears much of the drop in support for more Australians has been driven by issues in our major cities which have largely absorbed the 2.5 million increase in the nation’s population since 2010.

Almost nine out of 10 surveyed agreed that the high cost of housing was a reason to limit Australia’s population growth. Eighty-five per cent also believed the nation’s cities were over-crowded and there was too much traffic.

Another concern among those surveyed was around labour shortages.

About 90 per cent of those quizzed agreed that Australia should “train our own skilled people, not take them from other countries”.

Lead researcher Nicholas Biddle said with two-thirds of Australians believing the country has enough residents, the lived experience of many people was influencing their view towards immigration.

“Australians are more likely to support population growth if it increases our skills base, mitigates the impacts of an ageing population and increase our economic prosperity,” Associate Professor Biddle said.

“But they do not want population growth to cause crowding, affordability or job security issues nor at the expense of our natural environment.”

The poll was conducted late last year, just as house prices were falling in most major capital cities with Sydney property down by more than 11 per cent.

The poll is at odds with an Ipsos poll taken in October last year for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age which showed 52 per cent of respondents backing the idea of keeping or increasing the number of immigrants. Forty-five per cent supported a reduction in the nation’s migrant intake.

Responding to the ANU poll, Coalition voters were the least likely to support a higher population while Greens voters were the most open to the idea, but even amongst them support was less than 50 per cent.

People aged between 25 and 34 showed the highest support for more Australians, at more than 41 per cent. The lowest support was among people aged between 45 and 54, at less than 25 per cent.

The survey also found large differences based on ethnic background.

Just a quarter of Australian-born people supported a larger population, almost half the rate of those born in a non-English speaking country. Just under 40 per cent of those from an English-speaking nation backed a larger population.

The government is considering a way to encourage immigrants to live in rural and regional areas, with some country towns crying out for skilled workers. The poll showed this was more popular among urban Australians than those living in areas that would be home to new residents.

Support among Coalition and Greens voters for the policy was about 75 per cent but among Labor voters it was 10 percentage points lower.

Professor Biddle said while the survey showed growing opposition to migration, those quizzed were not driven by cultural issues.

He said there was substantially more support for migration on the grounds of broadening Australia’s cultural diversity, almost double the rate for those who believed the nation was already too culturally diverse.

According to Professor Biddle,  Australians had a series of serious concerns about a growing population.

“Australians need to be convinced that traffic and house prices won’t increase unduly, that there will be limited effects on the environment, and that Australia’s existing workforce will still receive adequate training,” he said.

Source: Australians do not want any more migrants: ANU poll

Trump’s Attorney General Nominee William Barr Built a Border Wall the Last Time He Ran the Justice Department. It Failed Miserably

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Or learn from it:

In February 1992, less than three months into his first stint as the federal government’s top lawyer, Attorney General William Pelham Barr told a gathering of more than 100 law enforcement officials in San Diego that under his leadership, the U.S. Department of Justice would finally solve the looming immigration crisis at the border.

Barr’s proposed solution was, in its way, decades ahead of its time: the construction of a heavily armored steel fence along the U.S.-Mexico border immediately south of San Diego, complete with lighting, motion sensors, and the addition of hundreds of Border Patrol agents.

The fence was not “a silver bullet,” Barr admitted in his speech, but “a steady march in the right direction” to preventing undocumented immigrants from entering the country with impunity.

Unfortunately for Barr, the fence was an epic failure.

Though Barr saw the barrier as a novel way to stop undocumented immigrants from “crashing through the back door and the back window, violating our laws, flouting our sovereignty and ignoring our process,” as he told law enforcement in that speech, border-crossers took little notice of the latest hurdle.

“It doesn’t matter how many people, horses, bicycles, helicopters or planes they use,” one migrant told The Washington Post one week after Barr’s speech. “People will go. It doesn’t matter if the fence is electric—we’ll fry, but we’re still going.”

Migrants simply hopped it, dug under it, sprinted past Border Patrol when they weren’t looking, or walked its length to enter the United States through the rougher terrain of the San Ysidro Mountains. And they’ve been doing so ever since.

“The deterrent effect of tens of billions of dollars in investments in Barr’s approach to immigration control never materialized,” said Professor Wayne Cornelius, an expert on the mass politics of immigration at the University California, San Diego, who criticized Barr’s proposal at the time as a “Keystone Kops” approach to immigration enforcement, both inflammatory and ineffective.

The fence’s manifest failure remains a major indication that Barr, now nominated to serve as attorney general once again under President Donald Trump, will be an enthusiastic supporter of the centerpiece of Trump’s immigration policy—a proposed border wall that is 1,986 miles longer than Barr’s own unsuccessful iteration.

But a failure to learn from the mistakes of three decades ago, Cornelius said, could leave American taxpayers on the hook for repeating an expensive mistake.

“Nine out of ten migrants who weren’t discouraged from leaving home and coming to the U.S. border were not kept out of the country,” Cornelius told The Daily Beast. “[Barr’s] 1992 project is evidence that he has been a hard-liner on immigration enforcement for most of his government career—his policy preferences haven’t evolved.”

“Congress should know that if they vote to confirm,” Cornelius said.

So convinced was Barr that the 14-mile fence was all that was needed to slow the stream of undocumented immigrants entering the country into a trickle that, two weeks after its announcement, he told PBS NewsHour that presidential candidate Pat Buchanan’s proposal to erect a barrier along the entire U.S.-Mexico border amounted to a hat on a hat.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” Barr told Jim Lehrer. “I think that’s overkill to put a barrier from one side of the border to the other… Illegal immigrants do not cross in the middle of the desert and walk hundreds of miles to the nearest city.”

Barr confidently pointed to his own barrier as having “reduced violence and made it easier to interdict the aliens crossing” within a matter of weeks, a belief he clung to even years after the fence failed to meaningfully reduce the number of undocumented immigrants who successfully entered California from Mexico.

“Good steps were taken, and the Bush administration was getting a lot more control over it, including putting up the fences,” Barr told the University of Virginia’s Miller Center in an expansive 2001 interview about his tenure at the Department of Justice, in which he defended the fences as having “cut down substantially on immigration.”

“I devoted a lot of effort and energy to doing our best to shut down the border in California,” Barr said of his time overseeing Immigration and Naturalization Services, the government agency later succeeded by Citizenship and Immigration Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection. “We kept on pushing them further west, and then eventually you get them going over long stretches of open ground, and once you get them out of the cities…”

But the assertion that Barr’s border fence succeeded in stemming migration into the United States from Mexico, Cornelius said, did not bear out in subsequent field studies of the region, which revealed that roughly 90 percent of undocumented migrants hoping to gain entry into the country succeeded in entering the United States on their most recent trip to the border.

If confirmed as the new attorney general, Cornelius said, “we can expect Mr. Barr to be one of the undaunted cheerleaders for Trump’s approach to immigration policy. If he and his colleagues are successful, taxpayers will once again be stiffed.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice declined to comment on whether Barr learned any lessons from the 1992 fence’s failure, but by all indications, the Trump administration views Barr’s supervision of the fence fiasco as a positive.

“He’s an outstanding man,” Trump told law enforcement officials in early December, hours after officially naming Barr as the nominee to succeed the beleaguered Jeff Sessions as attorney general. “During his tenure, he demonstrated an unwavering adherence to the rule of law… There is no one more capable or more qualified for this role.”

Source: Trump’s Attorney General Nominee William Barr Built a Border Wall the Last Time He Ran the Justice Department. It Failed Miserably

Sex abuse cases color immigration debate before Finnish election

Likely impact on upcoming April election:

The parliamentary heads of two of Finland’s largest parties have called for action after investigations against 19 foreign-born men on suspicion of sexual abuse of minors.

The issue has boosted the support of the anti-immigration, populist The Finns Party, whose popularity jumped two points to over 10 percent in the latest poll published by the national broadcaster YLE ahead of a parliamentary election on April 14.

Police have said there were foreign-born men among the 16 investigated for rape or other sexual abuses of adolescent girls in the town of Oulu over the last two months. On Sunday, police in Helsinki said they had arrested three foreign-born men on similar charges.

Antti Kaikkonen, parliamentary head of the coalition-leading Centre Party, called for a meeting of all the parliamentary party heads, tweeting: “Everyone who comes to Finland has to follow the local laws.”

Antti Lindtman, parliamentary head of the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, said: “The question is, are there measures we could take now – even during this term – to prevent cowardly crimes like these? Yes, there are.”

Prime Minister Juha Sipila tweeted that the government would discuss the “inhuman and reprehensible events” twice next week.

The topic is shocking for many in Finland, which sees itself as one of the safest and happiest countries on earth.

A citizens’ initiative to withdraw asylum from people convicted of a sex crime has doubled its signatures in just a few days and reached 25,000 on Sunday – half the total needed to force parliament to consider the issue.

The country of 5.5 million people has historically had very few immigrants. But the issue has become more fraught since the European refugee crisis of 2015, which caused the number of asylum seekers to almost quadruple to 28,208 in 2016.

Statistics Finland says around 1,200 cases of sexual abuse of minors are reported to the police each year, and that foreigners were involved in 18 percent of the cases that came to trial last year.

Lindtman proposed toughening the penalties for sex crimes against minors and withdrawing asylum from people convicted of serious violent or sexual crimes.

The re-returnees: They came to Hong Kong for the hustle. Now, with China encroaching, they’re coming back to Canada

Interesting trend of returnees:

The sheen of opportunity and adventure that made Hong Kong into one of the world’s great gateways – the City of Life, as it calls itself – has dulled for some as the cost of living rises and the grip of China tightens.

According to a recent survey, nearly a third of the Hong Kong population is thinking about leaving the city of 7.4 million. Canada, as it has in the past, is playing an outsize role in their search for an alternative; Hong Kong has boasted an estimated 300,000 Canadian passport holders, enough to rank the Asian financial centre as the equivalent of one of Canada’s 20 most populous cities.

Many Hong Kong residents fled the island for Canada before it came under Chinese rule in 1997 – fearing Beijing’s power. They later returned for jobs. Now, the current of human movement has once again shifted, moving back toward Canada. It is for some a third cross-Pacific move. They call themselves the “re-returnees.”

“People are thinking twice about staying in Hong Kong,” said Eugene Ho, an entrepreneur who is president of the local University of British Columbia alumni chapter. It is holding a session on Tuesday to guide people through the process of moving back to Canada, from sorting through taxes to securing a mortgage and finding the right school for their kids.

A third of Hong Kong’s population wants to leave, says a survey released by the Chinese University of Hong Kong earlier this month. Their top reasons were “too much political dispute” and social rifts, overcrowding and dissatisfaction with local political institutions. Fifty-one per cent of those between the ages of 18 and 30 want out. They cited Canada as their most desired destination. Canadian immigration data show that the number of people from Hong Kong applying for permanent residency in Canada increased by 50 per cent in 2016, to 1,360, and has remained at that elevated level.

What those figures do not count, however, are the people who already hold Canadian passports, and who are slipping back across the Pacific.

They are people such as Harjeet Grewal, 39, a Cantonese speaker who was born in Hong Kong but is disturbed by its changing political environment and influence from Beijing. “You have to be careful what you are saying and I don’t want to live in that kind of climate for the long term,” Ms. Grewal says.

John Luciw has his own reasons. Mr. Luciw, 51, a long-time Hong Kong resident who plays in a Tragically Hip cover band, runs a news site for expats and is now so done with the city’s brutal cost pressures that, “I don’t even know if I’m going to come back for a visit.”

And 45-year-old Andrew Loo, a banker, decamped for Vancouver to escape a high-pressure education system in a city where he was once told his six-year-old daughter was “average at best” when she interviewed for a primary-school spot.

Mr. Loo embodies the shifting currents that have carried people to and from Hong Kong. Born in the city to a father in the shipping industry, his family moved to Vancouver when he was 10. They were, like many families, worried about what would happen to Hong Kong when it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, an anxiety that prompted an extraordinary tide of emigration, particularly to Canada, which offered relative proximity and a welcoming environment. In 1994 alone, 48,000 people arrived from Hong Kong.

But when the worst fears about Beijing rule failed to materialize, the tide very quickly reversed course. Mr. Loo was among the droves who returned – a flock of 65,000 between 1996 and 2011, according to a South China Morning Post analysis.

In the summer of 2001, he and the woman who became his wife travelled to Hong Kong for the Dragon Boat Carnival. Canadian-educated and a Cantonese speaker, he found himself in demand. “I had two job offers in a very short span of time,” he said. Hong Kong, the land of opportunity, had hooked another young Canadian.

It’s “a very easy place to get used to,” he said. Taxes are low, jobs are relatively plenty, salaries can be high and domestic help inexpensive.

He married and had three children, building a comfortable career as a banker, with three nannies and a driver. But he began to think about Canada as his three children began to move through a fiercely competitive school system that, famously, interviews toddlers. “It’s just ridiculous,” Mr. Loo said, not to mention stressful – both for students and their parents living in the city.

He adds, “there’s no such thing as work-life balance.” He wasn’t the only one raising questions. “Our friends are around the same age and their kids are the same. And they’re all thinking the same thing” – go to Canada. In 2017, Mr. Loo and his family moved back. His daughter was 10, the same age as Mr. Loo when he first moved to Canada.

There is “a bit of symmetry there,” he says.

Others are coming behind them. Take Mr. Luciw, who arrived in Hong Kong in 1999 and dove into the thrills of being young and “wild and crazy” in the city. He became the general manager of AsiaXPAT.com, a news and discussion site for expatriates. But he himself is now keen to exit expat life. “As I’ve gotten older, this place has lost its lustre for me,” he says. He has two children, and “when you have kids here, it sucks. It’s expensive. There’s a lack of things to do. You may think it’s a paradise, but it’s not.”

He’s already sold his apartment, booked his tickets to Canada – after one last show with Phantom Power, his Hip cover band – and picked the minivan he intends to buy. He wants his kids to live in a house with a backyard, not a cramped apartment an elevator ride from the outdoors. “I was watching them not have a childhood I think they deserved, that I can give them by being a Canadian citizen,” he said.

Ms. Grewal, meanwhile, cites the changes in a city that is increasingly being brought under the thumb of political masters in Beijing. Chinese security services have seized people from the city, while new bridge and rail links have more deeply enmeshed Hong Kong with mainland China. Activists for democracy and independence have been banned from political participation, and a proposed new rule outlaws insults to the Chinese national anthem.

“I just felt constricted,” Ms. Grewal says.

When Keelan Chapman moved back to Hong Kong three years ago, he didn’t expect to find himself with a front-row seat to a Canadian exodus.

Mr. Chapman runs the Canadian Real Estate Investment Centre Hong Kong, a company he created three years ago to help people in Asia buy property in Canada. He figured his clients – who meet him in Hong Kong’s skyscraper forests of buzzy coffee shops and swish boardrooms – would be investors moving cash into Vancouver’s exuberant housing market.

What he has found instead is people looking to buy homes for themselves.

“My main clients in Hong Kong tend to be Canadians looking to return to Canada,” he says.

Hong Kong’s participation in China’s economic rise has helped make the city wealthy. But it has also made Mandarin an increasingly important language for those in business and banking, tilting advantage toward job seekers from mainland China. Indeed, that may be exactly how Beijing wants it, suggests David Zweig, a Canadian who is a scholar at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, where he has researched the movements of Chinese students.

China “may be very glad to have a new cohort of young college graduates come down here, graduate and then work here – and replace the Hong Kongers,” he said.

At the same time, at least some of those loading children and possessions on planes bound for Canada are being replaced by younger people winging their way into Hong Kong. Some of what drew Mr. Loo to Hong Kong two decades ago remains true today. Jobs are available, taxes are low and salaries can be high.

Kale Law, 26, was born in Hong Kong but moved to Canada with his mother in 1997. They came back to Hong Kong, where he attended high school, before he returned to Canada for university. Now, he’s back in Hong Kong again, working at a small content company with an office in a warehouse converted into a co-working space.

“Hong Kong seems to be the crown jewel for a lot of young professionals wanting to hustle,” he says. Even Ms. Grewal may come back. She has yet to find a job in Canada, while she has a half-dozen offers in Hong Kong. She also finds herself chafing at Vancouver’s slower pace. “It just doesn’t fulfill me the same way Hong Kong does,” she says.

Still, Mr. Law isn’t sure how long he can last. He figures he will stay until he is 30, at which point he, too, may join the march out of the city – alongside his mother and father.

“A lot of the older generation, which is my parents’ generation, they can’t wait to get out of Hong Kong,” he said.

Source: The re-returnees: They came to Hong Kong for the hustle. Now, with China encroaching, they’re coming back to Canada

A man ‘cannot do that to a woman’: Why polygamy in Canadian Muslim community could be another #MeToo moment

Good investigative reporting and alarming that some Canadian imams will perform marriage ceremonies with second wives:

Zaib’s life began to unravel with an unexpected phone call from her husband in early 2018.

He told her he had married a second wife, an announcement that took the Toronto woman by surprise.

“I went into shock mode. I was in a state of denial, saying no, no, this can’t be happening. I started getting the symptoms of anxiety, depression and crying spells,” Zaib told CBC’s The Fifth Estate.

Zaib, whose last name CBC has agreed to withhold, said she got so sick her doctor recommended an extended leave of absence from work.

Zaib and other Canadian Muslim women in a similar predicament believe this could be their own #MeToo moment, an opportunity to speak out and demand an end to the practice of polygamy in Canada’s Muslim community.

“All the other women are quiet, not saying anything. Maybe if I say a thing or two, that will bring attention to this issue because this is the law and men are breaking it right, left and centre and nobody’s saying anything to them,” said Zaib.

She feels there should be accountability on the part of men.

“A man should know he cannot do that to a woman — you use her and then decide you’re going to have another fresh woman and you just leave her on the side like that.”

Determination to move on

Zaib’s husband tried to reassure her that he had no intention of abandoning her or their three adult children. Zaib said he told her: “I am going to still provide for you, take care of you and the kids. You can continue living the way you’re living and it’s just going to be one extended family.”

As the weeks went by, Zaib said she became increasingly convinced that her 26-year marriage was over. She was 19 when her parents arranged her marriage to her husband, who is 20 years her senior.

Looking back at her marriage, Zaib said she was happy. “Whatever was my destiny I got it.”

Zaib was born in Pakistan and her husband was born in India, but after their marriage in Saudi Arabia, they moved to Canada in the mid-1990s.

Zaib, who speaks multiple languages, found work as a translator in Toronto. But as employment opportunities for her husband dried up in Canada, he went to the United States in search of work and was away from the family for weeks at a time.

After she spent two months trying to figure out what to do with her life, Zaib’s husband returned to Toronto for a scheduled visit.

Realizing that Zaib was unwilling to accept his decision, he suggested they seek the counsel of their local imam. Zaib said the imam listened to both of them, but then told her husband that although Islamic law allowed polygamy, plural marriages are banned in Canada.

CBC reached out to Zaib’s husband, who is not being named to protect his wife’s identity, but did not receive a response.

In 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court upheld the section of the Criminal Code that prohibits polygamy as constitutional and ruled that the harm against women and children from polygamy far outweighs concerns over protecting religious freedom.

‘Unfair to women’

The Canadian Council of Imams, which represents the majority of imams in Canada, has declared that polygamous marriages, permitted according to the Qur’an, are nevertheless not valid because they are a violation of Canadian law.

The majority of Muslim jurists say a Muslim man is permitted to take up to four wives, but only if he can treat them all fairly and with justice.

In some Middle Eastern countries, polygamy is regulated and the second, third or fourth wife, has legal rights. But that’s not the case in Canada, says Imam Hamid Slimi of the Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga, Ont.

“The way polygamy is practised today is unfair to women,” Slimi said.

Imam Hamid Slimi of the Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga, Ont., has preached openly against the practice of polygamy in Canada. (CBC)

In a recent sermon at his centre, Slimi told his congregation that polygamy “was permitted for a certain time and within a certain context in the past, hundreds of years ago, but here in Canada, it’s not allowed and 95 or 99 per cent of women don’t agree with this and I am talking about Muslim women.”

Although Slimi was head of the Canadian Council of Imams for more than a decade and has preached openly against the practice of polygamy in Canada, he admits that it continues.

It continues in part because an imam is not required to solemnize a marriage in the Islamic faith. Anyone with a basic requisite knowledge of the Qur’an and the prophetic traditions can officiate a nikah — or marriage — ceremony.

But Slimi insists that all nikahs or marriages, whether conducted by an imam or not, should be registered with the authorities to ensure that they comply with the law.

Zaib’s not alone

Over the last several months, a team at the The Fifth Estate talked to nearly a dozen women from the Greater Toronto Area, which has an extremely diverse population of more than half a million Muslims.

According to Statistics Canada, there are more than one million Muslims in Canada, but when it comes to polygamous marriages in the community, it is impossible to quantify because these marriages are most likely never registered.

The women The Fifth Estate spoke with are or were wives of Sunni imams and prominent community leaders and all share a common story to that of Zaib.

“I thought this doesn’t happen in Canada. It’s illegal and maybe there are some consequences, but to my surprise, when I went into the situation, I have a friend, I spoke with her and found out she’s getting a divorce because her husband [has] a second wife,” said Zaib.

The first wives who shared their story with CBC did so on condition that their identities not be revealed to protect themselves and their children from a potential backlash within the Muslim community.

When we were married, my husband told me his religious teacher said it was permissible for a man to lie to his wife about taking a second wife if the intention is to keep her happy and to keep the peace. – Alima

After 18 years of marriage and three children, Alima, not her real name, demanded her husband grant her a divorce after he confessed last summer that he had done a nikah to another woman. At the time, Alima found out the second wife was pregnant with her husband’s child.

“When we were married,” Alima said, “my husband told me his religious teacher said it was permissible for a man to lie to his wife about taking a second wife if the intention is to keep her happy and to keep the peace.”

After their divorce, Alima said, “I had to work on keeping my faith, otherwise, I may have lost it completely.”

Another woman, Kareema, a friend of Alima, is also struggling to keep her faith having experienced a similar ordeal. Kareema, not her real name, converted to Islam and got married to her husband in Toronto in 2000. After giving birth to the youngest of three children in 2016, Kareema said, her husband began having an affair.

“A prominent imam in Toronto advised him to marry (nikah) the woman to avoid commiting the sin of adultery,” said Kareema. “Instead of correcting the wrong that my husband was doing, the imam compounded it with another wrong.”

Kareema said she confronted the second wife and when her husband found out, he assaulted her. “It took two years for me to leave him.”

Kareema said the #MeToo movement has awakened her and Alima and although they wish to speak up, they remain afraid for their safety and the security of their children.

According to court records obtained by the The Fifth Estate, another prominent Toronto imam attacked his wife and sent her to hospital after she confronted him on his “secret nikah” to another woman. After years of marriage and two children, her marriage to him recently ended in a divorce.

‘I see nothing wrong with it’

Issa is a convert to Islam and a chef in Toronto who says he is open to the idea of taking a second wife, although he is well aware it is an offence punishable in Canada with up to a maximum of five years in prison.

“I see nothing wrong with it. It’s part of our religion. That’s why I am open to it and I accept it.”

Issa, who asked to be identified by his Muslim name, said when he married his wife in an Islamic ceremony, they agreed not to register their marriage, a legal requirement in Canada.

Issa mistakenly believes that when he eventually takes a second wife he cannot be accused of breaking the law since none of his marriages would be registered with the authorities.

When asked what his wife thinks of his decision, he said, “My wife’s a woman, so you know, most of the times women don’t like it, but she accepts it. She understands that this is our religion. This is what Allah has allowed for us, so she definitely accepts it.”

Finding second wives

It is not that difficult for men like Issa to find second wives. Several Muslim matrimonial websites have sprung up worldwide catering to men seeking polygamous relationships and to women who are open to such arrangements.

A producer with The Fifth Estate registered himself on two websites and was soon communicating with women who were interested in being a second wife.

One of the women who expressed an interest in a polygamous marriage was Haleemah, a Toronto-area resident and a convert to Islam.

Haleemah is single and divorced with two adult children. She said she would accept a polygamous marriage but with conditions.

“I have had Muslims ask me in the past, ‘Would you like to be a second wife?’ and I would say if I was in a polygamist marriage and the first wife was accepting of this, I would welcome her and help her in any way I can because I’ve been through raising a family,” she said.

Asked whether the illegality of polygamy was a concern for her, she said while she was aware it was illegal, “in some situations, I think some imams are willing to help.”

Some imans known to help men find second wives

Many of the women who told The Fifth Estate their husbands had taken second wives pointed out a number of imams in Ontario who are known to assist Muslim women like Haleemah in finding husbands who are already married, and who help match men like Issa to aspiring second wives.

The Fifth Estate wanted to put the rumours that were circulating in Toronto about some imams to the test and sent a married Muslim man undercover.

Of the six imams who were approached, two declined to perform a nikah ceremony for a married man. Two congratulated the undercover for his decision to take a second wife and recommended other Ontario imams whom they said would perform the nikah.

Two imams agreed to perform the nikah ceremony for the married undercover. One said it would cost $450 and suggested three locations in Toronto where the ceremony could take place.

The second imam, Aly Hindy, serves as the imam at the Salaheddin mosque in the east end of Toronto. He charges a standard fee of $200 for a nikah ceremony, regardless of whether it is a first, second or third marriage. He offered to supply the two male witnesses required by Islamic law.

After showing the undercover a copy of the marriage certificate he would receive, Hindy provided his own interpretation of Canadian law.

“We have no problem with the government because we are not going to register. If you register, then it is illegal, because you are already married.”

‘Let them sue me’

In an interview with The Fifth Estate, CBC’s Habiba Nosheen showed Hindy the undercover video of him agreeing to conduct a second marriage for a man who was already married and asked him for his reaction.

“So? Sue me. Let them sue me. We follow the law because we’re not registering a second marriage,” he said.

When asked to explain why he endorses the practice of polygamy in violation of Canadian law, he insisted the law should be changed.

When pressed for an explanation, Hindy described it as a “garbage law,” and said “eventually we’re going to recognize that there’s not enough men for each woman.”

“Many women will not be able to get married because there are not enough men because men die in wars, children die early and there are more boys than girls. Plus you also lose some number of men to homosexual marriages.”

Nosheen suggested the law will not change because people chose not to respect it, to which Hindy said, “OK, the law cannot be enforced.”

Enforcing the law

Toronto lawyer Sabha Hazai, who sits on the board of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women,  is spearheading a project aimed at educating Muslim women on their legal rights when getting married. She said the current law lacks teeth.

“It’s up to the lawmakers and it’s up to the courts now. How do they want to address polygamy? Are they going to start looking at enforcing the law? Are there going to be criminal prosecutions?

“Are there going to be convictions? Can you call the police and say: ‘My husband’s in a second marriage, please charge him for it?’ ”

The law has never been tested in respect to the practice of polygamy among Canadian Muslims.

When asked for his reaction to imams who perform polygamous marriages, Slimi was unequivocal.

“What upsets me is if we want to be part of Canada and call ourselves Canadian Muslims, we have to be part of this society.”

Polygamy, he said, “was permissible and it’s permissible in other countries, but it’s illegal here. The issue is not because I have a choice, I don’t have a choice.”

For women like Zaib, there is no compromise on the issue of polygamy in Canada.

“I’m going to be living the rest of my life with a burden and I know myself, I thought the best way, just let him go live his life and I’ll figure out my own life.”

Source: A man ‘cannot do that to a woman’: Why polygamy in Canadian Muslim community could be another #MeToo moment