Conservatives didn’t cherry-pick religious minority refugees: Alexander

Valid defence of the policy but the documents suggest a more interventionist approach. Alexander, in the article, is silent about the tiny numbers admitted (which suggest more ‘cherry picking’ – see Conservatives cherry picked certain Syrian refugee files: documents).

More interesting, he does not comment on the implications of the PMO audit: that PMO did not trust Alexander, CIC, or PCO to ensure that the policy direction of preference for religious minorities was being implemented, and what would likely be unprecedented PMO involvement in a refugee file .

When I worked in PCO, the normal way PMO would ‘manage’ what was considered a problematic file (one that departments were not managing well), was through PCO, not directly:

Former immigration minister Chris Alexander is defending his government’s approach to resettling Syrian refugees, denying that the Conservatives cherry-picked cases by prioritizing religious and ethnic minorities.

Every country working with the United Nations refugee agency on the humanitarian crisis in Syria operated under agreed-upon criteria for how to decide which refugees they’d accept, Alexander said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

The basic principle was to focus on the most vulnerable, but additional priorities had to be applied, Alexander said.

“To determine who was the most needy, who is the most vulnerable among four million people, you need to set some priorities,” he said.

“And that’s what the Syria core group has done from the beginning and that’s what Canada’s operation to resettle Syrian refugees has striven to do.”

Alexander, who lost his Toronto-area seat in last fall’s election, was at the helm of the Immigration portfolio when the Conservatives announced last January they would increase the number of refugees accepted by Canada from 1,300 to 10,000.

But they also announced they would concentrate on bringing in members of religious and ethnic minorities, prompting accusations of an anti-Muslim bias and charges that the government was violating UN rules.

Most religious minorities in the region are from Christian groups. The UN also specifically asks countries not to use religion as a factor in determining who to take in.

‘Areas of focus’

How exactly the Conservatives applied their approach was made clear this week via documents tabled in the House of Commons in response to a question from the NDP.

In them, the Immigration department said visa officers working in Lebanon and Jordan pulled cases that met the “areas of focus” criteria and processed those on a priority basis, while others were processed on regular timelines.

‘The principle we respected all along was humanitarian need. There were a variety of priorities under that heading’ – Former immigration minister Chris Alexander

Alexander said religion and ethnic status were not the sole area of focus and that they were working from a set of principles agreed upon by resettlement states.

A document he provided outlining those principles makes no mention of religion or ethnicity, but Alexander said they were understood to be part of a category described as people “belonging to a group for whom the authorities are unable to provide protection.”

He also pointed to another document, available on the website of the British arm of the UN refugee agency.

“Refugees who face serious threats to their physical security, particularly due to political opinion or belonging to an ethnic or religious minority group, may also be prioritized,” the document states.

In prioritizing religious minorities, the Conservatives were not picking a single faith, Alexander noted.

But applying that lens to the program reflected the nature of the conflict, which includes Islamic militants targeting Christian minorities or the Assad regime in Syria going after Sunni Muslims.

“This is the way this conflict is unfolding and those groups who face persecution because of their faith, or their ethnicity or their political views deserve special forms of protection,” he said.

Source: Conservatives didn’t cherry-pick religious minority refugees: Alexander – Politics – CBC News

RCMP had no idea about barbaric cultural practices snitch line pitched by Conservatives

No excuse for former Ministers Leitch and Alexander for going along with this. It would be nice to hear some sober second thought reflections from each of them:

CBC News has learned the RCMP had no idea a Conservative government would have tasked it with establishing a controversial “barbaric cultural practices” tipline.

Two former Conservative cabinet ministers held a news conference mid-campaign to tell reporters that if their party formed the next government, it would order Mounties to set up the snitch line.

Chris Alexander and Kellie Leitch said it would allow citizens to “report incidents of barbaric cultural practices here in Canada or to notify authorities that a child or woman is at risk of being victimized.”

The idea was criticized by some who pointed out such a tip line already exists — 911. Others jokingly predicted the Mounties could have found themselves investigating tips from the public that baby boys were being circumcised or that parents were getting their kids’ ears pierced.

CBC News asked the RCMP for all correspondence or other documentation related to such a proposal in an access to information request. The police force responded Wednesday.

The Mounties say they searched records in federal policing, specialized policing services, contract and aboriginal policing and the strategic policy and planning directory.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to locate records which respond to your request,” Supt. David Vautour, an officer with the access to information and privacy branch of the RCMP, wrote in a letter to CBC News.

This backs up what sources have recently told CBC News — that the idea for such a tip line was cooked up at the last minute by a small circle of people close to former prime minister and Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper with no consultation with anyone else.

Today, the Conservative Party’s Interim Leader Rona Ambrose told reporters, “I was not part of that decision, nor do I support it.”

Source: RCMP had no idea about barbaric cultural practices snitch line pitched by Conservatives – Politics – CBC News

The niqab ban: 2011-2015 – The new Liberal government officially puts an end to the former Conservative government’s attempt to ban the niqab during the citizenship oath

RIP:

The niqab’s emergence as an election issue was unexpected and odd, but perhaps fated–a consequence of the Conservative government’s own policy, its determination to defend the policy in court and the whim of the Federal Court of Appeal’s calendar.

Though seemingly popular, the ban on the niqab is now linked with the Conservative government’s defeat. “Voters—including many who supported him—were personally offended by Harper’s blatant effort to exploit the niqab issue as a divisive wedge in the campaign,” Ensight reported after the election. As a result of that defeat, history will record Bill C-75, an attempt to put the ban into law, as the last piece of legislation tabled in the House of Commons by the Conservative government—its tabling coming just hours before the House adjourned for the last time before the election, an entirely symbolic gesture of pre-campaign posturing. Both the sponsor of the bill, Chris Alexander, and the minister who tabled the bill on his behalf, Tim Uppal, were subsequently defeated on October 19.

The Liberal government’s decision to abandon its predecessor’s legal appeal does not seem to have roused much, if any, condemnation from Conservatives.

Source: The niqab ban: 2011-2015 – Macleans.ca

The formal press release:

“On November 16, 2015, the Attorney General of Canada notified the Supreme Court of Canada that it has discontinued its application for leave to appeal in the case of Minister of Citizenship and Immigration v. Ishaq. The Federal Court of Canada found that the policy requiring women who wear the niqab to unveil themselves to take the Oath of Citizenship is unlawful on administrative law grounds, and the Federal Court of Appeal upheld this ruling. The government respects the decision of both courts and will not seek further appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“Canada’s diversity is among its greatest strengths, and today we have ensured that successful citizenship candidates continue to be included in the Canadian family. We are a strong and united country because of, not in spite of, our differences.”

Earlier language by then Minister of Defence (and Multiculturalism) Jason Kenney:

“At that one very public moment of a public declaration of one’s loyalty to one’s fellow citizens and country, one should do so openly, proudly, publicly without one’s face hidden,” Conservative Jason Kenney told reporters in Calgary Wednesday.

“The vast majority of Canadians agree with us and that is why we will be appealing this ruling.” (September 15, 2015)

Source: Statement from the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and the Minister of Justice – Canada News Centre

C-24 Citizenship Act – Senate Hearing 12 June with Minister Alexander

Coverage of yesterday’s Senate hearings on C-24 with Minister Alexander and officials:

Alexander and his officials attempted to clarify what would happen to Canadian-born dual citizens convicted here or abroad of serious terrorism, treason or espionage offences that carry a penalty of five years or more. He stressed a convicted offender wouldn’t have to worry if he didn’t hold dual citizenship.

Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati says countries like Iran recognize as its citizens people who are born “five generations out” whether they want to be its citizens or not.

Alexander said: “There is a way of renouncing every citizenship. No one in our country can be forced to be a citizen of any country. And under the laws of Canada, citizenship can be renounced, either ours or those of other countries.”

“That might not resolve a difference of opinion with Tehran or other capitals who consider someone to be a citizen. But in our eyes,” Alexander said, the individual would be — as a Conservative senator suggested — assumed to be a citizen of Canada not subject to revocation of their Canadian passport.

Tories insist changes to Citizenship Act will respect Charter, Constitution | Toronto Star.

From the Globe:

The bill will also require citizenship applicants to declare an “intent to reside” in Canada, another controversial move. Along with boosted penalties for fraud, it raised fears people would be stripped of citizenship for leaving the country. “The government should be encouraging citizenship, not discouraging it. Amend this bill and remove the ‘intention’ clause,” Barbara Caruso, another member of the CBA’s Immigration Law Section, told senators.

Mr. Alexander said flatly that would not happen. “There’s no requirement for a citizen of Canada to remain physically in Canada, once granted in citizenship,” he said.

Liberal Senator Art Eggleton said the bill does allow for a court hearing for people who object to losing their citizenship. The power is in the hands of the minister. Mr. Alexander earlier said there is a de facto appeal right. “Anyone can go to the federal court if they think the government has not fulfilled its statutory mandates. And they do go,” he told The Globe.

 Minister Chris Alexander under fire as citizenship bill poised to pass 

Some points of interest:

  • Efforts by the Minister to clarify the informal nature of Canadian citizenship prior to the first Citizenship Act of 1947 in response to Melynda Jarratt and Don Chapman’s arguments that Canadian citizenship had more formal status before 1947;
  • “Canadians would be sick to stomach if they knew the extent of fraud,” stated Alexander, which would be addressed through physical residency, filing tax returns etc. He cited immigration lawyer Raj Sharma on the “rampant fraud” and how people would “lie, cheat and steal” to get a Canadian passport;
  • Alexander started to go down the path of criticizing the Liberals, NDP and the “small fringe group” of the CBA. “No one else” was challenging C-24, other lawyers “were embarrassed” by the CBA position. The Liberals didn’t “enforce the rules.” Why did they “spend so much time protecting the rights of those committing the most serious violations of rule of law.”
  • Chair reminded him and others to avoid partisan attacks.
  • Alexander stuck to the bureaucratic distinction between time spent as a temporary and permanent resident, defending the elimination of partly counting pre-P.R. time towards citizenship. Hard to understand given that many comparative countries do allow this, and given the Government’s efforts to encourage international students to settle in Canada;
  • On intent to reside, Alexander reiterated again that it only applies to the application period. Once citizenship is granted, it is no longer in force. CIC DG Citizenship and Multiculturalism Nicole Girard stated that intent to reside has to be read within the larger context of requirements to become a citizen, not post-citizenship. Senator Cordy was “still uncomfortable” despite these assurances. Alexander was not pressed to clarity whether it could be used to revoke citizenship in case of misrepresentation during that period;
  • On revocation, Girard walked through the various tests that would apply:
    • was the person a dual citizen?
    • if convicted abroad, was the offence equivalent to a Canadian offence?
    • was the sentence 5 years or more?
    • were there concerns with the process or independence of the judiciary?
    • In witness testimony, even witnesses supporting the Government (CIJA, FDD) noted the need for an explicit reference in the Act to the last test (equivalency of process). Not clear why the Government not accepting that.
  • Alexander glossed over the distinction between seeking leave before the Federal Court and having judicial review and was not pressed on that point. He also was not challenged on the question of oral hearings “Minister has authority to hold a hearing,” confirming the default of a paper process.
  • Citizenship judges would have more time for citizenship promotion, given that officials would be the decision makers, except for difficult cases such as those involving residency.
  • Alexander, in response to criticism of a harder and more costly process, stated “the higher the bar, the more attractive citizenship becomes.” Past experience with the more rigorous language and knowledge requirements had not resulted in fewer citizenship applications and lower rates of naturalization.

Alexander blasts critics of immigration bill as C-24 goes to second reading

On the eve of Second Reading of C-24 Citizenship Act revisions, a broadside by Minister Alexander against the critics of the Bill.

Not quite in the Pierre Polievre school of how to promote your Bill, but quite remarkable given Alexander’s previous career as a diplomat where language was more nuanced, to say the least (see Konrad Yakabuski’s earlier profile Chris Alexander balances his portfolio and power).

Always unfortunate when a Minister feels more comfortable attacking those opposed to legislation as hypocrites, rather than arguing the merits of the Bill.

But the opposition also has some responsibility. While active in Committee, there is by no means the same focussed attention on C-24 as there was for Bill C-23 (elections), C-13 (cyberbullying and surveillance) and the ongoing Temporary Foreign Workers controversy. Opposition parties also make choices on how hard to push issues on both policy and political grounds. Their calculation appears to favour more pro-forma opposition, albeit based upon legitimate concerns over some aspects of the Bill, rather than a more high profile effort. Unless I have missed it, have not heard either opposition leader say much on C-24:

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander is accusing the opposition of “folly and hypocrisy” as the government prepares to shepherd its controversial citizenship bill over its next legislative hurdle.

“Both the Liberals and the NDP remain offside with Canadians who recognize the immense value of Canadian citizenship and the importance of protecting its integrity,” Alexander said in a statement.

“It is shameful that activist immigration lawyers, who never miss an opportunity to criticize our governments citizenship and immigration reforms, are attempting to drum up business by promoting the interests of convicted terrorists and serious criminals over the safety and security of Canadians.”

As to the “drumming up business” line, all of those supporting or opposing the Bill do so from their perspective, values and interests. This does not necessarily diminish the value of their comments, for or against.

And while some elements of C-24 may “reduce the business” for immigration and refugee lawyers (i.e., revocation for fraud at Ministerial discretion, rather than the courts), other may “drum up business”  (i.e., revocation for terror and treason). Somewhat ironic to say the least.

Last night’s somewhat perfunctory Parliamentary debate at Second Reading allows C-24 to proceed to a vote today.

We will see how the next stages proceed and whether the Government will consider any changes to the Bill (some C-24 supporters recommended some process changes). In any case, the Bill will make it through by the summer recess.

Alexander blasts critics of immigration bill as C-24 goes to second reading.