Canada urged to create dedicated asylum pathway for Hong Kongers fleeing political persecution

Expect pressure to grow. As Waldman notes, better to do so discretely:

Canada must create a dedicated asylum pathway for Hong Kongers fleeing Beijing’s clampdown on political opposition in the former British territory, Canadian MPs were told Monday.

“This is not a conventional humanitarian crisis, so conventional solutions are not effective for those who need our help,” Cherie Wong, executive director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong, an umbrella group that supported the Asian city’s pro-democracy movement, told the House of Commons immigration committee.

She told MPs that an immigration program unveiled last November to bring young Hong Kongers to Canada is only useful for upper-middle-class graduates and “fails to consider the realities of everyday people of Hong Kong.”

Reverend Brian Wong, a Canadian from Hong Kong with the Mustard Seeds Hong Kong Concern Group, concurred in his comments to MPs, saying dissidents come from many backgrounds. “Canada needs to come up with a inclusive policy to accommodate the needs of a broad spectrum of Hong Kong people at the risk of political persecution.”

Alliance Canada Hong Kong’s Ms. Wong described life for many of the Hong Kongers who marched in protests for a year before the national security law was enacted, noting they were targeted by “systematic surveillance operations, including having plainclothes officers stationed at the airports, loitering inside international terminals” and boarding areas.

“We have friends whose travel documents are confiscated, teammates monitored and followed who are scared for their lives, and fellow activists who are arrested while looking for options to leave. The Hong Kong government is even looking at legislation to impose exit bans and further suppress freedom of movement,” she said.

The Chinese government imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong last June, ostensibly to target secession, subversion and terrorism, but with vaguely defined offences that critics say effectively criminalize dissent and opposition to the Chinese Communist Party’s rule.

More than 100 prominent Hong Kong political figures have already been arrested under this law, which carries penalties up to life imprisonment. Western countries, including Canada, have decried this crackdown as a violation of Beijing’s treaty pledge to maintain civil rights and the rule of law in the former British colony for 50 years after the 1997 handover.

The British government has offered a path to citizenship for many Hong Kongers, but this still leaves many stranded as authorities in Hong Kong arrest journalists, ban access to websites, seize cell phones and computers and fire teachers and union activists.

So far, Canada has accepted at least 15 asylum claimants as political refugees, according to Jane Lee of the New Hong Kong Cultural Club, a group of Canadian supporters of democracy in Hong Kong with branches in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver that has helped 30 people from the former British colony to seek safe haven in Canada.

All these claimants, however, arrived before COVID-19 travel restrictions. The big problem facing persecuted Hong Kongers today is they cannot board a plane to reach countries such as Canada to claim asylum.

Toronto immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman said he’s been approached by Hong Kongers who want to leave but cannot because of flight restrictions. ”There definitely are people who need to get out and are at serious risk,” he said.

Advocates urged Canada to help funnel travel documents via non-governmental organizations to persecuted Hong Kongers in the Asian city, much like Ottawa once helped persecuted gay Iranians and Chechens reach Canada.

If Canada plans such action, Ottawa “shouldn’t and won’t make a big fanfare about this,” Mr. Waldman said.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan suggested the federal Department of Immigration issue “minister’s permits” that would allow Hong Kongers to leave for Canada while applications are being processed.

Canada-Hong Kong ties run deep. There are several hundred thousand Canadians of Hong Kong origin living in Canada and 300,000 Canadian citizens living in Hong Kong now. More than 1,970 Canadians were deployed to defend Hong Kong from the Japanese in the Second World War and 554 lost their lives as a result.

Rev. Dominic Tse, senior pastor at North York Christian Community Church, told MPs that many Hong Kongers he knows would rather migrate to Canada than to Britain, based on existing ties and Canada’s reputation. He urged Canada to liberally grant work permits to Hong Kongers, giving them a chance to establish residency here. “Many Hong Kong people have either relatives or friends or classmates in Canada, and if they have a choice they actually would rather go to Canada than the U.K.”

Last November, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced a three-year open work permit for recent Hong Kong graduates or those with a history of work experience in areas Canada might value, as well as a new pathway to permanent-resident status for Hong Kongers who end up coming here.

Source: Canada urged to create dedicated asylum pathway for Hong Kongers fleeing political persecution

Canada has turned back 4,400 asylum seekers in 5 years

Of note. A bit less than the 55,000 or so that crossed the border:

Canada has turned away at least 4,400 asylum seekers at the U.S. border since 2016 — including some who were hoping to find refuge here at the height of the global pandemic — according to newly released government figures.

Nearly half of those trying to enter Canada over that five-year period made the attempt in the year after U.S. President Donald Trump took office, according to figures released in response to a parliamentary request from NDP MP Jenny Kwan.

Under the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), which has been in effect since 2004, Canada and the U.S. consider each other to be “safe countries” for refugees and require them to make their claims in the country they arrive in first.

The agreement has long faced criticism and legal challenges from refugee advocacy groups, who say the agreement is an inhumane way to limit the number of people Canada accepts as refugees. They say the U.S. is not a safe country for all refugees and that the dangers they face have increased under the Trump administration.

The federal government is appealing a Federal Court ruling earlier this year that found the STCA infringed Charter rights.

The figures provided to Kwan show there was a spike in the number of asylum seekers turned back at the border after Trump was elected in 2016 and took office in 2017.

In 2016 there were 742 people turned back at the border. That figure jumped to 1,992 in 2017. There were 744 denied entry in 2018 and 663 in 2019.

Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 23 this year — a period which captures the height of the first wave of COVID-19 — 259 people were turned back at the border.

‘Even more precarious’

Kwan called that “really disturbing.”

“In the face of a pandemic, things are even more precarious for people who need to get to safety and Canada actually did not hesitate to turn people back,” she said.Kwan said the Trump administration imposed detention and deportation policies that violated international human rights and provoked widespread fear among refugees. By turning away asylum seekers, Canada is “complicit” in the violation of their rights, she said.

Kwan said Canada should immediately suspend the STCA and work to negotiate a new agreement with U.S. president-elect Joe Biden that addresses human rights issues. But she said the “aggressive and intense” detention policies could linger.

“I think even with the Biden administration, that policy may still continue to exist, and even if the Biden administration wants to make changes, it’s not going to happen overnight,” she said.

Mary-Liz Power, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, said the government appealed the Federal Court ruling because it believes there were errors in key findings of fact and law.

She said the decision mistakenly suggests that all asylum claimants who are ineligible under the STCA and turned back to the U.S. are automatically detained as a penalty. She also noted that the U.S. remains a party to the UN Refugee Convention.

Refugee pact ‘fair, compassionate’: Blair spokesperson

“The STCA, which has served Canada well for 16 years, ensures that those whose lives are in danger are able to claim asylum at the very first opportunity in a safe country,” she said.

“We are in continuous discussions with the U.S. government on issues related to our shared border. We believe that the STCA remains a comprehensive vehicle for the fair, compassionate and orderly handling of asylum claims in our two countries.”

As for the spike in numbers in 2017, Power said that 2017-2018 recorded the highest number of globally displaced individuals since the Second World War.

Justin Mohammed, human rights law and policy campaigner for Amnesty International Canada, said a number of factors could have driven that sharp increase, including global patterns and Trump’s policies.

He said Canada should be fulfilling its international obligations under international refugee law at all times — even during a pandemic, when safety concerns are heightened.

Mohammed pointed to exemptions made for students, family reunification and other immigration classes that allow people to arrive in Canada despite travel restrictions.

“Why are refugees being excluded from that? They’re able to quarantine or be required to have a quarantine plan just like anyone else … so why is there not the ability to be able to provide protection?” he said.

Partial picture

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said the 2020 figures represent only a partial picture of the people turned back to the U.S. because of added restrictions after the border closed March 20.

At that time, refugee claimants were denied entry on public health grounds whether they arrived at an official point of entry or at another crossing — such as Roxham Road in Quebec — where the STCA does not normally apply.

Despite assurances the Canadian government says it received from the U.S. that refugee claimants directed back would not be subject to enforcement such as detention or removal, Dench said refugee advocates in Canada know of at least two people who were detained in the U.S. after being directed back.

Conservative immigration critic Raquel Dancho said the Liberal record on administering the refugee and asylum system was one of “mismanagement, years-long backlogs and failure,” even before the pandemic.

“Conservatives have long been calling on the government to close illegal border crossings and work with their American counterparts to close the longstanding loopholes in the Safe Third Country Agreement so that refugee and asylum seekers have a fair, compassionate and effective pathway to come to Canada,” she said in a statement.

Source: Canada has turned back 4,400 asylum seekers in 5 years

Immigration levels plan: Reactions

Have been following the various reactions to date regarding the government’s (overly) ambitious targets for the next three years. Relatively few op-eds and commentary, possibly due to the focus on COVID and the US presidential election which are taking up most of the oxygen.

And much of the commentary focusses overly on the administrative issues, not the more substantive issues related to economic integration of immigrants during an economic recession, one that is likely to linger for a few years.

Have grouped these by constituency:

Business-oriented

The plan was welcomed by the business sector.

“There is widespread agreement across party lines that immigration is essential to long-term economic growth,” said Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, which represents some of the country’s largest businesses.

“Newcomers bring energy, skills, new ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. They start companies, fill skill shortages, buy houses and pay taxes, … The minister’s plan will allow Canada to make up lost ground as the pandemic eases. It will inject new dynamism into our economy.”

The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters even went one step further, saying Ottawa’s objectives were too modest and will not allow the country to catch up quickly enough over the coming months to compensate for the reduced number of immigrant admissions this year.

“Manufacturers are increasingly using immigration to supplement their workforce but there are not enough immigrants to meet the demand,” said Dennis Danby, its president and CEO, who represents 2,500 leading manufacturers in the country.

“If manufacturing is to be at the core of the economic recovery following the COVID-19 crisis, we must do more in prioritizing immigration from the economic stream.” (Toronto Star)

As Canada’s leading voice on smart population growth, Century Initiative continues to advocate not just for increasing our population, but for policies to support that growth through investments in education and in the national and urban infrastructure that will allow our communities to grow in a sustainable manner. We also need to prioritize supporting parents with a national childcare strategy, and our children with early education programs.

Now is the right time to invest in growing our population. Environics Institute’s recent Focus Canada survey shows that a record two-thirds (66%) of Canadians reject the idea that immigration levels are too high, and that Canadians recognize the critical contribution immigrants make to our economy and our social fabric. We have a tremendous opportunity before us and welcome the opportunity to continue working with gover(nment to seize it in the interest of future generations of Canadians. (Century Initiative)

Opposition critics

Opposition MPs took aim at the way the government has handled immigration throughout the pandemic and questioned how the new targets would be achieved.

Conservative immigration critic Raquel Dancho said the government is announcing new levels without a plan for how they will be safely implemented.

Jenny Kwan, immigration critic for the NDP, said she believes the numbers are “a bit of a hoax” because the backlog to process applications is so great that the targets will be hard to meet.

Christine Normandin, the Bloc Québécois immigration critic, said in French that Ottawa is taking the opposite approach to the Quebec system. She said the province takes only as many immigrants as it can process in one year, while Ottawa sets goals without taking into account its capacity to do the paperwork. (Globe)

That lower-end target is actually below the low end of the number of immigrants, pre-pandemic, the Liberals had planned to admit in 2021, pointed out NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan. 

“The Liberals demonstrate a lack of conviction in their targets and left the door wide open for immigration levels to decrease,” she said in a statement.

It’s also not clear how unused room is being carried over. 

For example: the Liberals had planned to admit 49,000 refugees this year. Next year, according to Friday’s plan, they are aiming for 59,500. 

While that looks like an increase of 10,000, the number of refugees who have actually arrived in the first eight months of this year was down nearly 60 per cent from 2019 arrivals. 

So it’s possible that the 2021 figures merely incorporate the shortfall from this year, as opposed to being an overall increase. Mendicino wasn’t clear when asked about that issue Friday.  (Canadian Press)

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the government must not overlook the compassionate aspects of the immigration system, such as removing travel restrictions for asylum seekers and ensuring permanent residence status for migrant workers in recognition of their contributions during the pandemic.

“The immigration department’s processing abilities is still spotty at best and serious investment in staffing, far beyond what we’ve seen so far, is needed,” said Kwan.

“Without these investments, applicants are to expect significant increases in processing times for years to come, which were already long before the pandemic.” (Toronto Star)

Tweets from CPC critic Dancho:

The Liberals have failed to layout a plan to  bring in newcomers to Canada safely. No widespread access to rapid tests and the 14 day quarantine is not a financial option for many people. #cdnpoli https://twitter.com/RaquelDancho/status/1322270115921055746?s=20

They have no plan to better resource immigration department to fulfil the levels promised.  Liberals are simply adding to their massive, years-long immigration backlogs that fail to provide potential newcomers with certainty, dignity or respect. #cdnpoli https://twitter.com/RaquelDancho/status/1322270117384851456?s=20

The ministers announcement did not acknowledge the economic devastation caused by COVID-19 or the hundreds of thousands of Canadians facing unemployment since the pandemic hit and how these new ambitious immigration numbers will impact them. #cdnpoli https://twitter.com/RaquelDancho/status/1322270118290903040?s=20

International organizations

Either way, that Canada even continues to open its arms is welcome, said Rema Jamous Imseis, the UN refugee agency’s Canadian representative. 

“In an era of travel restrictions and closed borders, refugees continue to be welcomed by Canadians,” she said in a statement.

“The significance of this lifeline and the deep generosity of Canadians cannot be overstated.” (Canadian Press)

Academics

While experts had expected Ottawa to stay the course with its immigration goals — given the government had publicly stated immigration would be key to restarting the post-COVID-19 economy, they were surprised the Liberals would decide to take it up a notch.

Although critics have raised concerns about high immigration given that the country’s jobless rate hovered at nine per cent in September — after peaking at 13.4 per cent in May — from 5.6 per cent before the pandemic, some experts say the government is on the right track.

“The timing for expanding the program now is good. But I’m surprised how high the targets are they have set. I don’t know how realistic it is from a bureaucratic administrative perspective,” said Carleton University economist Chris Worswick, who specializes in the economics of immigration.

“I commend the government for thinking about immigration again. I was worried that it wouldn’t happen. I wonder if they’re being too ambitious. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll end up at a good place.” (Toronto Star)

Immigration lawyers and advocates

Immigration and refugee experts welcomed the move to grant permanent residency to those already in the country.

“I’ve always thought, even before COVID, that it makes a lot more sense to target people who are already educated here, or have work experience here, or at least have lived here. … These are people who are already demonstrating their genuine interest in Canada,” immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges said.

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said her organization has urged the government to give permanent residency to those in Canada.

“What we need to see is that realization actually reflected in actual operations, actual policies, because at this point, the way the Immigration Department is working is running in completely the opposite direction,” she said. (Globe)

We need #StatusforAll and Fairness.
Today’s Canada’s Immigration Plan does neither. pic.twitter.com/xhsJtrZBtj— Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (@MWACCanada) October 30, 2020

Contrary to what the government is saying, there is NO INCREASE in IMMIGRATION LEVELS. Instead, there was a 150,000 shortfall in immigrants in 2020, and the government is trying to catch up for it by increasing 50,000 each year for the next three years. But as COVID-19 continues, these promises are unlikely to be kept.+

The overall proportion of new immigrants remain the same, with the primary focus on “high waged” immigrants. However, to qualify for these immigration programs, migrants must show 12-24 months of high-waged work. With COVID-19-related job losses disproportionately impacting racialized people, many migrants don’t have access to these jobs and won’t qualify. No plan has been announced to ensure full and permanent immigration status for all migrant and undocumented people right now.+ Many migrants — including care workers and former international students — were not able to complete requirements for permanent residency in 2020 due to COVID-19. However, there is no meaningful increase in numbers on fixing of rules for these migrants in today’s announcement. (Migrant Workers Alliance)

On the right

Recent polls have shown that Canadians are weary about increasing immigration levels in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

A poll commissioned by True North found that an overwhelming 76% of Canadians strongly agreed with the idea of a temporary pause until a coronavirus vaccine is developed and unemployment drops to pre-coronavirus levels. Note: Polling firm unknown and thus is not credible

The poll results show a surprising consensus among political parties as well with 67% of Liberals wanting to impose a temporary pause, 66% of NDP voters and 89% of Conservatives. 

“Given today’s global circumstances of a public health pandemic and severe economic crisis, now is the perfect opportunity to revert back to our successful historic immigration model, listen to the majority of Canadians, and take another pause,” True North’s founder Candice Malcolm wrote when the poll was released. 

“It’s time for our leaders to listen to the people and do what’s best for our country.” (“True” North)

While the government touted the need for migrants to strengthen the economy, the unemployment rate in Canada, the unemployment rate currently stands at 9%, from an all-time high of 14% in May. Over 8 million Canadians applied for emergency COVID relief benefits in the form of the CERB. Canada’s unemployment rate was around 5% prior the pandemic. (Rebel Media)

Links:

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/10/30/canada-raises-immigration-targets-to-record-level-eyeing-covid-19-recovery.html

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-canada-aims-to-accept-far-more-immigrants-in-next-three-years/

https://www.nationalnewswatch.com/2020/10/30/open-arms-in-an-era-of-closed-borders-pandemic-era-immigration-plan-to-be-released/

https://www.centuryinitiative.ca/2020/10/30/statement-by-century-initiative-in-response-to-todays-announcement-on-canadas-new-immigration-levels-plan/

https://www.rebelnews.com/canada_to_increase_immigration_targets_after_covid_disruption

https://www.facebook.com/notes/migrant-workers-alliance-for-change/immigration-announcement-fails-to-ensure-fairness-status-for-all/10101179406532842/

Letter to spouse applying for Canadian citizenship ‘offensive,’ Kwan says

Not easy to make these determinations and assessment of normal vs abnormal patterns of behaviour are valid approaches to identifying possible fraud or misrepresentation. Perhaps the language used could be more neutral in tone but hard to think of alternate ways to assess spousal applications but others may have ideas:

“To me, it’s completely inappropriate and I think it’s offensive and insulting,” Kwan said.

“I would like for the government to look at the systemic issue of this letter and why such letters are being sent out through those spousal sponsorship applications.”

The letter, from a Canadian immigration officer based in London, England, to a female applicant from Pakistan, says her permanent residency application appears suspect for a number of reasons — including that she is three years older than her husband, a Canadian citizen who has lived in Canada since 2005.

“You and your sponsor (husband) do not appear well matched,” the letter states, a copy of which was provided to The Canadian Press.

“You are three years older than him, he comes from a town four hours from where you live and you are not related, so it is unclear to me why the match was made.”

It is unusual for Pakistani men to marry older women, especially if they are not related, the unnamed immigration officer writes. The officer also notes their wedding guest list of 123 people was small compared to traditional Pakistani weddings.

“This apparent deviation from the cultural norm raises concerns that your wedding may have taken place in order for you to gain permanent residence in Canada.”
Kwan said she followed up with the department, only to find letters with such language are routinely sent to spousal sponsorship applicants from Pakistan to “‘tease out a response.'”

“Who are they judge whether or not that marriage is well-matched?” Kwan said.

“It’s one thing to say, ‘I do not believe in the authenticity of this marriage,’ it’s another to make a judgment on the quality of the marriage…. I find that offensive.”

Kwan raised the issue in question period this week and again with Hussen during a Commons committee meeting Thursday, asking for the government to review its treatment of spousal applicants.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended the program during question period, saying he was pleased his government has reduced a backlog of applications under spousal sponsorship and has also reduced waiting times from two years to 12 months.

“We also know there is more to do,” Trudeau said.

Improvements to the program have been made, and scrutinizing spousal sponsorship applications is an important part of the work of his department, Hussen added.

“Our department continues to uphold measures to safeguard against marriage fraud and other program integrity risks.”

Indeed, it’s not uncommon for the immigration minister to become involved in cases involving spousal citizenship cases that go before the courts.

Last week, a Federal Court judge rejected a judicial review application from Hussen’s office in a spousal case that was initially rejected and then won on appeal. The office felt there was evidence contradicting the wife’s claim that her marriage to a Nigerian man in 2014 was legitimate.

via Letter to spouse applying for Canadian citizenship ‘offensive,’ Kwan says

Canada’s immigration detention program to get $138M makeover

Another shift compared to the previous government:

The Canadian government is committing millions to upgrade immigration detention centres across Canada.

Immigration detention facilities in Vancouver and Laval, Que., are also set to be replaced.

Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale made the $138-million announcement Monday morning at the Laval Immigration Holding Centre. He said the objective is to make detention a last resort.

“In my first few months as minister responsible for Canada Border Services Agency, I have certainly heard the concerns about immigration detention, and I’ve studied those concerns with great care,” Goodale said.

“The government is anxious to address the weaknesses that exist and to do better.”

Samer Muscati, the director of the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program, said it was reassuring to hear Goodale address concerns about excessive use of detention in his remarks today.

“He’s saying the right things and it’s a positive development that he’s saying these things, but of course we’ll need to see what happens in terms of actions that follow,” he said. “The proof will be in the pudding.”

The government will soon begin consultations with stakeholders with the aim of finding alternatives and ways to minimize the number of minors in detention.

According to the Canada Border Services Agency, there are, on average, 450 to 500 people who are detained at any given time under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The End Immigration Detention Network says 15 people have died in detention while in CBSA custody since 2000. It says reforms are welcome, but the system is inherently unfair.

“Immigration detention including in immigration holding centres is imprisonment without charges or trial. It should end, not be expanded by throwing over a hundred million dollars at it,” said the Network’s spokesperson Tings Chak.

A Red Cross investigation in 2014 found numerous shortcomings at facilities for immigrant detainees, including overcrowding and inadequate mental health care.

Newcomers are often held in provincial jails or police facilities alongside suspected gang members and violent offenders.

The government’s reform objectives include:

  • Increasing the availability of alternatives to detention.
  • Reducing the use of provincial jails for immigration detention to prevent the interaction of immigration and criminal detainees.
  • Avoiding the detention of minors in the facilities as much as possible.
  • Improving physical and mental health care offered to those detained.
  • Maintaining ready access to facilities for agencies such as the Red Cross, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as well as legal and spiritual advisers.
  • Increasing transparency.

Source: Canada’s immigration detention program to get $138M makeover – Montreal – CBC News

A selection of more critical views, largely focusing on the need for oversight:

Migrants advocates welcome Ottawa’s reforms of the immigration detention system, but say the government is falling short on creating proper oversight of the agency responsible for the enforcement operations.

“It is encouraging the federal government is promising actions and reforms to the immigration detention system. Detention of immigrants needs to be absolutely the last resort and the government recognizes that,” said Josh Paterson of the British Colombia Civil Liberties Association.

“The thing is we need to put an end to housing migrants in criminal population. The money dedicated to the immigration infrastructure must not become the reason to detain more migrants and for longer period of time.”

….Anthony Navaneelan of the Canadian Association for Refugee Lawyers said what was missing in Goodale’s announcement was creating an independent oversight of the Canada Border Services Agency, which is responsible for enforcement of immigration laws including immigration detention.

“Building more detention beds is not enough. We need to keep people out of detention,” said Navaneelan.

 New Democrats immigration critic Jenny Kwan agreed.

“We need a complete and strong oversight to ensure these issues are addressed and the agency is accountable to the public. So many lives are in jeopardy,” said Kwan.

In July, more than 50 immigration detainees in Ontario held a hunger strike to protest prison conditions that include increasing lockdowns and the use of solitary confinement. They demanded to meet with Goodale — a request that was denied.

“We need an overhaul of the laws and policies governing detentions, including placing a limit of 90 days on detentions, not build new prisons,” said Tings Chak of the End Immigration Detention Network.

“Immigration detention is imprisonment without charges or trial. It should end, not be expanded by throwing over a hundred million dollars at it.”

Ontario Human Rights Commission chief commissioner Renu Mandhane said the federal government should be applauded for recognizing the need to provide adequate services to immigration detainees with mental health disabilities.

“We need to make detention more humane. Some detainees are caught in legal limbo for years,” Mandhane said. “They are faceless and hidden from the public, but their human rights should be respected.”

Conservative public security critic Erin O’Toole said there was no money in the federal budget earmarked for the immigration detention reforms and he felt the Liberal government was rushed to make the announcement without a plan.

“The devil is always in the details. This is a considerable amount of money,” said O’Toole. “A community supervision program has not been developed. Are we going to detain only the high-risk detainees? Are we going to stop using the provincial jails? These are the details I want before we decide if we need to build the new facilities.”

Immigration detention reforms fall short on oversight, critics say

Canadian or Chinese? Foreign Citizenship Brought Into Question | The Diplomat

Dual nationals, when in the country of their other nationality, are generally not deemed to be Canadian by that country (see Travelling as a dual citizen).

So “while a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” applies within Canada, it is not necessarily recognized by foreign governments. And while consular officials can and do make representation in such cases, their effectiveness can be limited given this reality.

But requiring Canadian-born citizens of Chinese descent to become Chinese citizens in a country which does not recognize dual citizenship and where normal legal protections and due process does not apply takes this to a new level:

Canadians of Hong Kong descent now have another consideration when traveling to China. Late last month two teenagers born and raised in Canada were denied 10-year visas to China based on the fact that their parents were born in Hong Kong. Perhaps more alarmingly for the hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers who have fled to the safe harbor of Canada, and other democracy-friendly nations, the teens were told that they must travel to China as Chinese nationals.

These are not standalone cases either. Hong Kong Chinese language media have reported that a number of first generation Canadians, who were born in Hong Kong, are being forced into the same situation; and the Hong Kong-born, Australian author of this article has also experienced the same treatment by Chinese visa authorities.

Ottawa is now querying Beijing over these recent cases, and have asked China to clarify any changes they have made to visa requirements and migration laws. Canadian Member of Parliament Jenny Kwan, who was born in Hong Kong, said she pressed Foreign Minister Stephane Dion, urging him to look into the visa situation.

“The change in practice should be of grave concern to Canadians; after all, a Canadian is a Canadian. As such, should all Canadians not be treated the same?” Kwan said.

The change would effectively mean that Canadian citizens traveling to China will no longer have the privilege of protection from the Canadian embassy.

As stipulated in Article 3 of China’s nationality law, China does not recognize dual nationality. This law naturally extended to Hong Kong citizens as per the 1996 pre-handover “Explanations” issued by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. By extension, Article 5 of the nationality laws states that children of Chinese who have settled abroad “shall not have Chinese nationality.”

However, the reverse is also true under Article 8, which states any person who applies for naturalization as a Chinese national shall acquire Chinese nationality upon approval of their application — and shall not retain foreign nationality. That means that if these Canadians do indeed apply for Chinese citizenship to travel to Mainland China, then it could be argued that they are renouncing their Canadian nationality.

At a regular press conference in late June, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei responded to questions about the situation, stating that the visa reciprocity arrangement reached by the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Canadian Embassy in China on February 28, 2015, would be strictly adhered to, and that both countries would issue multi-entry visas, valid for up to 10 years, to each other’s citizens for the purposes of business, tourism, and family visits.

Hong stressed that China has been acting in strict accordance with the reciprocity arrangement and that reports about China making adjustments to or tightening its policy were not true:

“We handle visas, travel documents, and passports applications by Chinese citizens from Hong Kong in accordance with the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Nationality Law of the PRC and the Interpretation by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Some Questions Concerning Implementation of the Nationality Law of the PRC in the Hong Kong … As for what will be granted in the end, it is based on the personal information about the applicant and related documents. Since the Chinese government resumed its exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has been asking its overseas diplomatic missions to offer all-out services and assistance to Chinese citizens from Hong Kong living in foreign countries in accordance with the law, facilitating their travel, work and stay in all parts of the world.”

This statement raises a few concerns of its own. The stress on “Chinese citizens from Hong Kong living in foreign countries” seems to dance around the question of the nationality of ethnic Chinese Canadians, or ethnic Chinese from any other nation for that matter. It can also easily be misconstrued, misinterpreted, or reinterpreted to any other number of meanings.

Source: Canadian or Chinese? Foreign Citizenship Brought Into Question | The Diplomat