Conservatives call for audit of immigration system after gangster twice released in Canada

His case should not have fallen through the cracks, suggesting communications issues between CBSA and the IRB, particularly in terms of timeliness. While in the end, the system did work, the issues should have been caught and acted upon earlier.

But it is somewhat ingenuous for Conservative immigration critic to state that the Liberal government is undermining public confidence in the immigration system while ignoring the contribution that some of her over-the-top language and positions (e.g., opposition to the Global Compact on Migration) also play. Fine line between legitimate criticism and stoking the fires:

Abdullahi Hashi Farah had an extensive criminal record, ties to a violent gang, and a long history of breaching probation. But Canadian immigration officials still released him after he crossed illegally into Canada in October 2017. (Supplied)

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel is again calling for a complete review and audit of the immigration screening system in response to a CBC News investigation that revealed a Somali gang member with an extensive criminal record was twice released in Canada.

“The government has to acknowledge that there are serious flaws in the process and commit to fixing the system,” the Calgary MP said in a telephone interview Thursday.

In an earlier scrum outside the House of Commons, Border Security Minister Bill Blair was asked about the case of Abdullahi Hashi Farah.

Blair conceded Farah would not have been released had the full extent of his gang ties and criminal record been known. But he said he took “some comfort in the fact that the system has worked and we’ve identified the individual, and he is subject to deportation.”

Rempel said Blair’s response will only serve to further undermine public faith in the system.

‘This is pretty bad’

“People will read [the CBC News story] and they will look at the minister’s response and go, ‘This is somebody who is not taking this situation seriously, and it is a serious situation,’ ” Rempel said.

“And I worry that by doing this, the Liberals are actually eroding public confidence writ large. And that is not where we want to be in a pluralism like Canada. They need to restore order to the system. This [case] is pretty bad.”

As CBC News first reported Thursday, Farah was fleeing an arrest warrant and deportation in the U.S. when he crossed illegally into Canada at Emerson, Man., in late October 2017.

Then 27, Farah told Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials about his criminal record and gang ties. The agency wanted him held for a few more days until it could retrieve his full criminal record from the U.S.

But an Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) hearing officer, impressed with Farah’s seeming honesty, ordered his release.

As a condition of release, Farah surrendered his cellphone to the CBSA so that it could be checked for evidence of criminal activity

Six days after Farah was set free in Winnipeg, he breached his release conditions and was arrested again.

That same day, the CBSA gained access to Farah’s cellphone. They found recent photos and videos of Farah playing with loaded handguns, doing cocaine, concealing cocaine, and flashing wads of cash. There were also photos of what authorities believed was a stolen credit card.

Released despite evidence of criminal activity

The CBSA has declined to explain why the evidence from Farah’s cellphone was not immediately provided to the IRB.

Without that evidence, another IRB hearing officer again released Farah in March 2018 and allowed him to move to Calgary.

In June, Edmonton police arrested Farah as a suspect in a string of armed convenience store robberies after a CBSA officer in Winnipeg picked him out of robbery photos taken from store security camera footage.

Edmonton police have declined to say why Farah is no longer a suspect in the robberies. He is now jailed in the Edmonton Remand Centre, awaiting deportation to Somalia.

The CBC News investigation revealed Farah had lied repeatedly about the extent and seriousness of his criminal record and the length of his involvement with the Somali Outlaws gang in Minneapolis and Nashville.

The investigation also revealed Farah had breached immigration and parole conditions more than 30 times in the U.S and in Canada. He had also been imprisoned for contempt after he reneged on a promise to testify against his former gang in relation to a major sex-trafficking case in Nashville involving girls as young as 12.

Rempel stressed her party is pro-immigration but said this case, and others like it, show the system can’t handle the volume of immigrants while ensuring adequately rigorous screening.

“While certainly not every case is going to be like this, even one is unacceptable, and even one puts the integrity of the system — and the perception of the integrity of the system — at risk.”

Source: Conservatives call for audit of immigration system after gangster twice released in Canada

John Ivison: Will the Canadian consensus on immigration fall victim to Liberal bungling on border-crossers?

Ivison on the Michelle Rempel’s critique of the Liberal government’s immigration policies and approach and their communications challenges.

Federal immigration minister Ahmed Hussen’s announcement last week that Canada will increase its immigration target to 350,000 by 2021 seems designed to flush out the Conservatives.

With Maxime Bernier’s fledgling party promising to cut the number of permanent residents arriving in Canada from the current target of 330,000 next year to around 250,000, there is growing pressure on the Conservatives to follow suit.

The party’s immigration critic, Michelle Rempel, admits it might be the politically expedient thing to do. “If I was taking the easy route, I’d just say ‘Cut immigration’ … But the reality is we have to reform the system. It isn’t working by any metric,” she said in an interview.

Rempel said she is desperate to avoid what she called an “Americanized” debate about immigration levels.

“What Bernier doesn’t understand is that for the people looking at his party, there is only one number that is sufficient — and that’s zero,” she said.

An August survey by the Angus Reid Institute set off alarm bells that the consensus that has characterized Canadian attitudes towards immigration for the past four decades is in danger of shattering.

The poll found that the number of respondents who felt immigration levels should stay the same or be increased, which has registered at over 50 per cent for forty years, had fallen to 37 per cent. Half of those surveyed said they would prefer to see the federal government’s 2018 immigration target of 310,000 new permanent residents be reduced.

Rempel said the consensus is under pressure because the Liberals have bungled aspects of immigration policy like the “irregular” border-crossing file.

“The consensus is not breaking down, but the public is looking at what is happening with the asylum seekers and they don’t think the social contract criteria are being met,” she said. “The debate shouldn’t be about numbers but about the process by which we set those numbers.”

It’s clear that immigration will be one of the key battlegrounds in the 2019 election. The Conservatives would seek to close the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement that allows people to enter Canada illegally from upstate New York, and expedite the removal process of those people whose refugee claims were rejected. Rempel admits there is also pressure coming from within her own caucus to put a number on what immigration levels would be under a Conservative government.

“But I’m not going to treat this like an auction for votes,” she said, noting that on the Syrian refugees issue, her party had pledged to admit 10,000, which persuaded the NDP to raise its commitment to 15,000 and the Liberals to trump them all with a promise to admit 25,000. Yet, as she points out, unemployment rates among Syrian refugees remain stubbornly high more than two years after most arrived.

“It’s irresponsible to set a target without ascertaining how much it will cost to adequately process the huge backlog of asylum seekers,” she said.

Unlike many other centre-right parties, the federal Conservatives have long been pro-immigration. In 2015, levels remained at a historically high rate, with 271,833 new permanent residents landing in Canada.

During the Harper government’s term of office, 2.8 million people arrived as permanent residents in Canada, mainly from countries like the Philippines, India, China and Pakistan.

The mix was heavily weighted towards those chosen for their skills and education levels— in 2015, 63 per cent were economic class migrants, 24 per cent arrived under the family reunification program, and 13 per cent were refugees.

The consensus is based on a broad recognition that Canada’s worker to retiree ratio — 4.2:1 in 2012 — is set to decline precipitously to 2:1 by 2031.

It is widely understood that a decade after they arrive the labour force participation rates for immigrants is comparable to those who were born in Canada. And it is accepted that immigrants and the children of immigrants are generally better educated that the Canadian-born population (almost half have a bachelors degree, compared to one quarter for the latter).

But the complexion of the immigration system is set to change. The mix planned by the Liberals will by 2021 see economic class migrants fall to just 51 per cent of the total of 350,000, with family reunification numbers increasing by more than one third to account for nearly 30 per cent of the total and refugee numbers rising by 44 per cent to reach 19 per cent of the total.

[Note: The levels plan shows that the percentage of economic class immigrants is essentially flat at 57-58 percent, compared to the low 60s during the Conservative government).

The increased number of family members admitted into the country is likely to play well in ridings with large immigrant populations — as it did in the 2015 election.

But irregular migration is not playing well with anybody — particularly not immigrants, who see asylum-seekers as queue-jumpers, nor Quebecers, who are bearing the brunt of the refugee tide.

The government has allocated an extra $440 million to improve processing and settlement programs, and an additional $173 million specifically to manage irregular migration levels. A further $50 million has been given to provinces to pay for temporary housing for “irregular” migrants.

But as Rempel pointed out, throwing money at the problem does not make it go away. “The issue for many people is that they see higher numbers (of illegal migrants) at Roxham Road, and the higher social costs, and say we should reduce numbers,” she said.

Rempel is trying to hold a line that is under pressure from “open borders” policy on the left and “closed borders” policy on the right.

She needs to sharpen her messaging, if she is to succeed in persuading Canadians this is not just a numbers game.

But it is a line worth holding.

The debate over immigration in Canada has not descended into bigotry and resentment because it has worked for four decades. As Stephen Harper noted in his recent book, Right Here, Right Now: “Make immigration legal, secure and, in the main, economically-driven, and it will have high levels of public confidence.”

But public support is on the decline thanks to illegal migration, porous borders and an increase in the proportion of non-economic migrants.

Rempel’s argument is that Trudeau has lost the “social license” to increase immigration levels and only the Conservatives can restore it. Whether that can be done without giving a number on entry levels remains to be seen.

Source: John Ivison: Will the Canadian consensus on immigration fall victim to Liberal bungling on border-crossers?

Conservative immigration critique of the levels plan

When one takes away the partisan sniping, and the points that are easy to say but hard to implement (e.g., closing the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement with the Trump administration), the main points boil down to:

  1. establishing metrics to determine levels with transparent consultations with industry and provinces (agree, but all parties in opposition promise more transparency than they deliver once in power);
  2. Greater focus on privately sponsored refugees compared to government sponsored refugees or asylum seekers, a valid policy choice but the anti-United Nations role in selecting refugees is more playing to the base and picking up the tone of some of the debates South of the border;
  3. Promise to have difficult conversations regarding Temporary Foreign Workers to address concerns that Canadians are not first matched with available work; and,
  4. Vague language around economic levels matched to regions, and not providing a specific number (when in power, the percentage climbed to about 60 percent from about 55 percent, under the new levels plan, it will climb to 72 percent). Historic data shows that immigration has substantially responded to regional demands in the West, thanks in part to the Provincial Nominee Program but always important to consider and respond to regional needs.

As to numbers pulled out of a hat, my understanding is that has been longstanding practice under both Conservative and Liberal governments, so while I agree with her in substance, I am sceptical as to possible implementation:

So what would a Conservative government do differently? What levels would we set?

At the end of August, I sat in this very room and outlined some key changes an Andrew Scheer led government would make to Canada’s immigration system. To recap, our approach to setting immigration would:

  • First recognize that how we allow people to enter the country, and who we allow to do so, matters. Justin Trudeau has failed to recognize this principle.
  • End the practice of setting immigration levels by an auction for votes or a seat on the UN Security Council.
  • Immediately seek to dramatically decrease the number of people entering Canada illegally via upstate New York and subsequently claiming asylum. We would do so by seeking to close the loophole in the safe third country agreement, and significantly expedite the processing and removal of those who Trudeau allowed in. The lengthy process between entering Canada illegally and being removed, all while being able to access social welfare programs, is an incentive for this behaviour that must be ended. It is not acceptable that Trudeau has planned on this being a permanent situation.
  • We would also establish a set of metrics to determine what Canada’s immigration levels should be, based on transparent principles, with integration and self-sufficiency at the forefront. For Canadians to see immigration as a positive thing, they should be able to easily see the employment and social welfare statistics for immigration levels for any given year and stream.
  • We would also establish a transparent system for consulting with industry and the provinces to set immigration levels.
  • We would focus on setting humanitarian immigration levels that focus on higher utilization of the privately sponsored refugee program, where individual Canadians through their own funds, not taxpayer funds, support the entry of refugees, and would restrict the utilization of the government assisted refugee program to instances of the four atrocity crimes.
  • We would end the practice of allowing the United Nations to be the sole agency for selecting humanitarian immigrants to be resettled to Canada, and we would not cede our sovereign right in setting immigration levels to this agency.
  • We would reform the Temporary Foreign Worker program and not shy away from difficult conservations [nice to know even MPs occasionally make typos – should be conversations] around employment insurance, working conditions, and wage depression associated with the program and other reasons why Canadians don’t take or aren’t skilled for certain jobs, and ensure that Canadians are first matched with available work.
  • We would also change our immigration programs and support to better focus economic immigration levels and retention to regions with acute labour shortages. It is not enough to cite the Conference Board of Canada in saying that the economy needs more immigrants; immigration levels should be set to ensure that newcomers are matched with jobs in regions where Canadians are not out of work.

In short, a Conservative government would not pull a number out of the air in terms of how many people we would allow into the country. The number we would present to Canadians would be shaped by the above principles, and would be answered as follows:

  • There are X number of job vacancies in a certain industry or region, here’s the reason why Canadians aren’t doing the job, here’s what we did to try to fix that problem, and as such we are allowing X number of people to enter Canada, with X skill set, to fill this need. Then we would track our outcomes to make sure our programs are working.
  • On the humanitarian side, we would not allow people to enter Canada illegally and abuse our asylum system. The target number for that stream of entry should be zero. All other targets would be met by gaining consensus from Canadians that we should help a certain cohort of people (for example, genocide survivors), and then gaining consensus from Canadians on how much money we should spend to support the initiative, in terms of the cost of integrating into Canada, and in the context of putting the needs of Canadians first. We wouldn’t take a false morally superior position that excludes Canadians from helping to decide how our humanitarian immigration system should function, and be funded.

The levels Justin Trudeau has put forward in this report are unfocused, unplanned, and ill thought out. There is no justification included herein on how he would change the system to make it more just, fair, or lawful. It is simply a continuation of his failed  immigration policies. The reality is that Canada can’t sustain high immigration levels under Justin Trudeau’s failed immigration policies. A change in government must occur before Canadians will be able to regain faith in our immigration system.

For all the reasons I’ve given you today, the Conservative Party of Canada strongly opposes the levels set out in this report.

Source: Canada Can’t Sustain High Immigration Levels Under Justin Trudeau’s Failed Immigration Policies

And CTV’s reporting:

One day after the Liberal government unveiled plans to ramp up immigration levels to 350,000 people by 2021, the Conservative immigration critic won’t say what she believes the figure should be.

The number is not the point, according to Michelle Rempel.

“Justin Trudeau has no credibility to set Canada’s immigration levels,” she said Thursday at a news conference.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen announced on Wednesday that Canada will increase its immigration target to 350,000 by 2021, up from the current level of 310,000.

Hussen told CTV’s Power Play on Thursday that the plan is “responsible and ambitious” and focuses on bringing in “highly-skilled talent that creates middle class jobs for our country.”

“Canadians are asking us to provide them with more workers, more skilled immigrants who can grow our economy and create good-quality, full-time middle class jobs,” Hussen said.

Hussen added that the Federal Skilled Workers program, which offers residency to people like international students who find work, makes up the single biggest component of immigration.

“The vast majority of those folks are people applying from within Canada,” he said. “They already have a job.”

At her press conference, Rempel cited an Angus Reid pollfrom August which found that 49 per cent of Canadians wanted to see the country reduce its immigration intake – up from 36 per cent four years earlier and the highest number in the 43-year period since the question was first asked.

She said that Canadians’ appetite for increased immigration has hit its lowest level on record because of how the Liberals have handled an influx of people crossing the border and claiming asylum.

Federal numbers show that 15,726 people crossed into Canada irregularly at all points in the first nine months of 2018, up from 15,102 in the same time period one year earlier.

The Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States requires most people seeking refugee protection to file their claim in the first of the two countries they arrive in. It means people cannot pass through the U.S. to seek asylum at the Canadian border checkpoint, but does not apply to people who cross at places other than standard border checkpoints.

Rempel argued that people who are not legitimate refugees are taking advantage of the Safe Third Country Agreement “loophole,” knowing that they can live in Canada for years before their claims are even processed.

“Having reached upstate New York, these people are not fleeing persecution and should not be treated as such by Justin Trudeau,” she said.

Rempel said the Conservatives would crack down on irregular border crossings by closing the loophole. The Liberals say they have repeatedly asked the U.S. government to reopen the agreement.

Rempel also accused the government of spending “hundreds of millions” to normalize the crossings, including $50 million on temporary accommodations for people. Many of them are now living in Toronto hotels.

Hussen told Power Play that the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) is in charge of deciding whether irregular border crossers are legitimate refugees and that those who are not legitimate refugees will be told to leave.

“We’ve reinvested in the Canadian Border Services Agency as well as the IRB to make sure that these claims are heard expeditiously,” Hussen said.

“A big percentage of those found not to be genuine refugees voluntarily leave Canada,” he added.

Rempel also singled out the temporary foreign worker (TFW) program for criticism. Under the government’s new plan, the number of migrant workers allowed into the country will rise to nearly 250,000.

Rempel said that the TFW program was “rife with abuse,” and that it lowered wages and working conditions while keeping certain jobs out of the reach of out-of-work Canadians.

“That this government has made no move to radically change Canada’s economic dependence on this abusive and ill-thought-out system also undermines the credibility of the numbers in this levels report,” she said.

She said the Conservative preference would be to have migrant workers instead “settling in those communities and staying employed” – or to have those positions be filled by people already in the country.

“Is there a way that we can reform that program such that Canadians are matched with those jobs?” she added.

A Conservative government would also look to increase the focus on having refugees be sponsored privately by Canadian citizens, with the government-assisted refugee program being reduced to people fleeing the “atrocity crimes” of war crimes, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and genocide, according to Rempel.

Source: Rempel says Trudeau has ‘no credibility’ on immigration

New citizenship guide to warn against ‘abhorrent’ practice of female genital mutilation

Good. Now the question remains how this will be presented and what language will be used.

Hopefully, the guide will place this in the context of spousal and child abuse, sexual assault, and a short summary of the evolution of women’s rights in Canada, without the identify politics label of “barbaric cultural practices.”

While one would have hoped that the government would have done this in any case, one has to give credit to Conservative Immigration Critic Michelle Rempel for pressing the issue:

Canada’s updated citizenship guide will include a warning to newcomers about the illegal practice of female genital mutilation.

In a statement provided to CBC News, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen called it an “abhorrent practice” that is against the law in Canada.

“While the content for the new guide is still being developed, Canadians can be assured that the new document will include information on Canada’s laws against gender-based violence, including FGM,” he said.

“We would normally not comment on a product still under development, but given the interest in this specific issue, I felt it was important to update Canadians on where we stand.”

The issue has become politically charged, with the Conservatives suggesting the revamped guide would drop a reference to the practice.

Immigration critic Michelle Rempel has repeatedly pressed Hussen on the topic, and sponsored an e-petition in the House of Commons that calls on the government to ensure the new guide condemns the practice.
Petition E-1310, which is open until Feb, 3, now has nearly 25,000 signatures.

On Nov. 28, 2017, Rempel urged people to sign the petition in a tweet that said: “Trudeau is removing references to female genital mutilation as being a harmful practice from Canada’s citizenship guide.”

Rempel was citing a report from The Canadian Press, which said a draft copy of the revised citizenship guide removed the reference to FGM. The current guide, brought in by the Conservatives in 2011, stresses that men and women are equal under the law in Canada.

“Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, “honour killings,” female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence,” it reads. “Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada’s criminal laws.”

via New citizenship guide to warn against ‘abhorrent’ practice of female genital mutilation | CBC News

The cynical roots of Rempel’s female genital mutilation crusade – iPolitics

Martin Patriquin on Michelle Rempel’s raising the issue of FGM and its inclusion or not in the revision of the Discover Canada citizenship guide:

The procedure by which a woman’s clitoris is surgically removed is usually performed without anesthesia and in unsanitary conditions. Unnecessary, retrograde and associated with a host of physical ailments, the surgery also can saddle a woman with a lifetime of psychological issues.

The very purpose of the surgery — to deprive a woman of sexual pleasure — is religiosity at its worst. Only a monster would support such a thing.

A monster — or the Liberal government, according to the blinkered thinking of Conservative MP Michelle Rempel. She seems to believe that the 23rd prime minister of Canada, along with its 20th immigration minister, are in favour of the practice.

Why? Because the Liberal government (she suggests) plans to remove from the pending new citizenship guide a reference to female genital mutilation, which is listed among other “barbaric cultural practices,” including honour killings and forced marriage.

“Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada’s criminal laws,” the current guide helpfully points out.

In fact, ‘plans to remove’ is too strong a statement, as the Liberals have yet to release the new citizenship guide, which newcomers use to study for the citizenship test. Nor have the Liberals said that the reference would be excised from the guide, despite the leak of a draft copy this summer that didn’t include it. Whenever he is asked about it, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen typically spouts the words “consultation” and “stakeholders” ad absurdum.

Rempel, who serves as the party’s shadow minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, sees something altogether nefarious in all this bureaucratese. And should the Liberals indeed remove the mention of female genital mutilation, it will be a “tacit message to people that perhaps the Canadian government is OK with it,” Rempel recently said during a radio interview.

open quote 761b1bRempel’s line of questioning strongly suggested Hussen was a cypher, using his position to foist the practice of ritual mutilation on an unsuspecting Canadian public.

So, there you have it. Canada’s current government is in favour of the forced, ritual removal of a part of a woman’s anatomy, according to the Official Opposition. To be clear, Rempel says she doesn’t know why the Liberal government would be gung ho on such a thing. But that hasn’t stopped her from speculating — on the record.

During a recent parliamentary committee hearing, Rempel lobbed loaded questions at Hussen, the apparent goal of which was to suggest the Prime Minister’s Office had asked for the reference to be removed. After Hussen said the PMO hadn’t instructed him to do anything, Rempel aimed for the jugular — or rather, below the belt. “What is your personal view?” Rempel asked Hussen, before the committee chair mercifully cut her off.

Hussen hails from Somalia, where the rate of female genital mutilation is the highest in the world, according to UNICEF. He is a refugee who fled war and strife to become a Canadian citizen and eventually a federal cabinet minister. Rempel’s line of questioning strongly suggested he was a cypher, using his position to foist the practice of ritual mutilation on an unsuspecting Canadian public.

The reference to female genital mutilation in the citizenship guide is similarly loaded. Telling potential citizens that cutting off another person’s body parts is illegal and will be punished is … redundant. Worse still, the inference is clear, and is aimed squarely at a certain subset of would-be Canadian citizens: Muslims.

Not coincidentally, female genital mutilation is carried out in roughly 30 countries, nearly all of them in Africa and nearly all predominantly Muslim. The inclusion of the phrase in the 2011 citizenship guide, much like the Conservative’s “barbaric cultural practices hotline” gambit during the 2015 election, is the stuff of cynical wedge politics meant to leverage revulsion against an identifiable religious group.

It conveniently ignores the fact that immigrants and refugees often flee their countries of origin specifically because of such practices. And it vastly overstates the scope of the problem in Canada.

As in Europe, instances of genital mutilation in this country remain isolated tragedies, and often come to light as a result of arrests. Moreover, the rate of female genital mutilation among those 30 countries has decreased by 30 per cent since 1985, according to UNICEF.

Meanwhile, other types of crimes in Canada are far more common. There were 1,409 police reported hate crimes in 2016 — an increase of 20 per cent since 2013. The homicide rate has also increased by 20 per cent in that time period. There were over 220,000 assaults across the country in 2016, and roughly 159,000 instances of breaking and entering.

One wonders why Rempel isn’t pushing the federal government to remind potential citizens that murder, assault, thievery and race-based aggression are illegal in this country and will be punished. Because it’s obvious, perhaps?

via The cynical roots of Rempel’s female genital mutilation crusade – iPolitics

A Yazidi Refugee Family In Canada: When Safe Harbour Isn’t Enough

Good long read by Naomi Buck on the needs of Yazidi refugees.

Bringing them to Canada by itself not enough given the ongoing effects of their trauma and consequent need for more supports. German model of particular interest:

….It’s tempting to assume that survivors of war and displaced persons’ camps would be grateful for the relative safety of a hotel room in Canada. But the Dasnis didn’t know they were safe. All they knew was what they didn’t know: where to find food, how to use the television, whether hotel staff could be trusted, who or what would come next.

“We cried for two days,” Adiba recalls. “It was worse than in the camps. Our cellphones didn’t work, we couldn’t communicate with anyone. My nephew stopped eating. I thought he was going to die.”

On the third day, there was a knock on the hotel room door. Adiba’s older sister, Hadiya, answered. The man introduced himself as Hayder Essw. He was the first person in Canada to speak to them in their native Kurdish dialect. Hadiya’s first words to him were: “Please take us back to Iraq.”

Essw was there to help, but he wasn’t a caseworker or government employee. He’s a member of the tight-knit Yazidi community in Toronto, a volunteer who, since the first Yazidi refugees began arriving in early 2017, has spent much of his time tracking newcomer arrivals.

Essw reassured the women that things were going to be all right. Now that they had been “discovered” by the community, help would begin to flow. And it did.

It came from the government, in the form of financial support and health care coverage, as it does for all government-assisted refugees. But the arduous process of the Dasni family’s settlement has fallen largely to volunteers. This kind of civic engagement reflects well on Canada, providing such volunteers exist and, importantly, have the newcomers’ best interests in mind. But it’s leaving a lot to chance. And it raises critical questions about the government’s ability to meet the needs of a brutally traumatized people. As Jan Kizilhan, a German expert on trauma and the Yazidi, puts it, “It’s not enough to just offer them a safe country.”

Yes, the Canadian government provides Yazidi refugees with free health care, but who finds them a doctor and shows them how to get there? Yes, ESL classes are free, but who helps them make sense of Canadian customs and culture? The government prides itself on taking in a “vulnerable population,” but who makes sure they are getting the help they need to come to terms with their past? Without that, they can’t begin to shape a future.

Over the course of several visits spanning four months, Adiba tells me her story. It’s hard, but she’s determined. She wants the Canadian government to do more for her people. She can’t let go of her relatives back in Iraq — in camps, in captivity or whereabouts unknown.

The family now lives in a randomly furnished bungalow — the lamps are still wrapped in cellophane, a Canadian flag hangs on the wall — on a quiet suburban street north of Toronto. Hadiya, the mother of six, runs the household; she is perpetually cleaning or cooking. There are two constants to our visits. One is her offer of sweet black tea or food from her busy kitchen. The other is Majed El Shafie.

El Shafie, a stocky 40-year-old with plump jowls and a quick smile, is the founder and director of the Toronto-based human rights organization One Free World International. With his bespoke suits and buffed leather shoes, he seems out of place in this modest suburban setting, but Adiba insists he be here for our meetings. “Without him, we would go back,” says Adiba, speaking through a translator. “He is the only one who is helping us with everything.”

…El Shafie prefers not to discuss the details of Adiba’s release in her presence, but he put up half of the US$15,000 price tag and has promised to compensate Adiba’s father in full. Sitting in the downtown office of One Free World International, he speaks openly about the bleak — and controversial — business his organization has entered: buying back ISIS slaves. “That was the going price at the time,” El Shafie says, referring to the ransom. “It keeps going up…. But we’re talking human lives here.”

For El Shafie, freedom of religion must be defended at any cost. According to its website, his organization is active in 28 countries around the world and he is drawn to extreme cases, like that of the Yazidi. The mission is personal. Born into a prominent Egyptian family, he was imprisoned and tortured in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt for publicly converting to Christianity and promoting the faith. After escaping to Israel, he came to Canada as a political refugee in 2002.

Since the 2014 massacre, El Shafie has been working with Kurdish partners on the ground in Iraq to help Yazidi families buy back their daughters, sisters and wives. He estimates that One Free World has helped to pay, in part or in whole, for the release of 600 women. The funds come from donations to his organization, from fees from his speaking engagements and out of his own pocket.

When he is not meeting with officials in Brussels or Washington, or visiting a war zone, El Shafie spends much of his time with the Dasnis and roughly 20 other Yazidi families newly arrived in Toronto. He sees himself as a kind of godfather to the Dasnis. Some of what he has provided might be considered frills: outings to Canada’s Wonderland, Niagara Falls and Toronto’s harbour, which the sisters cite as the highlights of their time in Canada. But he has also played, in practice if not on paper, the roles of settlement worker and social worker: finding the family a house, acting as guarantor on the rental agreement, providing cash infusions for several months until government benefits kicked in, sourcing doctors and specialists, intervening at the local school and attending to personal emergencies.

“Freeing them was one operation,” he says. “But what they face now is tremendously difficult: the stigma, the shame, the memories.” He has lobbied Ottawa forcefully, appearing before and making submissions to the House of Commons immigration committee, asking the government to boost aid to the camps, bring more Yazidi into Canada and provide better mental health support once they’re here.

Germany, home to the largest population of Yazidi outside of Iraq, was the first jurisdiction to focus an aid program on the women and children who had escaped sex slavery. Beginning in early 2015, a small German delegation travelled to camps in the region, screening former ISIS captives for the Special Quota Project, an unprecedented program that brought 1,100 women and children to the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg, where they were given protected housing and intensive medical and psychological treatment. After three years, they can choose to stay in Germany or return to Iraq.

…It’s a question architects of refugee policy grapple with constantly: Who needs it most? And who decides what those people most need?

Jan Kizilhan has spent the last few years finding answers. As the chief psychologist on Germany’s Special Quota Project, the 51-year-old was tasked with selecting which 1,100 Yazidi women would come to Germany for treatment. He interviewed every single one of them and has supervised their therapy in Germany over the last three years.

“The Yazidi suffer intergenerational, secondary and collective traumata,” he says over the phone from his office at the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University of Villingen-Schwenningen. “Their treatment requires a high degree of specialization.”

Kizilhan, the grandson of Yazidi killed by Kurdish Muslims in Turkey, emigrated to Germany in the 1970s. His expertise is unique, and Canada’s parliamentary immigration committee consulted with him via video conference in November 2016 while IRCC was formulating its plan for the Yazidi. Having been very clear about the importance of addressing their psychological needs, Kizilhan has been perplexed to hear from colleagues and friends in Canada that therapy is playing a minor role, if any, in their settlement. “If you don’t help these people with their health, they have no hope of integrating,” he says. “Mentally, they are not in Canada, they are still in Kurdistan, in Iraq.”

IRCC turned down a request for an interview for this article, but department spokespeople responded to questions by email. They emphasized that the Yazidi “are a very vulnerable population” and that the government is “conscious of not doing anything that may re-victimize or re-traumatize them.” They also stated that “all resettled refugees are linked to appropriate support services,” and that their health coverage, the Interim Federal Health Program, covers 10 hours of counselling sessions, with the possibility of more, if required. More recently, an IRCC spokesperson added that “the department is following families closely,” and that staff meet weekly to discuss how the families are adapting.

via A Yazidi Refugee Family In Canada: When Safe Harbour Isn’t Enough

Tories Push Trudeau To Keep FGM Warning In Citizenship Guide

Of course, the citizenship guide should maintain a reference to FGM.

But this needs to be placed in the broader context of violence against women and the history of how Canadian society has evolved in terms of women’s rights, definition of sexual assault, employment equity and the like, not just with an identity politics bumper sticker of “barbaric cultural practices”:

Federal Conservatives are pressuring the Liberal government to ensure that the final draft of the new citizenship guide includes a warning that female genital mutilation (FGM) is a crime in Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not speak to the guide when pressed about the issue in question period Wednesday, but said he is committed to ending the “barbaric practice” around the world.

Tory immigration critic Michelle Rempel noted in the House of Commons that the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women — better known as UN Women — tweeted about FGM as part of its “16 days of activism.”

The UN group called FGM — the intentional cutting of female genital organs for non-medical reasons — a human rights violation that has been perpetuated against 200 million women and girls.

“Canada’s citizenship guide informs newcomers that FGM is a crime in Canada. However Canada’s prime minister has decided to delete this information,” Rempel charged.

The MP was referencing a working copy of the new citizenship guide the government is preparing. The draft, which was obtained by The Canadian Press in the summer, reportedly omits lines stating that certain “barbaric cultural practices,” such as FGM and honour killings, are illegal in Canada. The previous Tory government included those warnings in their overhauls of the guide.

Rempel urged Trudeau in the House to stand with FGM survivors and the UN by reversing what she called his “decision.” She made similar comments on Twitter shortly after question period.

Trudeau responded that he “personally brought up this issue” during a visit to Liberia last year, “challenging local leaders and governments to step up on the fight against FGM.”

Then he said something that drew an immediate reaction from Tories.

“We will continue to lead the way pushing for an end to these barbaric practices of female genital mutilation everywhere around the world. This is something… and here in Canada… this is something we take very seriously.”

Tories bashed Trudeau over comments in 2011

The use of the word “barbaric” harkens back to a controversy in 2011, when Trudeau was serving as the immigration critic of the then-opposition Liberals. He initially took exception to the way the Tories’ revamped citizenship guide described honour killings as “barbaric.”

Trudeau said at the time that the government should have instead called all violence against women “absolutely unacceptable” and made a better “attempt at responsible neutrality.” Top Tories, including then-immigration minister Jason Kenney, relentlessly blasted Trudeau over his remarks.

Trudeau later apologized and retracted his initial take on the guide.

“I want to make it clear that I think the acts described are heinous, barbaric acts that are totally unacceptable in our society,” he said in a statement at the time, according to CBC News.

The debate over so-called “barbaric cultural practices” also factored heavily in the 2015 election, when the Tories famously pledged to create a tip line for Canadians to call if they suspected a child or woman could fall victim to forced marriage, FGM, or polygamy. Liberals said then that the Conservatives’ campaign pledge was really about stoking “fear and division.”

PM brings up lessons from 2015 election

Trudeau referenced that ill-fated Tory promise in the House Tuesday while responding to Conservative questions about how his government is handling suspected ISIS terrorists after they return to Canada. The prime minister said Tories have learned nothing from the results of the last federal vote.

“They ran an election on snitch lines against Muslims, they ran an election on Islamophobia and division, and still they play the same games, trying to scare Canadians,” Trudeau shouted.

“The fact is we always focus on the security of Canadians, and we always will. They play the politics of fear, and Canadians reject that.”

via Tories Push Trudeau To Keep FGM Warning In Citizenship Guide

John Ivison: Liberals braced for another ’huge wave’ of illegal asylum seekers from U.S.

Good analysis by Ivison of some of the issues involved but no easy solutions.

Comes out at same time as IRCC annual tracking survey, showing a small but significant increase in those believing immigration levels too high (27 percent vs 23 percent a year earlier) and a small increase, but within the margin of error, of those who believed too many refugees were coming to Canada (32 percent vs 30 percent) – see Federal government immigration poll suggests hardening attitudes:

You have to feel sorry for the 300,000 Central Americans and Haitians in the United States covered by temporary protected status, who look likely to be deported in the next year or so.

The Trump Administration said Tuesday Nicaraguan nationals must leave by January 2019, and that it is seeking additional information on whether to end TPS designation for Hondurans.

The writing would also appear to be on the wall for 50,000 Haitians, who see their protected status end in January, and 200,000 El Salvadoreans, who lose their status next March.

The situation demands compassion – some of the affected people had been allowed to live and work in the U.S. for 20 years.

But it does not mean Canada should step up and offer social assistance, education, health services, emergency housing and legal aid to any asylum seekers who feel like wandering across the border within sight of an official port of entry.

The Liberal government looks set to be swept up by a second wave of illegal asylum seekers along the Quebec border – the direct result of meek acquiescence to U.S. policy.

Both Canada and the U.S. signed the Safe Third Country Agreement that means refugees claim asylum at the first point of entry. If that happens to be in the U.S., then they can’t claim asylum in Canada, unless they have a blood relative here or are an unaccompanied minor.

But the agreement does not apply to claimants who enter Canada at a location that is not a point of entry.

That is why over the summer, 13,000 mainly Haitian refugees crossed illegally near the Saint Bernard-de-Lacolle border station and promptly gave themselves up to the RCMP.

The numbers slowed down from around 200 people a day to 60-70, according to Jean-Pierre Fortin, president of the Customs and Immigration Union. But he says the processing system is already “plugged” – and now the U.S. Administration has signalled its intentions, he expects a “huge wave”.

“We’re talking about a major crisis,” he said.

Jason Kenney, the leader of the United Conservative Party in Alberta and a former federal Immigration minister, said he pushed the Obama Administration to close the loophole that allows asylum seekers to flaunt the Safe Third Country agreement.

The request was refused, in part Kenney believes because the U.S. sees it an avenue for illegal aliens to deport themselves.

Michelle Rempel, the Conservative immigration critic, raised the issue with Ahmed Hussen, the Immigration minister, at committee last month. She asked if Hussen had broached the subject with his U.S. counterpart.

“We haven’t done that,” Hussen conceded.

But if Canada doesn’t challenge a loophole that undermines the spirit of the agreement, we might as well hang out the bunting for the flood of asylum seekers we can expect over the next 12 months.

Canada remains an attractive destination because the system is absurdly generous and completely overwhelmed.

The government has attempted to spread the word that there is no advantage to arriving in the country irregularly. MPs Pablo Rodriguez and Emmanuel Dubourg were dispatched to explain to Latino and Haitian communities in the U.S. that claiming asylum in Canada is not a free ticket into the country – and that half of all claims in 2016 were rejected.

Rodriguez is about to go back on the road, heading to Texas and New York to advise the Latino populations there not to quit their jobs and take their kids out of school until they understand the situation. “I tell them that if they are returned, it may be to their country of origin, not the United States,” he said.

But it remains to be seen whether that message percolates to all potential asylum seekers.

Canada remains an attractive destination because the system is absurdly generous and completely overwhelmed. Only a tiny proportion of asylum seekers have had their claims processed, beyond a cursory health and criminal check.

After a health and security screening, individuals deemed eligible are able to claim a range of social benefits and get a work permit.

Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, asylum seekers have to show they are in need of protection from torture, death or “cruel and unusual treatment or punishment” in their home country.

But if a claim is rejected, they can appeal to the Refugee Appeals division of the Immigration department or ask the Federal Court to review the decision.

Needless to say with a backlog running into the tens of thousands this process takes years.

Taxpayers will be relieved to know that failed refugee claimants under a removal order MAY NOT be eligible for social assistance.

The government says it has a national operations plan that will be used by federal departments in the event of a significant increase in the number of irregular border crossings.

The first evidence of this plan is the delivery of winterized trailers for up to 200 people at the Lacolle border crossing.

But Rempel is concerned the government the integrity of the system is falling apart.

“Our options shouldn’t be limited to putting a winterized trailer at the border. Departmental officials have already warned that this is only going to get worse and worse,” she said. “A long stretch of the Quebec-Vermont border should be designated an official port of entry by law.”

It is not a problem of the Liberal government’s making – the tired, the poor and the huddled masses are being driven from the U.S. by an overtly anti-immigrant president.

But Justin Trudeau’s message that Canada will welcome anyone fleeing persecution, terror and war has made this country sound an attractive proposition to many who just want to increase their standard of living.

The Prime Minister needs to be unequivocal in his messaging – to economic migrants and to the Americans.

via John Ivison: Liberals braced for another ’huge wave’ of illegal asylum seekers from U.S. | National Post

Canada to admit nearly 1 million immigrants over next 3 years

Good overview with some of the preliminary political reaction. Will be interesting to see how this plays out, but the Conservative focus on integration issues and border controls suggests that the increase itself is not a concern:

Canada will welcome nearly one million immigrants over the next three years, according to the multi-year strategy tabled by the Liberal government today in what it calls “the most ambitious immigration levels in recent history.”

Canadian immigration levels by year

The number of economic migrants, family reunifications and refugees will climb to 310,000 in 2018, up from 300,000 this year. That number will rise to 330,000 in 2019 then 340,000 in 2020.

The targets for economic migrants, refugees and family members was tabled in the House of Commons Wednesday afternoon.

Hussen said the new targets will bring Canada’s immigration to nearly one per cent of the population by 2020, which will help offset an aging demographic. He called it a historic and responsible plan and “the most ambitious” in recent history.

“Our government believes that newcomers play a vital role in our society,” Hussen said. “Five million Canadians are set to retire by 2035 and we have fewer people working to support seniors and retirees.”

In 1971 there were 6.6 people of working age for each senior, Hussen said, but by 2012 that ratio had gone to 4.2 to 1 and projections show it will be at 2 to 1 by 2036, when almost 100 per cent of population growth will be a result of immigration; it stands at about 75 per cent today.

Hussen said immigration drives innovation and strengthens the economy, rejecting some claims that newcomers drain Canada’s resources and become a burden on society.

He said the government is also working to reduce backlogs and speed up the processing of applications in order to reunite families and speed up citizenship applications.

Canadian immigration class levels by year

The federal government’s own Advisory Council on Economic Growth had recommended upping levels to reach 450,000 newcomers annually by 2021. Hussen said the government is taking a more gradual approach to ensure successful integration.

“At arriving at these numbers we listened very carefully to all stakeholders who told us they want to see an increase but they also want to make sure that each and every newcomer that we bring to Canada — bringing a newcomer to Canada is half of the job. We have to make sure that people are able to be given the tools that they need to succeed once they get here,” he said.

Focus on integration: Rempel

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel was critical of the plan, suggesting the government needs to do a better job of integrating newcomers.

“It is not enough for this government to table the number of people that they are bringing to this country. Frankly the Liberals need to stop using numbers of refugees, amount of money spent, feel-good tweets and photo ops for metrics of success in Canada’s immigration system.”

She said the Liberals need to bring Canada’s immigration system “back to order” by closing the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement that has seen migrants cross into Canada at unofficial border crossings only to claim refugee status.

She also said the immigration system should focus on helping immigrants integrate through language efficiency and through mental health support plans for people who are victims of trauma.

Dory Jade, the CEO of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants, welcomed the news although he suggested the numbers should be higher.

“Canada will greatly prosper and grow once the 350,000 threshold has been crossed,” he said. “Nevertheless, we are witnessing a very positive trend.”

The Canadian Council of Refugees also welcomed the news, but wanted more, saying the share for refugees was only increased slightly from 13 per cent this year to 14 per cent in each of the next three years.

Calls for longer-range forecast

In past, there has been a one-year figure for how many immigrants will be permitted into the country, but provinces and stakeholders have called for longer-range forecasts.

A statement from Ontario’s Immigration Minister Laura Albanese, before the announcement, said the province supports the introduction of multi-year levels plans “to provide more predictability to the immigration system and inform program planning.”

“Significant variation in year-to-year immigration levels can dramatically impact the requirement for provincial year-to-year resources. A longer term outlook would help in planning for appropriate service levels and use of resources.”

The statement said Ontario supports growth in immigration levels, particularly in economic immigration categories to support the growing economy.

Diversity drives innovation

During the government’s consultation period, the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance presented “Vision 2020,” what it called a “bold” three-year plan to address growing demographic shifts underway in the country, calling for increased numbers in the economic, family and refugee categories.

It recommended a target of 350,000 people in 2018, which climbs to 400,000 in 2019 and 450,000 by 2020.

Chris Friesen, the organization’s director of settlement services, said it’s time for a white paper or royal commission on immigration to develop a comprehensive approach to future immigration.

“Nothing is going to impact this country [more] besides increased automation and technology than immigration will and this impact will grow in response to [the] declining birth rate, aging population and accelerated retirements,” he told CBC News.

Source: Canada to admit nearly 1 million immigrants over next 3 years – Politics – CBC News

Opposition accuses Liberals of ‘paralysis’ in crackdown on crooked immigration consultants

Refreshing to see the opposition admitting that its previous approaches failed while pressing the government for action:

Opposition MPs are accusing the Liberal government of failing to protect immigrants from fraudsters and predators as it swings Canada’s door open to more newcomers.

In a formal response to a sweeping study by MPs on the immigration committee tabled four months ago, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the government is “seized” with issues related to inadequate protection from unprofessional or unethical practitioners, and conceded a strong system of oversight is essential.

But he did not commit to any of the committee’s 21 recommendations, saying only that the government will carry out further study and expects to provide more information on a path forward next year.

“Given the complexity and inter-dependencies of the issues, the impact on public confidence, on clients and authorized immigration and citizenship consultants, the government will carefully consider the committee’s report and undertake a thorough analysis of key recommendations before determining how these issues could be addressed successfully,” his response reads.

A disappointed Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said the response amounts to “typical inertia.”

“There are very substantive proposals on the table on how to manage this, and the government really just needs to make a decision and implement it,” she told CBC News. “The fact they’re not willing to do it suggests a sort of paralysis on their part, and that’s to the detriment of people who are being exploited.”

“We tried self-governance. Clearly, that’s failed,” she said. “I’m willing to say the approach we tried failed, twice, and it’s really now up to the Liberal government to do something, and the status quo is not going to cut it.”

In the spring, the Commons immigration committee carried out weeks of hearings on unregistered representatives often called “ghost” or “crooked” consultants, hearing heart-wrenching stories from clients who were ripped off for thousands of dollars, or brought to Canada with the promise of work only to be dumped at the side of the road or left in a warehouse.

Rempel said it is even more critical that the government crack down on predators in the context of its aggressive immigration strategy.

Source: Opposition accuses Liberals of ‘paralysis’ in crackdown on crooked immigration consultants – Politics – CBC News