CBSA has increased deportations, though removals of irregular asylum seekers remain low

Some useful numbers in this update:

The Canada Border Services Agency has ramped up deportations of failed refugee claimants and other foreign nationals and permanent residents who have lost the right to stay in Canada, amid concerns about the ability of Canada’s asylum system to respond quickly to spikes in refugee claims.

Removals from Canada have dropped significantly in the last several years, from more than 19,000 people in 2012-13 to around 8,000 in recent years. But that number climbed to roughly 9,500 people in 2018-19, following an internal effort to speed up the pace of deportations.

Despite the overall increase, the numbers remain low for removals of failed irregular asylum seekers — those who enter Canada from the U.S. between official border crossings, but who are unsuccessful in claiming refugee status — even though Ottawa has said it is prioritizing their removal.

A spokesperson for Border Security Minister Bill Blair told the National Post that anyone to be deported from Canada is given due process. “But once legal avenues have been exhausted, individuals are expected to respect our laws and leave Canada, or as per our commitments, be removed,” said Marie-Emmanuelle Cadieux in an email. “We are re-investing in the agency to ensure that processing continues to happen in a manner that is fair, fast and final.”

Last fall, the CBSA confirmed it had set a target of 10,000 removals for the 2018-19 fiscal year, a notable increase over the previous three years, when removals ranged from 7,900 to 8,600. At the time, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the agency needed to “pick up the pace” of removals, and pointed to $7.5 million in funding allocated to the CBSA in Budget 2018. “We’ve provided some extra resources for CBSA to do the work that’s necessary,” Goodale said. The agency has now confirmed it removed a total of 9,584 people last year.

Backlogs in Canada’s immigration system have been the subject of increased scrutiny since an influx of asylum seekers began crossing the Canada-U.S. border between official ports of entry after the 2016 election of U.S. President Donald Trump. Since January 2017, about 45,000 people have entered Canada in this way, using a loophole in the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement that generally requires asylum seekers to make a refugee claim in whichever country they get to first.

In May, the auditor general found that Canada’s asylum system is unable to cope with such surges, with refugee claimants waiting two years for decisions on their claims. The backlog of asylum seekers numbered about 75,000 at the time and will likely continue to grow. However, the number of people entering Canada illegally has dropped considerably, and is currently only half what it was at this time last year.

The government is taking steps to speed up the entire system, from claim hearings to removals. Budget 2019 earmarked $1.18 billion over five years for border security and processing of asylum claims.

The CBSA also says it is now prioritizing the removal of irregular asylum seekers whose claims have been denied, as it does people who are deemed threats to national security or who are involved in organized crime, crimes against humanity or other types of criminal activity. However, Canada has still deported only a small minority of the tens of thousands of irregular asylum seekers who’ve entered the country in the last two years. According to figures the CBSA provided to the Post, the agency removed just 723 irregular migrants with failed refugee claims between April 1, 2017 and June 21, 2019.

This is largely because asylum seekers must exhaust all legal avenues of appeal before they can be removed, which takes time. The agency also pointed to a number of other factors that can delay removals, including the fact that Canada temporarily halts removals to countries in armed conflict or experiencing environmental disasters — such measures are currently in place for Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq. A lack of valid travel documents and medical issues can also delay removals.

“The CBSA is firmly committed to meeting its mandate under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to conduct removals as soon as possible,” a spokesperson told the Post in an email, adding that the agency has increased staffing levels and improved co-ordination with other branches of the immigration system to speed up removals. The agency said there are currently just under 3,000 people with an “actionable removal order” in Canada, meaning with no barrier to deportation.

Still, Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said setting quotas for deportations like the CBSA’s target of 10,000 removals can be problematic. “One of the concerns is who ends up being a priority for removal,” she said. When border officers are given targets they need to meet, there’s an incentive to prioritize families over criminals because officials can remove a number of people at once, often with less effort, she said.

Dench said the removal process can often feel arbitrary, with some people getting calls from the CBSA almost immediately, while others wait years before being asked to leave.

Source: CBSA has increased deportations, though removals of irregular asylum seekers remain low

‘Language matters’: Goodale defends changed wording in terror report

It does, but both in being sensitive to groups and being precise enough to be meaningful. Removal of the terms fails the latter test.

Nobody (well as least most people) wants to label entire groups but it is valid to identify extremists elements within groups.

Just as we can use the term “white supremacy” without implying all whites are supremicists, we can use Islamist or Sikh-inspired extremism without labelling all Muslims or Sikhs as extremists:

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale defended his government’s decision to update the most recent report on the terrorism threat facing Canada with what many might call “politically correct” language.

When Goodale’s department released the December 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada, it was criticized by some groups for using such phrases as “Sikh extremism.” The most recent report avoids such direct references to cultural or religious groups; instead of “Sikh extremism,” for example, it refers to “extremists who support violent means to establish an independent state within India.”

Goodale said the language in the report was changed, not to appease individual groups, but to be more accurate and to discourage the recent rise in hate crimes across the country.

“It is neither accurate nor fair to equate any one community, or an entire religion, to extremist violence or terror. To do so is simply wrong or inaccurate.”

By using terms such as “Sikh extremism” or “Sunni extremism,” Goodale said, the report failed to properly zero in on the dangerous actions of a small number of people. As a result, it spread the stigma over an entire religion or community.

Public Safety has updated or changed the titles of individual terrorist groups or movements cited in the report in order to make them more specific and less likely to be confused with other groups.

Goodale said that in 2017, 47 per cent more hate crimes were reported to police in Canada, and that social-media platforms are making it easier for racists to find and support one another online.

He said that encouraging hate by denigrating an entire religion only ends with violence, citing the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March that killed 51 Muslims and injured dozens more.

“Language matters, and just because something has often been phrased in a certain way does not mean that it should be phrased in that way, now or in the future,” Goodale said.

‘Playing political games’

Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus pushed back against Goodale’s explanation, saying he was “playing politics” with matters of security, because everyone understands that a term such as “Sikh extremism” refers to those of that faith who are extremists, and to no one else.

“When you have reports that have been drawn up by our security bodies that communicate information, well, that’s what it is. So to what extent should politics enter into play just to avoid insulting anyone?” Paul-Hus said.

“The information was accurate. It was pretty clear about existing threats, and now you changed it just to lighten, change some words, basically playing politics here, making sure you don’t displease anyone.”

Goodale said other political parties were consulted about the changes, as were community and faith groups, and that the decision was not about being partisan, but about being accurate.

NDP MP Matthew Dube — who, along with his party leader Jagmeet Singh (a Sikh himself), had asked for a language review — said he welcomed the changes in the report.

“Words do matter,” he said. “There is a rise in hate crimes, and there is another form of terrorism that is happening in communities, not just here in Canada, but in the world. I think these changes are welcome and, certainly, I hope the work will continue.

Source: ‘Language matters’: Goodale defends changed wording in terror report

Canada in ‘exploratory’ talks with U.S. over border agreement on asylum seekers

Appropriate and needed given that any workable solution requires working with the US:

Canada is in high-level exploratory talks with the United States over a border agreement to manage asylum seekers, but will not say whether Ottawa wants the power to automatically turn away thousands of refugee claimants who walk across the border.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed it is reviewing a Canadian proposal to amend the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), which requires Canada and the United States to refuse entry to asylum seekers who arrive at official ports of entry along the shared border, as both countries are considered safe for refugees. However, senior Canadian cabinet ministers insisted they have not entered into formal negotiations with the United States.

“It’s a discussion that we’re having with the Americans about the various techniques that could be pursued on both sides of the border to ensure security and integrity,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Tuesday. “If and when that conversation matures into a specific negotiation, we’ll have further things to say about it. But this is very exploratory at the moment – scoping issues and potential solutions.”

Concerns over the agreement, which was signed in 2004, surfaced last year when thousands of asylum seekers fled the United States for Canada on foot, fearing deportation under President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown. Since the agreement applies only to those who arrive at official ports of entry, asylum seekers can avoid being immediately turned away by crossing between border posts, forcing Canada to process most of their claims.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen did not confirm a Reuters report on Tuesday that the government wants the agreement to apply to the entire Canada-U.S. border. Mr. Hussen said Ottawa is in regular contact with the United States about the agreement, but declined to get into details.

“As you can appreciate, we constantly talk about all aspects of the border, including the Safe Third Country Agreement,” Mr. Hussen said. “Those are discussions that are ongoing, so I can’t take a snapshot in time and give you what was discussed on a particular day.”

The RCMP intercepted more than 20,000 asylum claimants in 2017, 91 per cent of whom crossed in Quebec. Many entered at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle after taking taxis along upstate New York’s Roxham Road.

The Mounties intercepted more than 5,000 asylum claimants in the first three months of 2018 – again, mostly in Quebec.

The Conservatives have urged the government to close the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement that allows asylum seekers to enter Canada at unofficial border crossings. Last week, the Tories tabled a motion in the House of Commons calling on the Liberals to table a plan by May 11.

“Last week, Justin Trudeau voted against taking immediate action and tabling a plan to manage our borders and immigration system,” Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said in a statement on Tuesday. “Conservatives will continue to hold the Prime Minister accountable, and call for the entire Canada-U.S. border to be designated as an official port of entry.”

Mr. Goodale said the Conservative proposal is “impractical,” as it would “change the entire concept about what the border means” and “increase insecurity at the border.”

As the Liberals iron out their approach to STCA talks with the United States, they are touting their efforts to prevent more asylum seekers from crossing into Canada. For instance, Mr. Hussen said many of those crossing into Quebec earlier this year were Nigerians carrying valid U.S. visitor visas. Canadian officials raised the issue with their U.S. counterparts, and the number of U.S. visas issued to Nigerians dropped.

via Canada in ‘exploratory’ talks with U.S. over border agreement on asylum seekers – The Globe and Mail

The contrary view, to this being a crisis, can be seen in Senator Omidvar’s op-ed in The Star:

Let’s be honest. The common thread of today’s populism is anti-immigration. This populism legitimizes xenophobia and encourage the separation of people into “us” and “them”. It creates a politics that sees the other not simply as different, but as different and therefor dangerous. Adversaries become enemies.

Populism prevents an energetic engagement with diversity. It erects barriers — whether literally or figuratively — that stand at odds with the reality of an increasingly interconnected — and interdependent — world.

Populism can undermine the basic underpinnings of a democracy. If we have learned anything from south of the border it is how norms that were once considered absolute can quickly become obsolete. How things that were once unimaginable can soon become unexceptional.

So how do we respond? First, words matter. We need to watch how we talk about legitimate issues around asylum seekers and our borders. We can’t whip up fear and division.

Second, we can’t use this as political football. No party should use immigration as a wedge issue. We deserve better than that.

Finally, we need to recognize the fact that when it comes to immigration, we’ve done a lot right. We’ve devised smart policies with high levels of skilled immigrants and we help people that are fleeing some of the most wretched situations around the globe. We do a very good job of integrating them. And while we’re far from perfect, we bring a lot to the table.

However, an area that needs attention is the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). Although the recent budget increased funding for the IRB more is needed. Money is needed to process asylum claims efficiently as well as deal with a growing backlog. Continuing to build this “good governance” structure will go a long way to maintaining public trust in the system.

Canada still has work to do, but we have a strong foundation on which to build.

via Asylum seekers are not causing a crisis for Canada | The Star

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

Canada’s counter-radicalization efforts have ‘little national coherence,’ Public safety minister says

Apart from the Kanishka Project which funded some needed research, the previous government relatively under-invested in counter-radicalization given their reluctance to “commit sociology” and focus on hard security measures:

Canada’s counter-radicalization efforts have “little national coherence,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Sunday in a statement reflecting on the killing last week of an ISIL supporter allegedly about to conduct an attack.

Saying the police response had “prevented a much more terrible outcome,” Goodale called for an improved response to the threat of extremism. While some work is underway in cities such as Montreal and Calgary, Canada has no national strategy.

“Our goal is to begin fixing that this year,” he said. “We need to get really good at this — ;to preserve our diversity and pluralism as unique national strengths. …We need to access the best global research.  We need to develop more of our own.

“We need to generate and co-ordinate talent and expertise. We need to mobilize and support community-based outreach agencies. We need to know how to identify those who could be vulnerable to insidious influences that draw certain people — especially young people — toward extremism leading to violence.

“We need to understand what positive messages can counteract that poison. We need to know how to intervene with the right tools at the right time in the right way — all to head off tragedies before they happen, as much as humanly possible.”

A fast-paced RCMP investigation into a martyrdom video recorded by a masked man who vowed to attack Canada led police Wednesday to the Strathroy, Ont., home of Aaron Driver, a radicalized Muslim convert and ardent supporter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

….Goodale said the his top concerns were “lone wolves who get sucked into perverse and extreme ideologies that promote violence.” The Liberals were “committed to meaningful national security consultations” that would intensify in the fall, he said.

Source: Canada’s counter-radicalization efforts have ‘little national coherence,’ Public safety minister says | National Post

Liberals vow to review Canada’s poor record jailing Islamist fighters returning to country

Reasonable approach as part of the overall review under-way:

Canada’s poor record at jailing Islamist fighters returning from Syria and Iraq will be scrutinized as part of the government’s overhaul of the nation’s security apparatus.

The commitment Tuesday by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, responsible for Canada’s chief spy agency and the RCMP, follows news that about 60 individuals in Canada are suspected to have returned from foreign battlefields and the ranks of the Islamic State, al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.

None have been charged, though Parliament in 2013 created four new criminal laws against leaving the country or attempting to leave to engage in terrorist activities. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) believes about 180 others from Canada are currently fighting with, or aiding, extremist movements overseas.

The numbers were revealed Monday by CSIS Director Michel Coulombe, testifying before the Senate’s committee on national security. The principal concern is that some of those who survive and return to Canada could use their combat skills to launch attacks here or become terrorist recruiters, fund-raisers and domestic organizers.

Goodale and RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, appearing before the Commons public safety committee Tuesday, said the paucity of foreign fighter prosecutions — there has been just one — reflects the high evidentiary standards in Canada’s criminal courts. (Five other men have been charged in absentia, but two have reportedly been killed fighting in Syria.)

Gathering incriminating intelligence in a far-flung combat zone, then turning it into evidence to satisfy guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is tough. What’s more, CSIS has no law enforcement powers and terrorism-related criminal charges are up to the RCMP.

“It’s a challenge to be able to get the evidence that’s required to prove our cases to our standards here in Canada,” Paulson told reporters. “We have been improving collecting that evidence, but it is fundamentally an evidence-collection issue.”

Increasingly, police and other authorities are using heavy surveillance, immigration law, detentions, peace bonds and disruption tactics to watch, remove, control and thwart the activities of those who have returned.

Both Goodale and Paulson flatly rejected the notion of lowering criminal law thresholds.

Instead, Goodale said the issue will be included in the government’s promised review of Canada’s national security framework.

“How do you make that important transition from intelligence information to prosecutorial evidence? All of that is part of what we will be examining,” he said.

Source: Liberals vow to review Canada’s poor record jailing Islamist fighters returning to country | National Post

Canadian women give birth to children of ISIS fighters

No real surprise here that Canada is not exempt from this trend of some women living in the West, hard as it is to understand why, both objectively and from their families’ perspective.

Decisions have consequences, as other accounts of women who have traveled to Iraq and Syria have found out (‘There’s no way back now’: For female ISIL members, Syria is one-way journey).

These studies are helpful to highlight this (fortunately small) trend, and more important, inform counter-extremism strategies:

Canadian women are helping to grow the so-called Islamic State.

According to researchers at the University of Waterloo, three Canadian women have given birth to children of ISIS fighters, while another two are pregnant. The new details are part of a larger study following foreign fighters who flee to Syria and Iraq. The women travelled separately over the past two years, leaving their families back home devastated.

“They’re quite worried about what is going to happen to their daughter, but also their grandchild,” said Amarnath Amarasingam, a co-lead author of the study. “For most of the parents, I think there’s kind of a double reaction. First they’re kind of happy a grandchild is involved, but at the same time, they’re quite devastated that a child was born into a war zone, to somebody they’ve never met.”

The researcher also said the challenges these women face are quite obvious. Although they have a place to live, it is difficult to find basic supplies like clothing and diapers. Some of the families back in Canada are keen to help their daughters, but are afraid of the legal consequences.

“If you were to send diapers to Syria, I don’t know if that contributes to real support of a terrorist organization, but it does rest on very shaky legal ground, in terms of what you’re allowed to send to a place like Raqqa,” said Amarasingam.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said this is “obviously a very disturbing development,” and recommitted to opening a national counter-radicalization office.

“We will be moving forward shortly, as rapidly as we can, on the creation of this new office for community outreach and counter radicalization,” said Goodale.

“I’m concerned with every dimension about this type of problem, it runs contrary to everything Canada stands for, in terms of values in the world,” he added.

The creation of a new office was part of a mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the public safety minister late last year. The Liberals aren’t saying yet if funding for the office will be included in the upcoming budget, but there are signs this program will be a priority.

Amarasingam said the challenges these women face become more complex because of their age. “These girls are very young,” he added, “they don’t have much experience in how to raise children, but they’re also raising these children under circumstances many others don’t have to worry about.”

Source: Canadian women give birth to children of ISIS fighters | CTV News

Ralph Goodale says Canada must be ‘world leader’ in tackling radicalization

Strong messaging on the softer aspects of that strategy.

Will be interesting to see how the precise mandate and implementation of the Office of the Community Outreach and Counter-radicalization Co-ordinator:

Canada must become a “world leader” in stamping out radicalization, because our open, tolerant society is at stake, says Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

In a wide-ranging interview with CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, Goodale said Canada must become the “best in the world” at community outreach, engagement and counter-radicalization to avert a fundamental threat to Canadian values.

“We’re an open society, we’re one of the most plural societies in the world; the most inclusive, the most tolerant. In order to preserve that nature of our country, we need to be among the best in the world at identifying radicalization and the techniques for countering radicalization and working with all other Canadians to make sure that’s effective,” he told host Rosemary Barton.

Goodale could not provide the current number of individuals considered home-grown militants or “foreign fighters.”

But he said the government will make a “vigorous” effort to stamp out radicalization. The minister’s mandate letter includes an order to create an Office of the Community Outreach and Counter-radicalization Co-ordinator.

More money for the RCMP

Goodale also promised the Mounties would have the necessary resources to keep up the fight. Last year, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said he was forced to divert 600 officers from white-collar crime and fraud files to focus on national security investigations.

“We cannot have a situation where your national police force has got to rob Peter to pay Paul,” he said. “When we call upon them to perform serious functions in the name of national security, crime prevention, law enforcement and all the other important things that they do, they need to have the physical resources, including budget, to do that well.”

Source: Ralph Goodale says Canada must be ‘world leader’ in tackling radicalization – Politics – CBC News