A new, dangerous step taken by Harper against the Canadian immigrant community
Deporting refugees who are now permanent residents for having visited their home country
In the last days of February, we heard the news that the Canadian conservative government is doing its best to revoke the status of those permanent residents who entered Canadian soil as refugees years ago but have visited the country from which they fled, tried to renew their original passport, or even went to a third country using that passport. Consequently, these refugees are going to be deported. Please see an article in Toronto Star in this regard here.
Some of the people who have experienced this new conservative policy against immigrants and are the subject of deportation have been living in Canada for years and have families, even in some cases a Canadian spouse, and a successful job or business.
I am going to talk about this issue in the following four sections:
- Legal aspects
According to the regulations, anyone who is outside his homeland and fears being prosecuted for having returned to his homeland can seek asylum. According to the Geneva Convention, the fear of prosecution should have a reasonable basis, and the reason for prosecution should involve one’s race, nationality, membership in a specific social or political group, or specific political view. In some cases, the convention is interpreted more openly. For instance, in Canada, it is recognized that women may be prosecuted and punished just because they are women in certain countries. In any case, what really matters in this regard is the risk menacing the asylum seeker. Any untrue statement or any action or behavior showing that the initial statement was not true can cause one’s refugee status to be revoked, which is called cessation.
According to the current regulations, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) can decide if someone still needs support and protection, upon a request from the government for cessation, which means the denial of the right to protection. Before 2012 and the approving of the new regulations in this regard by Harper’s conservative administration, it was possible to request cessation, but it rarely occurred, as the board’s decision could not lead to the revocation of the permanent residence of those who had received it after taking asylum, and the government had no motive to request cessation for them, even if IRB granted this request. However, since 2012, the Canada Boarder Services Agency (CBSA) has made the request for cessation one of its five top priorities in intelligence activities. According to the information published by the Canadian Council for Refugees, a non-governmental agency, CBSA specified the issuance of 875 cessation requests as its annual target.
According to the current regulations, except for those who have received Canadian citizenship, anyone who has entered Canadian soil as a refugee can be deported by this agency if he has lost the qualification for protection or if it is shown that his statement was untrue. Having traveled to the home country is considered as contradictory to the applicant’s statement.
۲- The political aspect
This government, being conservative, has done everything in its power — from amateurish tampering with immigration laws to the shutdown of its embassies based on overnight decisions, making efforts to cut off the medical insurance of asylum seekers, and following the anti-immigrant policies of its supporting party since it took office with less than 34 percent of the Canadian vote. Taking serious measures and spending thousands of dollars on deporting refugees who have gone back to their homeland is now among the top priorities of the Harper administration.
According to statistics published by IRB, in 2013, 178 requests were received by this institution in this regard — a significant growth compared to less than 40 requests received in the last few years. In late-March 2014, 148 requests were being processed. Taking the specified target number into account, it seems that the CBSA staff has had a tough year, as they have been under a lot of pressure from their bosses to find immigrants with refugee backgrounds who have traveled to their country. Note that these actions have no benefits for Canadian society.
Jason Kenney, the then immigration minister, justified the change in regulations for deporting refugees and encouraged members of parliament by stating that “many refugees have been seen to have traveled to the same country they fled from after getting their asylum.”, but now, the Harper administration targets the people who have been integrated in Canada for 10 years and have a successful life without getting any help from the Canadian government. It is not actually surprising, given the background of this government, nor that, especially, of Mr. Kenney.
It is not evident why on earth all these human and financial resources are being taken from taxpayers’ pocket to find and deport refugees who have a decent, calm life in Canada, a country which needs three hundred thousand immigrants every year. The question is why people useful to this country should be deported just because they have had a short trip to their home country to see their ill parents, even if this meant taking the risk of being caught in that country.
۳- The importance of this issue for the Iranian community of Canada
A part of the Iranian community consists of refugees who are now permanent residents and have been integrated in Canada, but over the course of years, have traveled to Iran for some reason. Of course, there are some people among them who managed to be granted asylum with made-up stories about their life in Iran, and therefore, they fear being deported more than anyone else. On the other hand, however, we should not look at this issue only from a personal perspective, i.e. whether we are in danger of being deported or not. The conservative government, essentially, does not intend to solve the problems of the immigrants’ community. Besides, these policies are not applied only to Iranians, and actually there are only a few Iranians among those who have been targeted so far, but Harper has shown that he is gradually advancing, and his next policies may include us, even if at the moment we are excluded. Therefore, we should not be happy with his policies, even if we believe that many refugees have taken asylum with made-up stories and they deserved to be treated like that.
As members of the Iranian community, we have to make sure we will take part in the next elections and encourage others to vote for the opponent parties, hoping that we will put an end to the activities of a party which spends the financial and human resources of Canada against the benefits of its people.
۴- Who should be concerned and what do we recommend?
Those who are still permanent residents, have not obtained their citizenship yet, and have traveled to their motherland, can be subject to this law. As said before, in many cases, the information provided in the citizenship application forms is used to initiate this process, so it may be better for this group of people to forget about their citizenship application and postpone it until the time these policies are changed or the Harper term has come to an end. After all, they should not say anything other than the truth on the forms.
It is not evident why on earth all these human and financial resources are being taken from taxpayers’ pocket to find and deport refugees who have a decent, calm life in Canada
The conservative government, essentially, does not intend to solve the problems of the immigrants’ community
Those having Canadian citizenship should not be concerned, as they are not the subject of this new policy
Express Entry and concerns about the honesty and transparency of the Conservatives
As you know, a new system called Express Entry has been introduced for receiving immigration files in certain categories as of January 2015. This system has essentially changed the way applicants will be accepted in some immigration programs. In this system, applicants will not be put into a processing queue just because they have sent in an application; the federal government, instead, selects applicants based on undefined criteria. Therefore, an applicant may not be accepted even after having created a profile for a few years, whereas another applicant may be accepted and given a chance to apply for Permanent Residency in the first month of creating a profile.
This system has many advantages. For instance, it is assumed that applicants are selected only when there is a job opportunity, or at least when the governments feel the need for a specific specialty or skill. This is a big advantage for newcomers, as a lot of their time will not be wasted looking for a suitable job during the first years of arrival in the new country.
However, the problem is that the selection criteria are not clear and applicants cannot figure out what ranking and priority the federal government has dedicated to their files for sending the invitation letters to apply for PR. Nor, on the other hand, has any method been defined based on which they can hope that all these actions have been performed according to some standards and transparent criteria, so that they will be able to challenge the system if these standards and criteria are violated. In other words, the applicants have no rights and are not allowed to protest, as the system is defined in a way that makes everything depend on the will of the federal government. For instance, if the government decides to send invitation letters to all skilled workers in a specific expertise from say, Ireland, and not to send any invitation letters to the subjects of a specific country, it cannot be easily accused of discrimination, partly because there is no clear information in this regard, and partly because in this system, the government can easily justify any behavior on the pretext of the need for certain jobs and skills. In the long term, we can get results by formally requesting for information and analyzing it, but this requires some time longer that the lifetime of the governments.
We now feel more concerned as we know that Harper’s administration has no limitation in the violation of prospective immigrants’ rights, and is avoiding transparency more than any other government despite its claims about forming a transparent government in 2008. This government does not pay any attention whatsoever to public opinion, and easily violates the basic rights included in the Canadian Charter of Freedom and Human Rights. The most evident instance of this behavior can be seen in the passing of the new citizenship law.
In short, this system is a good tool which can be in the applicants’ interest, if used by a fair government, but can lead to the violation of people’s rights if used by a government such as Mr. Harper’s. Hopefully, in the next elections, a wise, modest government will be elected and this problem will be solved.
Despite these problems and concerns, I strongly recommend applicants to create an immigration profile.
This system is a good tool which can be in the applicants’ interest, if used by a fair government
The two-faced policies of the Canadian Conservative government
Opposition to terrorism and at the same time friendship with its supporters
These days we are faced with a new chaos in the world, called the Islamic State or ISIS. It claims to be the wealthiest terrorist group in the world and there are many hunches about how it is financed. The strongest hunch about these terrorists, who easily decapitate many innocent people, is that the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, in particular, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, finance them. The Conservative government has sent Canadian fighters to bombard the positions of this group, as have done the same countries which are said to be financing the group, but it is just a political show. In a report published on November 2, it was disclosed that the diplomats of ISIS are in Doha. Neither are those Sunni Arab countries willing to control ISIS, nor is the Harper administration really opposed to it. For more information, see here and here.
Let’s forget about the many Arab states supporting ISIS, and talk only about Saudi Arabia, the land to which the terrorists are mostly linked. There is rarely a terrorist with radically religious beliefs who has nothing to do with this country. We need only have a look at the list of people who were allegedly involved in the 9/11 incident. According to formal reports, most of them were the subjects of Saudi Arabia. This country does not have a good background in respecting human rights; indeed, women there still do not enjoy even the most basic human rights. It does not have a constitution and is still run like a primitive tribe.
Interestingly, this country is a close friend of the Conservative government. This January, Harper paid a formal visit to this country and the trade between the two countries increased in his term of office (read here). Indeed, John Baird, the Canadian minister of foreign affairs, conveys a message of friendship in his frequent visits to Saudi Arabia.
The question is: “How can the Conservative government forget about all its mottos when dealing with Saudi Arabia and its subjects, and extend its hand of friendship to the violators of human rights and supporters of terrorists?
Aren’t they two-faced politicians?
How can the Conservative government forget about all its mottos when dealing with Saudi Arabia?
The Canadian foreign minister still insists on violating Iranians’ rights and discriminating against them on no legal basis.
What is the story?
Almost everybody knows about the sanctions imposed by the Canadian government on Iran and Iranian residents. According to these illegal and inappropriate sanctions, any financial transactions between Canadian institutions and citizens with the Iranian government and Iranian residents are prohibited, except for certain situations. On the other hand, the Canadian law authorizes the foreign minister to consider the applications of the Iranians who request to be excluded from these sanctions and to issue permissions for them on an ad hoc basis. Only a few of these requests had been responded to from November 2011 when the sanctions law was passed to mid-2012. However, no other requests have been considered except for a very small number since then.
In the beginning, the requests were promised to be considered and responded to in 16 weeks. But now, the applicants have been waiting for two years, which is totally unacceptable. The majority of these applicants are those who have applied for immigration to Canada, accepted by the provincial governments through different programs, and need to get permission from the foreign ministry in order to be able to transfer their assets and complete their immigration process in accordance to the Canadian Law.
After spending a lot of money and being involved in the immigration process for two to four years, they have no idea of their immigration file status simply because the minister is not willing to grant or refuse their requests. In some cases, their files are closed due to the delay in receiving the permission from the foreign ministry. Thus, all their efforts are in vain.
The minister clearly discriminated against Iranians and indirectly prevented Iranian entrepreneurs and investors from immigrating to Canada.
Mr. Minister does not dare to reject these requests, as he does not have any convincing reasons to do so. If he rejects the applications, he will be challenged about his decisions and has to think about justifications to be offered in a court of law, which is impossible for a large number of cases, and the Canadian competent courts will not allow him to abdicate responsibility in dealing with the requests as usual. That is why he resorted to the time-killing policy in order to deprive Iranians of their rights and to conceal this discriminating behaviour behind his mottos.
Recently, some Iranians intend to sue Mr. foreign minister and soon this conservative minister who pretends to be worried about the violation of human rights in other countries, will have to be accountable for the obvious violation of the rights of Iranians who apply for immigration to Canada.
Never-ending Wrongdoings of Apparently Honest Governments
We have heard interesting news about corruption in different levels of the Canadian government. Some time ago, the mass media made a big deal about the covert relationship between Mafia and the municipal authorities in several cities of Quebec. A special committee was established in order to investigate the dimensions of the corruption. The mayors of a number of Quebec cities, including the mayor of the big city of Laval to the north of Montreal, were arrested and the mayor of Montreal resigned, his temporary substitute being assigned by the city council until the next elections. Now he is also in prison. In November, the people of Montreal went to the polls and expressed their dissatisfaction with the former mayor and his colleagues.
In 2006, the Conservative Party of Canada, led by Stephen Harper, started a campaign against corruption, claiming that there is corruption in the Liberal Party. It also claimed that it would form the most transparent government of Canada. People could not trust the Conservative Party, although they had lost their confidence in liberals. It hadn’t been long since Mr. Mulroney, the former conservative Prime Minister and Mr. Harper’s master, was accused. That was why Mr. Harper only managed to form his minority government in 2006. The same thing happened again in 2008. In 2011, he managed to form a majority government with just a little more than 30 percent of the votes cast by people, by making a lot of promises to different strata of the country, sending his Immigration Minister to give speeches in the communities where there were a lot of immigrants and victory in elections could make the conservatives the majority, as well as giving attractive promises in the field of immigration and also exploiting the weakness in the leadership of the Liberal party, the competition between the Liberal party and the NDP, and – based on some allegations (which are still under investigations) — using illegal advertising tricks such as RoboCalls.
Since the day Mr. Harper and his friends took power, they have neither remembered their immigration promises, nor been accountable to public opinion, as if all that were just for the sake of winning a huge majority, which they have at the moment.
These days we have an interesting situation. On one hand, the scandal of Harper and his friends has been made clear to the public and the Canadian people now know that the Prime Minister, who used to claim that he was honest and clean, is not clean at all and even resorts to lying in order to keep in power. On the other hand, his loyal friend and famous supporter, Mr. Ford, the mayor of Toronto, has made trouble for him as his scandal has made the media all over the world talk about Toronto and Canada, so that this time the Prime Minister’s main concern is to keep away from him, just as he kept away from Senator Duffy, which led to more scandal.
It’s not surprising that Mr. Prime Minister and his loyal friends refrain from commenting on Ford. The mayor of the biggest city of Canada was involved in a scandal yet the Prime Minister cannot speak about his corruption or at least condemn it for advertising purposes.
As we have seen, corruption is widespread and those who were supposed to protect people’s rights and to prevent the financial resources of people from being wasted are instead pioneers in violating these rights.
What can we do, other than actively try to prevent corrupt people from taking power? By the way, what percentage of us who have the right to vote went to the polls and voted vigilantly?
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