Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
27 February 2007
Groups dismayed over politicization of appointments to Immigration and Refugee Board
Montreal - Organizations concerned with refugees and immigrants expressed alarm today over the government’s politicization of the appointments process for members of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), which has led to serious threats to the stability and integrity of the Board.
The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), Refugee Lawyers Association (RLA), Association québécoise des avocats et avocates en droit d’immigration (AQAADI), Ontario Bar Association (OBA) (Immigration Section) and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) are seriously disturbed by the move to stack the IRB Selection Committee with appointees of the Minister. This pushes the appointments process towards a more politicized and potentially ideologically-driven process.
“Over the past year the government has failed to support the process for providing timely, merit-based appointments to the IRB – something that is essential to ensure fast and fair decision-making for refugees and immigrants,” said Elizabeth McWeeny, CCR President. “Now the government is introducing changes to the process that interfere with the goal of achieving merit-based, non-partisan appointments to the IRB.”
The government released a report yesterday, commissioned by the previous Minister of Citizenship and Immigration on appointments to the IRB. The key recommendation calls for the Minister to appoint half of the members of the Selection Committee. This opens the door to political control of a selection committee that should be solely focused on recommending the best candidates for the important job of deciding refugee claims and immigration appeals. Similar concerns have been raised about the changes introduced by the current government to the process for appointing judges.
Last Friday, the IRB chairperson, Jean-Guy Fleury, a career civil servant, unexpectedly announced his resignation. He has been recognized to have been struggling, unsuccessfully, to work with the government to achieve merit-based appointments in a timely fashion. Currently 52 out of 156 IRB positions are vacant, leading to growing backlogs at the IRB. We understand that some 50 candidates have been identified through the existing appointments process that can fill the vacant positions, but appointments have been stalled by the government.
With the sudden departure of the chairperson, the IRB is facing a vacuum of leadership with the positions of Chair, Vice-Chair and Executive Director vacant or about to become vacant. There are concerns about who the government will appoint in these important positions, particularly given the comments of the Prime Minister about making judicial appointments to forward a particular political agenda.
Ever since the creation of the IRB, there has been criticism of political patronage appointments. In recent years there have been welcome steps taken to depoliticize the appointments process and base appointments on merit. Current developments represent a step backward after hard-fought efforts to depoliticize a Board that deals with making life-and-death decisions about human lives.
Janet Dench, Executive Director, CCR, 514-277-7223 or 514-835-2046
Joseph Allen, President, AQAADI, 514-274-9393
Marshall Drukarsh, OBA Immigration section, 416-365-5962 or 416-568-3389
Geraldine MacDonald, President, RLA, 416-366-7985
26 Feb. 2007
Suggested fix blasted by lawyers who tried to make it work
From Monday's Globe and Mail
The British fix proposed by the Supreme Court of Canada to deal with rights violations in immigration security detention orders has been branded inadequate and unworkable by British lawyers who tried to make the model work.
Ten years ago, Tony Blair's government created a panel of special advocates with the highest security clearance to act for detained foreign nationals suspected of being security risks.
The special counsels were authorized to hear the state's case against suspects in closed hearings, cross-examine intelligence agents and argue before judges for the disclosure to suspects of information the state was using to justify their detention.
But Ian Macdonald, a senior member of the panel who created a political furor when he resigned two years ago, told The Globe and Mail last night that the special advocate system was inherently flawed and that hearings in which the advocates participated were often a sham.
Another lawyer on the 15-member panel, Rick Scannell, resigned a month later. And nine other members told the British House of Commons constitutional committee they did not believe the system makes it "possible . . . to ensure that those detained can achieve justice."
Anne McLellan, public safety minister in the previous Liberal government, said in late 2005 that she was giving thought to adopting the British model but never acted on it. She was travelling last night and was unavailable for comment.
The Supreme Court declared unanimously on Friday that foreign nationals detained or deported under so-called security certificates as a danger to Canada must be allowed to know the state's case against them and be able to mount a meaningful defence. It gave the government one year to fix the law.
The ruling was hailed in the media as a victory for civil libertarians but in fact, and perhaps more interesting, it underscored what U.S. legal scholars refer to as "the Constitution is not a suicide pact" doctrine, said constitutional lawyer Neil Finkelstein, counsel for the Federation of Law Societies of Canada at the security certificates hearing.
What the Supreme Court said is that it's all right for the state to breach the constitutional rights of some in order to protect Canadian society as a whole -- hence, the meaning of the Constitution not being a suicide pact -- but the breach must be minimal.
As Toronto civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby said yesterday: "I would have hoped for more. I would have hoped there would have been a declaration that indefinite detention of non-citizens on grounds of [suspected] terrorism is never justified. Never. And they said, 'Well, it can be in some circumstances.' "
Appearing on the CTV program Question Period, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day had no criticism of the decision, noting that the court had accepted the principle of the security certificates and indefinite detention.
Opposition Leader Stéphane Dion welcomed the court's call for new safeguards and appeared to approve of the proposal for special advocates.
But Mr. Macdonald, the British barrister, said in an interview, he found himself with the often bootless task of dealing with vague "assessments" of intelligence agents rather than hard evidence of wrongdoing that police -- who are often excluded from security cases -- are trained to provide. And as he told British MPs, he came to see his job as bringing "some kind of fig leaf of respectability and legitimacy to a process which I found odious."
With a report from Campbell Clark
Winnipeg Free Press
Conservatives 'sustain' security certificates
Government may tweak regime struck down by Supreme Court
Tue Feb 27 2007
By Andrew Mayeda
OTTAWA -- Only days after the Supreme Court struck down parts of the security-certificate regime as unconstitutional, Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed to "sustain" the system used to detain non-citizens believed to pose a national-security threat.
The Supreme Court ruled Friday that withholding evidence from individuals detained on security certificates violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On the day the ruling was released, Harper's ministers would only say the government would respond to the decision in a "timely and decisive fashion." In his first comment in the Commons on the ruling, Harper went a step further and confirmed the government plans to continue using security certificates in some form.
"The Supreme Court said that the security certificate process is necessary for public safety in the fight against terrorism. It did find some provisions unconstitutional," Harper conceded.
However, he said the ruling "laid out for Parliament a pretty clear road map on how to rectify the legislation so that we can continue to sustain the security-certificate regime."
Harper's comments gave the strongest indication yet the government plans to tweak the regime, rather than scrap it.
Although the Supreme Court struck down parts of the system, it gave the government one year to rewrite the immigration law that enables security certificates.
Under the system, the government can detain permanent residents and foreign nationals without charge and seek to deport them. A Federal Court judge weighs the evidence in private, in the absence of the individual or his lawyer.
Meanwhile, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day made it clear Monday the government has no intention of closing the $3.2-million "immigration holding centre" near Kingston, Ont., where three men are being held on security certificates.
Critics have dubbed the holding centre "Guantanamo North," in reference to the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where detainees have made allegations of torture.
New Democrat MP Bill Siksay noted the three men -- Mohammad Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah and Hassan Almrei -- have been on hunger strike at the facility for nearly three months. He called on Day to appoint the federal correctional investigator to probe the men's complaints, and asked if the minister would start negotiations on their release.
Day rejected the idea of creating "another layer of bureaucracy to deal with the problem," noting the government already has Red Cross officials visit the facility on a regular basis and makes available a "health-care practitioner" every day.
-- CanWest News Service
CBC, February 23th
Foreign workers will be allowed to remain in Canada for twice as long as before, Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg said Friday, a move that has angered at least one labour group.
Solberg said Canada is running out of workers and the rules are changing to help companies that are having trouble finding staff during an economic boom.
The government is doubling the time that a lower-skilled foreign worker can stay in Canada, from 12 months to 24 months, he said.
The length of time that live-in caregivers can stay in Canada is also being extended, from one year to three years and three months, he said.
Solberg, who made the announcement in Vancouver, said the changes will allow employers who recruit and train foreigners to get a better return on their investment.
Mark Von Schellwitz, vice-president of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said he supports the move.
"In our industry, we are anticipating, in B.C. alone, a shortage of 44,000 people in the next ten years, and it is going to get worse and worse. So we also need a permanent solution as well."
Schellwitz said restaurants would also like to see changes to make it easier for servers and cooks to remain permanently in Canada.
Albertje Willems, chief operating officer with K&F Global Partners in Vancouver, said the changes will not only make a difference to foreign workers, but to Canadians and the economy.
Willems' company hires workers from Europe for construction projects in Alberta and B.C.
"There is not a large enough Canadian labour force," she said. "In some areas of Canada, projects are not being completed and sometimes not even being started."
But Wayne Peppard, of the Building and Construction Trades Council, said the announcement does nothing to protect workers from exploitation.
"These people are vulnerable. They are indentured to their employer — whether it is 12 months or 24 months — they are still indentured to their employer," Peppard said.
"If they don't like the employer, they can't move. If the employer doesn't like them, they are gone home. And that's not fair to the workers."
Peppard added that foreign workers doing construction on the Canada Line, a rail-based rapid transit line in B.C., were being paid an illegal wage until his union stepped in last summer.
But Solberg said if an employer is caught exploiting the program, they will lose the ability to participate.
"There are very few examples of this occurring but when it does occur, it's dealt with quickly and decisively," he said.
Globe and Mail 23 February 2007
North American CEO group recommends Canada import temporary workers
OTTAWA -- Canada and Mexico should accelerate efforts to import temporary Mexican energy workers to alleviate the skills shortage in Alberta and other provinces as oil sands development ramps up, top North American CEOs will recommend today.
They will also call for Canada, the United States and Mexico to start work on harmonizing regulations and standards in three sectors: financial services, transportation, and food and agriculture, The Globe and Mail has learned.
The 30 chief executive officers make up the North American Competitiveness Council, formed last year to advise political leaders on strengthening economic ties between Canada, the United States and Mexico.
They're tabling a 63-page report with 51 recommendations today as top politicians from all three countries meet in Ottawa to advance a continental security and prosperity partnership first struck in 2005. They include U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Patricia Espinosa, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay and Industry Minister Maxime Bernier.
The report will also call for contingency plans to quickly reopen North American borders after a terrorist attack or natural disaster occurs.
CEOs will argue that Mexico stands to benefit in the long run from training people to help develop its own energy sector.
Members of the council include Dominic D'Alessandro of Manulife Financial, Paul Desmarais Jr. of Power Corp. of Canada and Michael Sabia of BCE Inc.
The group counts seven other Canadian CEOs as members, as well as 10 American and 10 Mexican chief executives.
They're recommending both short-term goals for 2008 and longer-term targets for 2010.
Thomas d'Aquino, head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, wouldn't discuss the contents of the report but lauded the fact that it managed to find a corporate consensus among three countries in less than one year.
"I would say that in a relatively small amount of time to pull together Mexican, American and Canadian positions on subjects as complex as . . . [these] is a definite sign of progress," Mr. d'Aquino said.
The 2005 security and prosperity deal was aimed at defending North America against terrorism or natural disasters and helping it better fend off economic threats from China and India. It committed Canada, the United States and Mexico to co-operate closely in three separate areas: security, economic and regulatory standards.
The report tackles three concerns for North American businesses: border crossings, energy supplies and the lack of harmony in regulations and standards between Canada, Mexico and the United States.
The lion's share of recommendations -- 23 -- are aimed at smoothing border crossings, including upgrading bridges, tunnels and border approaches that help ferry goods between the three countries.
They call for a reduction in redundant inspections, given that, for instance, vehicles and associated parts cross the Canada-U.S. border roughly seven times in the process of auto manufacturing.
Another 18 recommendations lay out proposals for regulatory co-operation and 10 call for work on integrating North American energy supplies and distribution.
The three countries have pledged to hammer out a framework for regulatory harmonization this year. They're also working on developing compatible screening practices for incoming travellers and cargo, and more co-operation on intelligence.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Foreign workers flock to booming
, but critics fear program is being overused Alberta
KATHERINE HARDING and DAWN WALTON
With a report from Canadian Press
Despite the rush of people to resource-rich
"We were at the point where we were saying this just wasn't worth it," Mr. Sutherland said. "We kept getting our heads handed to us."
Then the couple heard about the temporary foreign-worker program, a 31-year-old federal initiative that allows employers to hire foreigners when a Canadian worker can't be found as long as they help them get settled. The selling point for the Sutherlands: The workers sign exclusive work contracts for their entire stay in
"We jumped on board right away. These guys saved us. I owe them everything," Mr. Sutherland said about the six Sri Lankan line cooks who arrived at their restaurant starting last summer. Each signed a three-year contract to work full-time for $11.75 an hour.
But while the arrangement has worked well for the Sutherlands and their new employees, critics are concerned that the program, which isn't actively policed for abuse or problems, is being wildly overused and opening up foreign workers to exploitation. They are not legally entitled to government settlement services such as language courses, but in some cases are being charged thousands of dollars by private agencies to come here while others only pay for a plane ticket.
"The rules are a confusing mess and nobody seems to be in charge," complains Gil McGowan, president of the Edmonton-based Alberta Federation of Labour. "This program was meant to be a stopgap measure. And now the federal and provincial governments have put the program into overdrive without putting into place any of the necessary rules or safeguards."
The result has been a unique immigration boom. While the number of temporary foreign workers has doubled in Canada since 1996 -- to 145,871 in 2005 -- one of the fastest rates of growth has been in Alberta, which is experiencing an acute labour shortage, particularly in the skilled trades and service and hospitality industry.
From 1996 to 2006, the number of the province's temporary foreign workers has more than tripled to about 22,000. It's not unusual for entire planeloads of foreign workers to be flown straight to the oil-sands projects in northern
Meanwhile, the federal Conservative government has eagerly made several changes to the program to help labour-hungry employers, including an announcement yesterday in
Federal Minister of Human Resources Monte Solberg said if an employer is caught exploiting the program, they aren't allowed to participate again. "There are very few examples of this occurring, but when it does occur, it's dealt with quickly and decisively," he said.
In the midst of the rush to get more workers to
A sign hanging outside Calgary-based JIR Solutions reads, "Get your foreign worker today!"
The almost one-year-old company specializes in bringing skilled workers to
While some recruitment firms charge the prospective worker thousands of dollars just to line them up with a job in
"I think there's a lot of people trying to make money off this," sighed Serena Holbrook, general manager of Calgary-based Pockar Masonry, which has hired a handful of temporary foreign workers both independently and through brokers. "They don't have the workers' or employers' interests at heart."
Ms. Holbrook said that in some cases workers are being charged to come to
That bricklayer, 46-year-old Volodymyr Vakhnyanyn, saw an advertisement in his local paper about high-paying contract jobs in
"I have empathy for these workers," Ms. Holbrook said. "My father came over [from the former
Now, 2½ months later, Mr. Vakhnyanyn is kicking himself for not using a broker that didn't charge a fee. Still, he eventually wants to apply to stay in
Mr. McGowan, the labour leader, recently helped 14 Romanian welders and machinists who were being mistreated and scammed by their employment broker.
The men, who speak minimal English, were working for oil-field service companies near
Mr. McGowan said the system isn't set up to readily catch this type of exploitation because it's complaint-driven. He added it's "naïve" for provincial governments to expect foreign workers to lodge complaints because they would likely be sent home. "There is a dangerous power imbalance," he said.
By law, all temporary foreign workers are protected by provincial employment safety and labour rules. "Everyone is treated the same," said Lorelei Fiset-Cassidy, a spokeswoman for Alberta Employment, Immigration and Industry.
She said the government doesn't monitor temporary foreign workers "because the bureaucracy on that one would be crazy." However, she said the government recognizes that there is a "real disincentive" for temporary foreigner workers to lodge complaints. Of the more than 4,000 labour and employment complaints being investigated, she said, only 18 are from people who identified themselves as temporary foreign workers.
Back in Olds, townspeople have warmly welcomed the community's only Sri Lankan residents. Residents have donated furniture, dishes and clothing. Four of the men rent furnished rooms for $230 each in a one-storey home bought by the Sutherlands, while the other two have rented their own apartments.
"Everybody knows our names," beams Asiri Rupasinghe, 25. "Everyone is real nice. We really like our bosses. They are like our parents."
The hotel-management graduate said his job at Boston Pizza is "too easy" (he was used to working 15- to 20-hour days) and he'd like to work another job, but his contract doesn't allow it. The bachelor used his life savings and money from his parents to pay the more than $8,000 in fees to secure his job in
Mr. Rupasinghe said his dream is to eventually apply for permanent residence here, get married and either manage a hotel or become an executive chef. "I will probably stay here in Olds," he said. "I'm not sure if I went to another place I would be treated as well."
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Named after the co-founder of the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the T. Don Hutto Correctional Center in Taylor, Texas, opened as a medium-security prison in 1997. Today, the federal government pays CCA, the nation's largest private prison company, $95 per person per day to house the detainees, who wear jail-type uniforms and live in cells.
But they have not been charged with any crimes. In fact, nearly half of its 400 or so residents are children, including infants and toddlers.
The inmates are immigrants or children of immigrants who are in deportation proceedings. Many of them are in the process of applying for political asylum, refugees from violence-plagued and impoverished countries like Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Somalia and Palestine. (Since there are different procedures for Mexican immigrants, the facility houses no Mexicans.)
In the past, most of them would have been free to work and attend school as their cases moved through immigration courts. "Prior to Hutto, they were releasing people into the community," says Nicole Porter, director of the Prison and Jail Accountability Project for the ACLU of Texas. "These are non-criminals and nonviolent individuals who have not committed any crime against the U.S. There are viable alternatives to requiring them to live in a prison setting and wear uniforms."
But as a result of increasingly stringent immigration enforcement policies, today more than 22,000 undocumented immigrants are being detained, up from 6,785 in 1995, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Normally, men and women are detained separately and minors, if they are detained at all, live in residential facilities with social services and schools. But under the auspices of "keeping families together," children and parents are incarcerated together at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, as it is now called, and at a smaller facility in Berks County, Penn. Attorneys for detainees say the children are only allowed one hour of schooling, in English, and one hour of recreation per day.
"It's just a concentration camp by another name," says John Wheat Gibson, a Dallas attorney representing two Palestinian families in the facility.
In addition, there have been reports of inadequate healthcare and nutrition.
"The kids are getting sick from the food," says Frances Valdez, a fellow at the University of Texas Law School's Immigration Law Clinic. "It could be a psychological thing also. These are little kids, given only one hour of playtime a day, the rest of the time they're in their pods in a contained area. There are only a few people per cell so families are separated at night. There's a woman with two sons and two daughters; one of her sons was getting really sick at night but she couldn't go to him because he's in a different cell. One client was pregnant and we established there was virtually no prenatal care."
When local staff for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) collected toys for the children at Christmas, Hutto administrators would not allow stuffed animals to be given to the children, according to LULAC national president Rosa Rosales.
"That's what these children need -- something warm to hug," she says. "And they won't even allow them that, why, I can't imagine. They say they're doing a favor by keeping families together, but this is ridiculous."
A CCA spokesperson refers media to the San Antonio office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but that office did not return calls for this story.
Immigrants have been housed at the facility since last summer, and public outrage and attention from human rights groups has grown in the past few months as more people have become aware of the situation.
In mid-December, Jay J. Johnson-Castro, a 60-year-old resident of Del Rio, Texas, walked 35 miles from the Capitol to the detention center, joined by activists along the way and ending in a vigil at the center.
"Everyone I have talked to about this is shocked that here on American soil we are treating helpless mothers and innocent children as prisoners," says Johnson-Castro, who had previously walked 205 miles along the border to protest the proposed border wall. "This flies in the face of everything we claim to represent internationally."
A coalition of attorneys, community organizations and immigrants rights groups called Texans United for Families is working to close the facility. The University of Texas Immigration Law Clinic is considering a lawsuit challenging the incarceration of children.
Valdez sees the center as a political statement by the government.
"Our country likes to detain people," says Valdez. "I think it's backlash for the protests that happened in the spring -- like, 'We're going to show you that you're not that powerful.' It's about power."
Kari Lydersen writes for the Washington Post out of the Midwest bureau and just published a book, Out of the Sea and Into the Fire: Latin American-US Immigration in the Global Age.
By Priscilla Huang, TomPaine.com
Posted on February 21, 2007, Printed on February 21, 2007
Yuki Lin , born on the stroke of midnight this New Year’s, became the winner of a random drawing for a national Toys “R” Us sweepstakes. The company had promised a $25,000 U.S. savings bond to the “first American baby born in 2007.” However, Yuki lost her prize after the company learned that her mother was an undocumented U.S. resident. Instead, the bond went
to a baby in Gainesville, Georgia, described by her mother as “an American all the way.”
The toy retailer soon found itself in the midst of the country’s heated immigration debate. Under mounting pressure, Toys “R” Us reversed its decision and awarded savings bonds to all three babies, including Yuki. The issue of citizenship was at the heart of this controversy: Is a baby born to undocumented immigrants an American in the same way that a baby born to non-immigrant parents is? Since the 14th Amendment grants automatic citizenship to persons born on U.S. soil, both babies have equal standing as citizens. Not all people, however, view citizenship this way. As the grandmother of the Gainesville baby told reporters, “If [the mother
is] an illegal alien, that makes the baby illegal.”
Today’s immigration debate extends beyond the goal of limiting the rights and humanity of immigrants: It’s about controlling who may be considered an American. Anti-immigrant activists contend that American citizenship is not about where you were born, but who gave birth to you. By extension, they believe -- the 14th amendment notwithstanding -- that the government must limit the reproductive capacities of immigrant women. Thus, immigrant
women of childbearing age are central targets of unjust immigration reform policies.
Anti-immigrant groups, such as the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), believe immigrant women of childbearing age are a significant source of the country’s so-called “illegal immigration crisis” and want to limit the number of immigrant births on U.S. soil. They are calling for changes to jus soli, our birthright citizenship laws. Unfortunately, some Congressional members are listening.
In the last two sessions of Congress, lawmakers introduced the Citizenship Reform Act, which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to deny birthright citizenship to children of parents who are neither citizens nor permanent resident aliens. The bill was reintroduced last month by Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif, and is pending committee action.
Groups like FAIR assert that immigrant women enter the U.S. to give birth to “anchor babies,” who can then sponsor the immigration of other relatives upon reaching the age of 21. They further contend that “anchor babies” and their families create a drain on the country’s social service programs. The irrational stance of anti-immigrant advocates echoes that of 1990’s welfare reformers. Both assume that childbearing by immigrants or poor women of color creates a cycle of poverty and dependence on the government. Immigrant women and women on welfare are depicted as irresponsible mothers and fraudulent freeloaders.
They’re wrong. Several studies have shown that immigrants -- documented and undocumented -- access social welfare services at much lower rates than U.S.-born citizens. Furthermore, under the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, new immigrants are barred from accessing Medicaid benefits for five years, and sponsor liability rules often render many of these immigrants
ineligible for services even after expiration of that restriction. And there is no evidence of intergenerational welfare dependency between immigrant parents and children.
Not surprisingly, pregnant immigrant women have become targets for deportation by immigration officials. On February 7, 2006, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials tried to forcibly deport Jiang Zhen Xing, a Chinese woman pregnant with twins. While her husband and two sons waited for her to complete what should have been a routine interview in a Philadelphia immigration office, ICE officials hustled Mrs. Jiang into a minivan and drove her to New York’s JFK airport for immediate deportation back to China. After complaining for hours of severe stomach pains, she was eventually taken to a hospital where doctors found that she had suffered a miscarriage.
Mrs. Jiang had lived in the U.S. since 1995. Although she entered the country as an undocumented immigrant, she made an agreement with the ICE in 2004 that allowed her to remain in the U.S. as long as she attended routine check-in interviews at a local immigration office. Jiang’s case raises an important question: Why would immigration officials be in such a
rush to send a pregnant woman back to her country of origin after she had been allowed to stay in the U.S. for over 10 years? Supporters of Mrs. Jiang and other immigrant women targeted while pregnant believe the harassment stems from nativist fears of immigrant mothers giving birth to U.S.-citizen children.
Anti-immigrant policy makers and advocates are also trying to exploit anti-immigrant hysteria as a vehicle for denying all women the right to reproductive autonomy, and are manipulating the issue of immigration reform to advance an anti-choice agenda. In November 2006, a report from the Missouri House Special Committee on Immigration Reform concluded that abortion was partly to blame for the “problem of illegal immigration” because it caused a shortage of American workers. As the author, Rep. Edgar Emery (R), explained: “If you kill 44 million of your potential workers, it’ s not too surprising we would be desperate for workers.”
In another example, Dr. John Wilke, founder of the National and International Right to Life organizations, testified in September 2005 as a medical witness for the Report of the South Dakota Taskforce to Study Abortion. In his testimony, he stated:
Muslim countries forbid abortion. Furthermore they have large families … Germany’s birth rate is 1.2 … That is the Aryan Germans. What is happening? They’re importing Turkish workers who do all of the more menial labor and right now there are over 1,500 mosques in Germany. The Muslim people in Germany have an average of four children. The Germans are having
about one. So it’s only a question of so many years and what do you think Germany is going to be? It’s going to be a Muslim country.
Dr. Wilke’s statement, which conflates U.S. post-9/11 fears about Muslims with nativist fears about the loss of Aryan national identity, was intended as a warning to South Dakotans against liberal laws governing both abortion and immigration. His assertion may seem extreme, but Wilke’s arguments are not that unusual. Contemporary immigration reform policies recall the early 1900s eugenics movement, which was rooted in the fear that immigrants (and other undesirable groups) were out-breeding “old stock” Americans. Like the anti-immigrant advocates of today, eugenicists believed that curbing the fertility of such socially unfit groups would help reduce social welfare costs.
Clearly, then, immigrant rights has become a reproductive justice issue. We must challenge the assumption that immigrant mothers are the country’s new welfare queens, and reexamine what makes a newborn “an American all the way.”
Priscilla Huang is the Reproductive Justice Project Director and Women’s Law Fellow at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF ), an organization advocating social justice and human rights for Asian Pacific-American women and girls.
Text of the Supreme Court Decision on the constitutionality of security certificates available here:
Court strikes down security certificates
KIRK MAKIN AND TENILLE BONOGUORE
Globe and Mail Update and Canadian Press - Feb 23, 2007
The Supreme Court of Canada has voted unanimously to strike down a controversial federal procedure used to deport suspected terrorists as being a violation of life, liberty and security of the person.
The security certificate process is hopelessly flawed and must be redrafted by Parliament to eliminate the extreme secrecy in which hearings to determine the reasonableness of certificates take place, the court said on Friday.
While carefully paying heed to fears of terrorism and the special difficulties of protecting national security, the court said that certain elements of fairness cannot be dispensed with -- including the right of a detainee to know the case against them and to make full answer and defence.
"While there is a risk of catastrophic acts of violence, it would be foolhardy to require a lengthy
review process before a certificate should be issued," the court said.
However it said the various forms of review in which a designated lawyer is empowered to act on behalf of detainees could pass constitutional muster.
Writing for a unanimous court, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin suspended the effects of the ruling for one year to give the Federal Government time to craft a new security certificate process.
However, foreign nationals will benefit immediately from one aspect of the ruling which grants them a bail review within 48 hours of their first being detained -- a far shorter period than they must currently wait.
In the House of Commons, Conservative House leader Peter van Loan offered formal thanks to the court for its decision and signalled that the Tories would get to work trying to bring the legislation into accord with the Charter.
"We will be reviewing that decision and seeing if there is a way to — and we are confident we can — reconcile the need to protect the security of Canadians with the directions to Parliament from the court," Mr. van Loan said.
The ramifications of the decision will extend far beyond Canada's border, says Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.
Speaking at a news conference following the judgment's release, Mr. Neve said the ruling debunked government claims that the security certificate system was fine.
"It's a ringing, profoundly important endorsement of one simple bedrock truth: Security is all about human rights," Mr. Neve said.
The ruling strengthens the Arar Commission's position in "conveying an unequivocal message" that fundamental rights will not be countenanced by the nation's senior judges, he said.
"That will be heard outside Canada as well in courtrooms, legislatures around the world, and it
helps to reverse the global rollback in human rights that has been such a worrying trends worldwide since September 11th," he said.
The court said that while federal court judges who conduct security certificate reviews do play an unusually active role in testing secret evidence, they are not unacceptably "co-opted" by the process.
It said that there may always be some evidence that cannot be disclosed and must be heard in a secret hearing, yet that must be as minimal as possible.
"It may simply be so critical that it cannot be disclosed without risking national security," Chief
Justice McLachlin wrote.
"This is a reality of our modern world. If Section 7 is to be satisfied, either the person must be given the necessary information or a substantial substitute or the information must be found. Neither is the case here."
It said that the onus on governments to move quickly in a proceeding becomes greater with passing time.
"Stringent release conditions . . . seriously limit individual liberty," the court added. "However they are less severe than incarceration."
The court said that the security certificate provisions do not violate the Charter right to
equality or constitute cruel or unusual punishment.
The security certificate process -- enshrined within the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act -- has been a target of constant, harsh condemnation from civil libertarians.
The provisions pre-date the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and allow for a non-resident to be designated as a risk to national security, detained indefinitely, and ultimately deported.
The detainees and their counsel are provided with only a vague summary of the allegations against them. Evidence to back up the allegations is given in secret to a judge, and neither the accused nor their lawyer can attend.
The three men behind the Supreme Court challenge – Adil Charkaoui, Mohamed Harkat and Hassan Almrei – had all spent several years behind bars before being released recently under tight conditions of house arrest and their agreement not to communicate with a wide range of individuals.
The conditions of their detention – in a special holding unit nicknamed Guantanamo North – led some of the detainees to resort to desperate tactics such as hunger strikes.
Mr. Almrei's lawyer Barbara Jackman said, without Friday's judgment, her unmarried client would have "had a very hard time" obtaining release from prison.
"This decision makes it at least possible that a court may release him without requiring that he have a wife to supervise him," Ms. Jackman said.
Her co-counsel John Norris said the court had risen above the "rhetoric of national security."
"They have recognized the fundamental importance of preserving the security of all of us, but, at the same time, have stated in the clearest possible terms that that must never be done at the expense of fundamental fairness," Mr. Norris said.
Last Updated: Friday, February 23, 2007 | 7:51 AM ET
The Canadian Press
The Supreme Court of Canada has struck down the security certificate system used by the federal government to detain and deport foreign-born terrorist suspects.
In a 9-0 judgment, the court found that the system, described by government officials as a key tool for safeguarding national security, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
But the court suspended the judgment from taking legal effect for a year, giving Parliament time to write a new law complying with constitutional principles.
Critics have long denounced the certificates, which can lead to deportation of non-citizens on the basis of secret intelligence presented to a Federal Court judge at closed-door hearings.
Those who fight the allegations can spend years in jail while the case works its way through the legal system. In the end, they can sometimes face removal to countries with a track record of torture.
The system was challenged on constitutional grounds by three men from Morocco, Syria and Algeria — all alleged by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to have ties to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. All deny any such ties.
GENEVA (CP) - Canada has vigorously denied engaging in racial profiling in its fight against terrorism.
A Canadian delegation appearing this week before a UN anti-racism committee has also given assurances that there won't be a repeat of the Maher Arar case.
The Syrian-born Canadian software engineer was detained by U.S. authorities in 2002 during a stopver in New York and sent to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured on unsubstantiated allegations of terrorist ties. Arar was released without charge after almost a year and sent back to Canada.
A Canadian inquiry has since exonerated him and found that U.S. authorities acted on faulty information from Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has apologized and announced a C$10.5 million compensation package for Arar.
The 18-member UN panel of independent experts brought up the Arar case as it looked over a 79-page report submitted by Canada in a periodic review of whether the country is complying with the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial discrimination.
During its session on Canada Tuesday and Wednesday, the committee asked whether Canada's Anti-Terrorism Act could negatively affect ethnic groups and minorities, particularly with racial profiling.
"It is true that various members of Arab communities and Muslims have complained that the Anti-Terrorism Act has given operational agencies such as police licence to engage in racial profiling," said Glenn Gilmour of the Criminal Law Policy Division of the Department of Justice.
But nothing in the legislation "targets any specific ethno-target or religious group," Gilmour said.
The Anti-Terrorism Act is "a balanced package of measures carefully targeting people and activities that pose a threat to the security of Canadians while fully respecting the diversity that is essential to Canadian society."
"This is a struggle against terrorism and not against any community, group or faith."
The committee brought up the example of Arar and asked what steps have been taken to ensure that similar cases of "extraordinary rendition" would not occur again.
Gilmour assured the committee that nothing like this could happen again.
The Canadian delegation noted that Justice Dennis OConnor, who headed the two-year Canadian public inquiry into the Arar case, pointed out that "racial profiling had not been present" although Canada was "not immune from acts of racial discrimination."
But in a brief submitted to the committee, the Canadian branch of Amnesty International said that profiling is not an issue related only to Arar. It noted that the cases of three other Muslim men of Arab origin are under inquiry.
Amnesty International is urging the Canadian government "to rapidly implement the Arar Inquiry recommendations."
Turning to Aboriginal issues, Canada came under fire from the committee for the low quality of life among indigenous communities. Discrimination, poverty, poor health and inadequate education are common problems.
The committee was particularly critical of the discrimination and violence faced by indigenous women.
The Canadian delegation acknowledged the challenges but said the government was taking concrete action to make things better.
But, the most spirited debate was over Canada's decision not to vote for the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the UN Human Right Council.
British expert Patrick Thornberry noted that "Canada was only one of two countries that voted against" the declaration in the 47-member council.
Daniel Watson, a senior assistant deputy minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, retorted that the declaration contains flaws on provisions "dealing with issues such as land, territories and resources and self-government."
"Canada cannot support the declaration in its current form - It should be noted that no Canadian government ever accepted the text in its current form."
He said the draft declaration is now before the UN General Assembly where an African group's proposal to defer consideration passed with Canadian support in late 2006.
"Canada now has the opportunity to associate itself with other states and especially with other indigenous peoples in renegotiating this text," he said.
But Linos Alexander Sicilianos, the Greek committee member, didn't see it that way.
"This draft declaration has been before the sub-commission since 1994 - that's 13 years already."
"My personal view," he said, "is that perhaps your government can be a little bit more flexible in these negotiations so as not to block the adoption of the text which affects some 300 million people in the world."
"The key issue is whether or not the legality of the war is a relevant issue to the claim for protection. It will be interesting to see the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal. This legal question may ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court of Canada."
The entry of U.S. Army deserters who are refusing to fight in Iraq into Canada has brought into focus the legal issue of conscientious objection as a basis for making a claim for protection of Canada as a Convention refugee. It also raises political questions about our relationship with our powerful neighbour to the south.
American “War resisters,” who desert the United States Army and if they are forced to return to the United States, they face court martial before a military tribunal and possibly years in prison. The death penalty remains on the books in the U.S. as a possible punishment for desertion during wartime. However, it is interesting to note that the court marshal of Ist. Lt. Ehren Watada, for refusing to fight in Iraq ended in a mistrial.
During the Vietnam War (1965-1973), more than 50,000 Americans came to Canada, refusing to participate in what they felt was an immoral war. Canada accepted them into our country. At the time, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said: "Those who make a conscientious judgment that they must not participate in this war... have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism." Thirty years later, Canada is faced with the same moral and legal issue - the question of giving refuge to those who refuse to fight in a US-led war.
In January of 2004, Private First Class Jeremy Hinzman, a soldier in the 82nd Airborne Division, came to Canada seeking refugee status with his wife, Nga, and son, Liam. Hinzman had fought in Afghanistan and considers himself an American patriot. Pte Hinzman said: "I signed up to defend my country, not carry out acts of aggression." He refused to fight in Iraq, a war he termed illegal.
This issue "is being watched with interest by fellow servicemen on both sides of the border." According to reports, "At least 20 others have already applied for asylum and there are an estimated 400 in Canada out of more than 9,000 who have deserted since the conflict started in 2003."
In December 2004, the Canadian government intervened in Hinzman's hearing before Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board, asserting that the legality of the war in Iraq had no relevance to his claim. The Board Member agreed that the legality of the war was not an issue in the claim for refugee protection. Many disagree with this legal finding.
After the Second World War, the Nuremberg Tribunal set out important principles of international law. Those principles established that soldiers have a moral duty, not a choice, to refuse to carry out illegal orders. It is the opinion of noted International law expert Francis Boyle that George W. Bush's War against Iraq is a war of aggression and constitutes a Crime against Peace as defined by the Nuremberg Charter (1945), the Nuremberg Judgment (1946), and the Nuremberg Principles (1950) as well as by paragraph 498 of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956).
After the massive human rights abuses in the Second World War and the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg described the waging of aggressive war as "essentially an evil thing ... to initiate a war of aggression ... is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
The chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunal and Associate United States Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson wrote: "No political or economic situation can justify" the crime of aggression. Justice Jackson also said: "If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us."
A war of aggression has been termed a Crime against Peace and is considered a War Crime. Wars are only deemed legal under International law if they are genuine acts of self defense or if they are expressly approved by the United Nations Security Council.
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., the distinguished American historian, and an advisor to President John F. Kennedy made the following comment on the Bush doctrine of unilateral pre-emptive war: "Unilateral preventive war is neither legitimate nor moral. It is illegitimate and immoral."
Schlesinger drew an analogy to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour: “One of the astonishing events of recent months is the presentation of preventive war as a legitimate and moral instrument of U.S. foreign policy This has not always been the case. Dec. 7, 1941, on which day the Japanese launched a preventive strike against the U.S. Navy, has gone down in history as a date that will live in infamy. During the Cold War, advocates of preventive war were dismissed as a crowd of loonies.”
Schlesinger also made the following observation: “The policy of containment plus deterrence won the Cold War. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, everyone thanked heaven that the preventive-war loonies had never got into power in any major country.”
Schlesinger also said, “Today, alas, they appear to be in power in the United States. Rebaptizing preventive war as preemptive war doesn't change its character. Preventive war is based on the proposition that it is possible to foretell with certainty what is to come.”
The rationale given by the Bush Administration for invading Iraq; namely that Saddam Hussein had links to the attacks on September 11, 2001 and had ties to Al Qadea have been proven to be false. In a poll conducted in September 2006 by Opinion Research Corporation for CNN, a sample of American adults was asked: "Do you think Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 11 September terrorist attacks, or not?" Forty-three percent of those polled answered yes.
The alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction have also proven to be non-existent. Virtually all of the "evidence" presented to support claims of the Bush administration for the invasion including the "biological weapons trailers" and "Niger Yellow Cake Uranium" have proven false or were outright fabrications.
The United States Senate Intelligence Committee has found no evidence of links between the regime of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. In its Report on the Iraq War “it also found that there was little or no evidence to support a raft of claims made by the US intelligence community concerning Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.” The Senate Committee studied the problem for three years and its 400-page report is the most definitive public account of the intelligence used to provide a rationale for the invasion of Iraq.
No one has been prosecuted for presenting this false or misleading information, or for manufacturing fake evidence to support the drive to invade Iraq. However, the Courts in Europe are increasing recognizing that the invasion of Iraq was a criminal act and have accepted this argument as a defense for political action against the war.
According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, the U.S.-led “war on terror” has undermined the global ban on torture, weakening American moral authority on human rights worldwide. "The principle once believed to be unassailable -- the inherent right to physical integrity and dignity of the person -- is becoming a casualty of the so-called war on terror," Arbour said in a statement on Human Rights Day.
Arbour is a former Canadian Supreme Court justice and a chief prosecutor for the U.N. war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia. She praised past U.S. leadership on expanding political and civil rights because it allowed the Americans "to lecture others about their performances." "To the extent that there's a perception that there is a withdrawal from the high-water mark of commitment to civil and political liberties, I think it makes it a lot more difficult for the United States to exercise that kind of moral leadership on all human rights issues," Arbour said.
The UN Commissioner of Human Rights “decried two practices in particular: holding prisoners in secret detention centers, which she said was a form of torture, and rendering suspects to third countries outside normal extradition procedures, that is, without independent oversight.” Arbour said "There are a lot of human rights that can be set aside in cases of emergency, lots of them, but not the right to life and not the protection against torture." The United States has denied practicing torture but it has avoided denying or confirming a Washington Post report that the CIA runs secret centers in Eastern Europe to interrogate terrorism suspects.”
The United States has also come under heavy criticism for prisoner abuse and torture at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. The heavy loss of civilian life and the conduct of U.S. troops have been heavily criticized in the on going occupation of Iraq. Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair has admitted, “Iraq is a disaster.”
Jeremy Hinzman lost his "conscientious objection" refugee case at the IRB. He then applied to the Federal Court for a judicial review of the Immigration and Refugee Board decision rejecting his claim. However, the Federal Court upheld the negative decision but the case has been referred to the Federal Court of Appeal.
The key issue is whether or not the legality of the war is a relevant issue to the claim for protection. It will be interesting to see the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal. This legal question may ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court of Canada.
The joint report is a community response to the seventeenth and eighteenth reports of Canada on the Status of Compliance by the Canadian Government, with respect to the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). Click here for a copy of the joint OCASI, MTCSALC and SALCO report. [Adobe Acrobat pdf - 349 Kb, 53 pages]
The joint report is one of several non-governmental organization (NGO) reports submitted to the Committee. Reports were also submitted by African Canadian Legal Clinic, Amnesty International, Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action, Global Afrikan Congress, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, Lubicon Lake Indian Nation, Ligue des droits et libertés du Québec, National Anti-Racism Council of Canada, Center for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR) and Canadian Council of Muslim Women.Click here for all NGO reports submitted to the Committee.
BRADLEY S. KLAPPER
GENEVA - A United Nations anti-racism panel wants to know whether Canada can ensure that it will avoid repeating the kind of mistakes that led the United States to deport Maher Arar to Damascus, where he was tortured for nearly a year.
The committee -- a panel of 18 independent experts overseeing compliance with the UN's 38-year-old anti-racism treaty -- will hear from Canadian officials as part of its quadrennial review tomorrow.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized last month for Ottawa's role in the Syrian-born Canadian's ordeal -- perhaps the best-known case of so-called "extraordinary rendition," in which the United States transfers foreign terrorism suspects without court approval to third countries for interrogation.
But the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has asked what steps Canada has taken since toward new guidelines for information-sharing and monitoring of security probes so that forces "have clear policies and more training on issues of racial, religious and ethnic profiling."
Canada, in a 79-page submission to the committee, said it has undertaken several initiatives in recent years to combat racial profiling by police and security forces. It said its anti-terrorism measures are not directed against people of any particular religion or ethnic background.
The submission was filed with the Geneva-based committee before Mr. Harper's announcement last month that Mr. Arar would be compensated $10.5-million for his deportation and torture, which was due in part to intelligence from Ottawa that Canada acknowledges was inaccurate.
It also predates the release of a two-year public inquiry into the Arar case led by Dennis O'Connor, Associate Chief Justice of Ontario, which came up with 23 recommendations for policy changes.
Mr. Arar, a software engineer, was detained at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2002 during a stopover on his way home to Canada from a vacation with his family in Tunisia.
He said he was chained and shackled for 11 days for interrogation and then flown to Syria, where he was tortured and forced to make false confessions. He was released 10 months later, with Syrian officials saying they had no reason to hold him further.
A Canadian inquiry determined that Mr. Arar was indeed tortured, and cleared him of any terrorist links or suspicions. Since then, Ottawa has been demanding a formal apology from Washington, as well as the removal of Mr. Arar's name from no-fly and terrorist watch lists, which the U.S. government insists it has reasons to keep him on.
The UN panel also questioned Canada's aboriginal policies and asked that it explain how it guarantees aboriginal groups' rights to land and resources.
Friday, February 16, 2007
By Lornet Turnbull
THE SEATTLE TIMES
Union official Sergio Salinas talks to news media Thursday as Craig Dameron, left, and the Very Rev. Robert Taylor look on.
Immigrant advocates and two local religious leaders said Thursday they would launch a program to offer sanctuary to illegal immigrants if the federal government continues to raid work sites and deport individuals without fixing its immigration system.
Several groups' representatives, including a Catholic bishop, called a news conference to denounce Wednesday's raids at two United Parcel Service warehouses in Auburn, where agents arrested 51 immigrants they believe are in the country illegally.
By Thursday, 10 had convinced authorities of personal and family hardships and were released from the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, with orders to appear before an immigration judge, said Lorie Dankers, spokeswoman with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The others remained in custody.
Immigration officials have brought no criminal charges against UPS or Spherion, a temporary-employmen t agency that helped staff the warehouses, and are continuing their investigation, Dankers said.
At Thursday's news conference, advocates and religious leaders called for a moratorium on such raids until Congress can reform the nation's immigration system. Without a halt, El ComitÃ© Pro-Amnistia, an immigrant justice group, said it would announce the launch of a local sanctuary by the end of March as part of a national effort.
"We don't know that our call for a moratorium will be unsuccessful, " said the Very Rev. Robert Taylor, dean of St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral Church.
Taylor, who came to the U.S. as a political exile from South Africa, revealed that he lived as an illegal immigrant for three years during the 1980s. "If there is no response, then sanctuary is the next step."
Dankers said ICE can't debate immigration policy. "We simply enforce the law on the books. It is what it is today."
Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said those involved in offering refuge to illegal immigrants should be prosecuted for obstructing justice.
"Do they believe they are above the law?" he asked. Immigration agents should be doing more to remove illegal immigrants from the country â€” not backing down, he said.
Jorge Quiroga, president of El ComitÃ© Pro-Amnistia, which led massive pro-immigrant marches in Seattle last year, said raids like the ones at the UPS warehouses are ripping families apart.
"There's a growing fear that these raids are a way to get rid of a significant number of immigrants before immigration reform is achieved," said Taylor of St. Mark's.
Catholic Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of the Archdiocese of Seattle said that with charity as an important tenet, "we do not accept when any human is mistreated or deprived of an opportunity to better their lives."
A sanctuary movement would be similar to one in the 1980s through which churches and other organizations gave refuge to thousands fleeing war in El Salvador to seek asylum in the United States.
Organizers say they are talking to local churches willing to serve as host congregations. The Archdiocese of Seattle said that while the ComitÃ© has spoken to Elizondo, there are not enough details yet to decide how or whether parishes would get involved.
Under the plan, sanctuary would be open to a limited number of individuals and families unafraid of having their illegal status made public. They must be facing deportation and have a good work record, a potential immigration case under current law and children who are U.S. citizens.
Sergio Salinas, president of Service Employees International Union Local 6, said Thursday that his own family had received sanctuary in a church in Seattle in the 1980s when he fled his native El Salvador.
"We need to send the message that we are willing to risk our safety to push
for change," he said.
17 Feb 2007
By JORGE BARRERA, NATIONAL BUREAU
The systemic rejection of refugee claims from Pakistanis on the run from Islamic terror groups should compel the government to enact an appeal process that's been on the books since 2002, human rights groups and immigration lawyers say.
A lawyer for a Shia Pakistani man -- known as Shaeed -- who was deported last year says his client may have been able to stay in Canada if a refugee appeal process existed.
FORCED TO FLEE
Shootings, beatings, harassment and trumped-up charges of insulting Sunni modes of worship forced Shaeed's family to flee to Canada, first to Montreal before moving to Toronto.
"It could have been different if we had an appeal process in Canada," said Montreal lawyer Stewart Istvanffy. "What is happening to the Shias in Pakistan is almost the same as what was happening to the Jews in the mid-1930s."
The Conservative government is exploring ways to enact the appeal process created by the Liberals. A meeting with Immigration Minister Diane Finley is set for next week, Sun Media has learned.
The opposition parties support a Bloc Quebecois private member's bill to do the same.
"There is a serious question about the fairness of the process because it has not been implemented," said NDP immigration critic Bill Siksay.
Amnesty International used Shaeed's story during an appearance before the Commons immigration committee as an example of the need to create the appeal process.
Shaeed was reportedly put in the bad books of the Sipah-e-Sahaba, a militant groups with ties to al-Qaida, after he protested the persecution of Shias. The Immigration and Refugee Board rejected his claim.
INFORMATION ON AMIR KAZEMIAN AND HIS HUMANITARIAN AND COMPASSIONATE CLAIM
Amir Kazemian, 40 years of age, had been in sanctuary in St. Michael’s Anglican Church in Vancouver where he had been granted asylum since June 2004.
Amir is a survivor of torture who came to Canada and filed a refugee claim in 1997. Amir fears for his life from the Iranian authorities due to his father’s political activities for which his father was imprisoned on numerous occasions and also due to Amir’s own political activities that led to his own imprisonment and torture from
1983 to 1984. At one point, Amir was beaten so badly that he ended up in a coma. Upon the last arrest of his father in 1997, Amir fled from Iran to Canada fearing his own impending arrest.
In 2000, Amir’s mother came to Canada and filed a refugee claim based on the same set of facts as Amir. In a manner that reveals the arbitrariness of the current refugee determination system, Amir's mother has been allowed to stay on the basis of the persecution her husband and son faced, while Amir was forced into sanctuary in order to protect his life. Amir’s mother, who is deeply traumatized, is now a permanent resident of Canada whose emotional well-being is dependent on Amir remaining close to her.
Amir and his family are not just a case number or file number. His situation is precarious, his life in jeopardy if he is deported back. Amir has been diagnosed as suffering from Post Traumatic Syndrome and suffers from extreme anxiety and depression. His mother suffers from high blood pressure, anxiety and depression. Amir has the support of the Anglican Diocese, as well as dozens of community groups, women’s centres, human rights organizations, and refugee advocates.
In January 2007, Amir’s lawyer filed a Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) application with 7 volumes of new evidence and 141 pages of arguments which demonstrate that Amir is at grave risk, including risk of torture or death, if he were returned to Iran. There is extensive documentation produced by renowned international human rights organizations that illustrate the grave situation in Iran- human rights abuses, arbitrary detention, no freedom of dissent, severe repression of political dissenters, extra judicial killings, torture and rape. This is the reality that refugee claimants face if deported back to Iran.
Amir’s case is the longest sanctuary case in Canadian history. There has been only one other instance where the police arrested someone in sanctuary within the confines of a church. In 2004, police arrested Algerian-born Mohamed Cherfi for allegedly violating his bail conditions. Cherfi was deported to the United States where, a year later, he was granted asylum.
February 24, 2007 Thomas Walkom NATIONAL AFFAIRS COLUMNIST http://www.thestar.com/printArticle/185320
OTTAWA–Canada is on its way to becoming a civilized country again. The Supreme Court has ruled that if the government wants to lock up people indefinitely without charge, it has to at least let them muster a defence.
In the post-9/11 world, this counts as progress.
Yesterday's court ruling deals with what are known as security certificates. These are ministerial orders that allow the government to jail non-citizens without charge and then deport them.
Lawyers for five Muslim men who have been jailed for up to six years under these certificates hailed the decision as a victory for human rights – which perhaps it was.
But it's worth noting that the court did not invalidate the entire security certificate regime. It just told the government it has to be more respectful of the Constitution. More important, the top court has yet to address the most controversial element of Canada's immigration laws – the question of what to do to those that the government wants to deport as security risks even though it knows they will almost certainly face torture in their homelands.
That question is due to be addressed by a lower court, probably later this year.
Still, yesterday's decision does go some way to clearing up a law that has become a searing embarrassment for Canada.
Since 2001, it has allowed the government to jail any foreigner, whether legally or illegally in the country, that it deems a security risk.
The government does have to convince a federal court judge that its decision is reasonable. But under the law as currently written, it can do so by providing the judge secret evidence.
The upshot is that the accused and his lawyers never get the chance to see or challenge the details of the government's case.
In some instances, the alleged security risk is not even permitted to know the specific offence, if any, that he is accused of.
That's drawn criticism from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations.
And it's been no fun for the immigrants who've been held for years in some form of detention without ever being criminally charged. They've had their lives, and in some cases their health, effectively destroyed.
So yesterday's ruling does mark a turning point.
First the court has said the government must give non-citizens swept up by the security services a better chance to defend themselves.
The judges said that didn't necessarily mean letting the detainees see the secret intelligence the government uses as evidence. But at the very least, the court said, the government must be just a little bit fairer.
That could involve allowing specially vetted lawyers to see the secret evidence and argue on the detainees' behalf. Or it could involve giving federal court judges more discretion to independently decide what to keep secret.
The court gave Parliament a year to come up with a new law that would satisfy it on this count.
Second, the nine justices ruled that all non-citizens, whether permanent residents or refugee claimants, have to be treated equally – effective immediately. The law as written is harsher on refugee claimants.
Third, the court said that the government has to come up with better reasons to keep so-called terror suspects jailed indefinitely. In particular, the court said, the government must be able to prove that after a long time behind bars, a suspect remains a threat.
Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have long argued that the law as written is just fine. They say that if those detained under a security certificate want to get out of jail, they can go back to their home countries.
But the court put paid to that bit of quaint sophistry. It noted that in the real world, immigrants from countries with dodgy human rights records may face torture if they are returned to their homelands and that in such cases the choice the government provides is no choice at all.
Yesterday's ruling does not answer all of the prickly questions that have arisen since the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. Canada still has to grapple with how it deals with foreigners who want to remain in the country after the government deems them undesirable.
In the past, such matters were simpler. An ordinary criminal who was not a citizen could be deported after serving his jail time. A spy, like the Russian agent nabbed last year, could be unceremoniously turfed.
But the so-called war on terror has made everything more complex. Now, a person who once travelled in the same region of the world as someone alleged to be a terrorist, risks being labelled a terrorist himself.
That's the case with Adil Charkaoui, one of the security certificate six who is now out on bail under strict judicial supervision. The Montreal man's other public sins, as laid out by the government, include opening a pizzeria (the security services say this indicates he was trying to "integrate himself into Canadian society" as part of a sleeper cell) and taking karate lessons.
So what are we to do with such a pizza-loving, karate-kicking immigrant?
Should we strip him of his permanent residency status and deport him back to Morocco to face a dubious fate at the hands of that country's notoriously unfriendly security services? Should we keep him here under house arrest indefinitely? Should we charge him with a crime and put him on trial? Should we let him get on with his life?
The court didn't provide a definitive answer to these questions. But it did say we should give Charkaoui and anyone else detained under security certificates a bit of a break.
Which in these grim times is a victory.
CanWest News Service; Montreal Gazette
Saturday, February 24, 2007
MONTREAL -Terrorism suspect/high school teacher Adil Charkaoui breathed a long sigh of relief Friday, built up over four years since he was first narrested on the way back from a doctor's appointment and told he was one of Canada's biggest threats to national security.
After two years in a two-metre-by-three-metre cell, followed by two years under virtual house arrest, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Charkaoui's treatment, with no charges ever laid or evidence revealed, was unlawful.
In a unanimous decision handed down Friday, nine Supreme Court Justices quashed the security certificates which have allowed the government to detain Charkaoui and four other Muslim men indefinitely, saying they run counter to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"Today the Supreme Court of Canada said no to Guantanamo North, no to arbitrary detention, no to indefinite detention and no to deportation to torture," said Charkaoui, to applause by friends, family and supporters. "The message is clear. Nine to zero."
Charkaoui and the other so-called "secret trial five" may still have to wait for any real change in their situations, however - the Supreme Court gave the government one year to rewrite the relevant clauses of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act before the decision takes effect.
Until further notice, Charkaoui will still wear his GPS tracking anklet to bed - his "bracelet of shame" as he calls it - and his mother will still have to accompany him to work and back.
Mohamed Harkat, a co-litigant before the Supreme Court who was arrested in 2002 but released into house arrest in 2006, was denied permission even to attend his own celebratory press conference in Ottawa Friday, leaving it to his wife to cry and cheer before the nation's cameras.
And the third co-litigant, Hassan Almrei, is still on a hunger strike in a Kingston, Ont., detention centre built specifically for security detainees last year, and with no closing date in sight.
Charkaoui's lawyer, Dominique Larochelle, said she would examine the decision more closely in the days to come to see what motions she could present to have those bail conditions at least loosened in the interim.
No one would speculate, however, on what the government would come up with to replace the security certificate process.
"I think they should come up with nothing," said former solicitor-general Warren Allmand, now representing the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group.
"The government will have a difficult time to conceive a law that meets the requirements of the charter... The charter says you're innocent until proven guilty and that's what the Supreme Court said today."
For Charkaoui, the new law has to include the right to a fair trial.
"I still want my name cleared," said the 33 year-old father of three. "I am not a terrorist and I've been saying it for four years... My greatest worry now is that the Conservative Harper government does not respect the court's decision."
Some were disappointed in what the justices didn't say.
For example, the court didn't deal with the issue of deporting terror suspects to countries where they risk being tortured - the end goal of the security certificate process, said Philippe Robert de Massy, of the Quebec Ligue des droits et libertes.
Charkaoui hinted Friday at a possible future lawsuit against the security intelligence service for compensation and a public inquiry to clear his name.
"If the government has something to reproach me of, they should charge me under the criminal code," said Charkaoui, who immigrated from Morocco in 1995. "Instead they locked me up for 21 months. Can you believe they took me to court with chains around my feet and with snipers positioned on the roofs surrounding the federal building? They know I'm innocent and they made me out to be a monster."
By LOUIS UCHITELLE
Expectations Mexican families increasingly crossed the border because higher-paying jobs never made their promised appearance.
THE North American Free Trade Agreement, enacted by Congress 14 years ago, held out an alluring promise: the agreement would reduce illegal immigration from Mexico. Mexicans, the argument went, would enjoy the prosperity and employment that the trade agreement would undoubtedly generate — and not feel the need to cross the border into the United States.
But today the number of illegal migrants has only continued to rise. Why didn’t Nafta curb this immigration? The answer is complicated, of course. But a major factor lies in the assumptions made in drafting the trade agreement, assumptions about the way governments would behave (that is, rationally) and the way markets would respond (rationally, as well).
Neither happened, yet Nafta remains the model for trade agreements with developing Latin countries, including the Central American Free Trade Agreement, passed by Congress in 2005. Three more Nafta-like agreements are now pending in Congress — with Panama, Columbia and Peru.
When Nafta finally became a reality, on Jan. 1, 1994, American investment flooded into Mexico, mostly to finance factories that manufacture automobiles, appliances, TV sets, apparel and the like. The expectation was that the Mexican government would do its part by investing billions of dollars in roads, schooling, sanitation, housing and other needs to accommodate the new factories as they spread through the country.
It was more than an expectation. Many Mexican officials in the government of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari assured the Clinton administration that the investment would take place, and believed it themselves, said Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington who campaigned for Nafta in the early 1990s.
“It just did not happen,” he said.
Absent that investment, foreign factories congregated in the north, within 300 miles of the American border, where some infrastructure already existed. “Monterrey is quite good,” Mr. Hufbauer said, “but in a lot of other cities the infrastructure is terrible, not even enough running water or electricity in poor neighborhoods. People get temporary jobs, but that is all.”
Meanwhile, Mexican manufacturers, once protected by tariffs on a host of products, were driven out of business as less expensive, higher quality merchandise flowed into the country. Later, China, with its even-cheaper labor, added to the pressure, luring away manufacturers and jobs.
Indeed, despite the influx of foreign-owned factories, total manufacturing employment in Mexico declined to 3.5 million by 2004 from a high of 4.1 million in 2000, according to a calculation of Robert A. Blecker, an American University economist.
As relatively well-paying jobs disappeared, Mexico’s average wage for production workers, already low, fell further behind the average hourly pay of production workers in the United States, and Mexicans responded by migrating.
“The main thing that would have stemmed the flow of people across the border was a rapid increase in wages in Mexico,” said Dani Rodrik, an economist and trade specialist at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. “And that certainly has not happened.”
Something similar occurred in agriculture. The assumption was that tens of thousands of farmers who cultivated corn would act “rationally” and continue farming, even as less expensive corn imported from the United States flooded the market. The farmers, it was assumed, would switch to growing strawberries and vegetables — with some help from foreign investment — and then export these crops to the United States. Instead, the farmers exported themselves, partly because the Mexican government decided to reduce tariffs on corn even faster than Nafta required, according to Philip Martin, an agricultural economist at the University of California, Davis.
“We understood that the transition from corn to strawberries would not be smooth,” Professor Martin said. “But we did not think there would be almost no transition.”
A financial crisis also dashed expectations. One expectation was that the Mexican economy, driven by Nafta, would grow rapidly, generating jobs and keeping Mexicans home. The peso crisis of 1994-95, however, provoked a steep recession, and while there was some big growth later, the average annual growth rate over Nafta’s lifetime has been less than 3 percent.
The financial crisis struck just months after Nafta came into existence, undermining, early on, the Mexican government’s ability to spend money on roads, education and other necessary government functions.
“We underestimated Mexico’s deficits in physical and human infrastructure,” said J. Bradford DeLong, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Treasury official in the Clinton administration.
But, he says, without Nafta the migration would have been even greater. For instance, he says, there would not have been as much investment in the north of the country.
Finally, the steady flow of Mexicans to the United States has produced a momentum of its own — what Jeffrey Passel, a demographer at the Pew Hispanic Institute, calls a “network effect,” in which young Mexicans travel to the United States in growing numbers to join the growing number of family members already here.
The upshot is that Mexican migration to the United States has risen to 500,000 a year from less than 400,000 in the early 1990s, before Nafta, Mr. Passel estimates. Roughly 80 percent to 85 percent of immigrants are here illegally, he says.
The peso crisis, recession, the network effect — their impact may have been beyond anyone’s control, but not the assumptions about how the market and the government would act.
“We have indeed had one disappointment after another on this score,” Mr. Rodrik said, noting that the same assumption about government spending is part and parcel of the agreements, now before Congress, with Columbia, Peru and Panama.
While there is opposition to these proposals, it is mainly from Democrats who want a better safety net for American workers who might be hurt.
The European Union, in contrast, assumes little about government spending on the part of economically weaker nations joining it. The union itself has hugely subsidized the improved services needed by entering countries like Portugal, Spain, Greece and Poland, rather than leave financing to the relatively meager resources of entering countries.
The money is used not only for public investment, Mr. Rodrik noted, but also to subsidize companies setting up operations in the new countries and to support government budgets.
“I am not saying Nafta was a bad agreement,” Mr. Rodrik said. “But more than a trade agreement is required for countries to converge economically. And Nafta has been viewed as a shortcut to convergence without having to do all the other stuff.”