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Live from Toronto

This is the current webcam view of Roy Thomson Hall at 60 Simcoe St. in Toronto as seen from the Southwest and looking Northeast. See the location here.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

The G & M: Prime Minister’s Office ordered halt to refugee processing

If this article in today's Globe and Mail doesn't confirm to voters in this year's federal election the Harper government as the anti-immigration, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee - ANTI-CANADIAN "leaders" that they are, I'm not sure what will.

I'll come out and say it: If you are an immigrant who has become a citizen of Canada and you use your right to vote to cast one for the Conservatives, you are betraying every single person who walks in the shoes you once did. I encourage you all to vote - but not for a party that has nothing in common with Canadian values of inclusion, compassion and generosity toward the disadvantaged.  

From the Globe and Mail:

The Prime Minister’s Office directed Canadian immigration officials to stop processing one of the most vulnerable classes of Syrian refugees this spring and declared that all UN-referred refugees would require approval from the Prime Minister, a decision that halted a critical aspect of Canada’s response to a global crisis.

The Globe and Mail has learned that the Prime Minister intervened in a file normally handled by the Citizenship and Immigration department in the months before dramatic images of a dead toddler brought the refugee crisis to the fore. The processing stop, which was not disclosed to the public, was in place for at least several weeks. It is unclear when it was lifted. At the same time, an audit was ordered of all Syrian refugees referred by the United Nations in 2014 and 2015.

The Prime Minister’s Office asked Citizenship and Immigration for the files of some Syrian refugees so they could be vetted by the PMO – potentially placing political staff with little training in refugee matters in the middle of an already complex process.

PMO staff could have also had access to files that are considered protected, because they contain personal information, including a refugee’s health history and narrative of escape, raising questions about the privacy and security of that information and the basis on which it was being reviewed.

As a result of the halt, and the additional layers of scrutiny, families that had fled Syria and were judged by the United Nations refugee agency to be in need of resettlement had to wait longer to find refuge in Canada. It also meant there were fewer cases of UN-referred Syrians approved and ready for sponsorship when the public came forward in large numbers after the drowning death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi in August.

The Prime Minister’s Office did not directly respond to a request for comment, nor did it confirm Stephen Harper’s involvement.

Read the rest of this shocking article here.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Globe and Mail - Fifty years in Canada, and now I feel like a second-class citizen

Sheema Khan writes:

“Too broken to write,” I told my editor, after the onslaught of Conservative announcements. The niqab was condemned. Citizenship was revoked for convicted terrorists with dual citizenship. Canadians were reminded of “barbaric cultural practices,” and the federal government’s preference for mainly non-Muslim Syrian refugees was reiterated. Make no mistake: This divisive strategy is meant to prey upon fear and prejudice.

Last May, I wrote that Canadian Muslims “are the low-hanging fruit in the politics of fear. Omar Khadr is exhibit A; Zunera Ishaq is exhibit B. With an October election, it won’t be surprising to see political machinations at our expense.” Yet the sheer brazenness of the Conservatives leaves one speechless; a 2.0 version of Quebec’s “charter of values” is being used to win votes on the backs of a vulnerable minority. The government’s open hostility has given licence to bigots to vent xenophobia. A pregnant Muslim woman is assaulted in Montreal. A niqab-wearing woman is attacked while shopping with her daughters in Toronto. Mosques are taking precautions. Identifiable Muslim women feel a little less safe, and Muslim youth face difficult questions about identity and acceptance.

Don’t expect Conservative Leader Stephen Harper to call for calm; this cynical strategy seems to be working. What does this say about us, and our commitment to a just society?

December will mark 50 years since I arrived from India as a toddler. In Montreal, I experienced the fear of terrorism during the 1970 FLQ crisis and horror after the massacre of 14 women one dark December evening in 1989. My first voting experience was momentous, for I helped to keep the country together in the 1980 Quebec referendum. I did the same during the nail-biter of 1995. Along the way, I never felt any discrimination, any sense of being second-class.

Read the rest of the article here

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Canadian Bar Association's position on Bill C.24's citizenship components

I took the following select sections from the paper published by The Canadian Bar Association, laying out their position on the controversial legislation. In "Bill C-24, Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act", the CBA states the following:

On the clause regarding the "Intent to reside in Canada if granted citizenship"
The CBA Section opposes requiring applicants to demonstrate an intent to reside in Canada if granted citizenship. First, by creating two tiers of citizenship ‒ natural born Canadians who could travel and live abroad without restriction and naturalized Canadians who would risk losing their status if they were ever to leave Canada ‒ the proposed requirement is likely unconstitutional. Second, the intent requirement will result in a significant drain on CIC resources for both assessment and enforcement, and will not clarify or simplify the criteria or processing of citizenship, contrary to the Bill’s objective.

On the clause regarding "Expanded grounds for revocation"
The proposed grounds for revoking citizenship are broad. The rationale for the list of offences subject to revocation appears to be connected to loyalty to Canada or certain Canadian ideals. However, it is not clear why the loyalty of dual nationals should be put into question more than that of other Canadians. Once the precedent is established for banishing dual nationals, other forms of conduct may be added to the list.

One offence that would permit the Minister to revoke citizenship, under proposed s. 10(2)(b), is a terrorism offence under the Criminal Code or the Canadian equivalent for an offence committed outside of Canada, for which the citizen received at least a five-year sentence. In many countries, allegations of terrorism are used to punish political opponents, facilitated by low thresholds for convictions and harsh sentences. An analysis of whether the conviction is the equivalent of a terrorism offence in Canada is complex, and would be at the discretion of an individual officer.

Section 10.1 (2) makes membership in “an armed force of a country or as a member of an organized armed group and that country or group was engaged in an armed conflict with Canada” a ground for revoking citizenship. The wording is problematic. For example, it would not necessarily require knowledge of the nature of the group with which the person has associated. “Armed conflict with Canada” is not defined and it is unclear when it would apply.

It is also unclear whether membership includes those conscripted and those not on active duty. The CBA Section recommends deleting s. 10(2)(b) and s. 10.1(2). Alternatively, “or an offence outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would constitute a terrorism offence as defined in that section” should be deleted from s. 10(2)(b) and “armed conflict with Canada” and membership in an “organized armed group” should be more clearly defined in s. 10.1(2).

On the clause impacting the "Lack of hearing, equitable considerations"
Bill C-24 eliminates the right to a Federal Court hearing for those subject to revocation of citizenship, except in limited circumstances. In all other cases, the Minister will make the decision without being required to hold a formal hearing. The CBA Section believes that for a matter as serious as the revocation of citizenship, a formal hearing before an independent and impartial decision-maker must be maintained.

Another aspect of concern is the absence of consideration of equitable factors. Neither the Minister nor the Federal Court would be able to do so. The involvement of the Governor in Council, which can consider these factors under the Act, would be eliminated.

This stands in stark contrast to the procedural protections given to permanent residents in similar circumstances. The CBA Section is of the view that given the importance of citizenship, a statutory tribunal like the Immigration Appeal Division ought to have jurisdiction to consider not only the validity of the decision to terminate citizenship if ministerial revocation is maintained, but also whether there exist humanitarian and compassionate factors to warrant retention of permanent residence if not citizenship.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Stripped of citizenship - who's next?

From The Canadian Press

The federal government has revoked the citizenship of an Islamic extremist who masterminded a plot to bomb downtown Toronto in an effort to terrorize Canadians and cripple the economy.

A member of the so-called Toronto 18, Zakaria Amara was sentenced in 2010 to life in prison with no chance of parole until 2016 after admitting his role in the plan aimed in part at forcing Canadian soldiers to leave Afghanistan.

Defence Minister Jason Kenney sent a tweet describing him as a man who hated Canada so much that he “forfeited his own citizenship” by plotting to murder hundreds of Canadians.

I understand that the crimes of the Toronto 18 are horrendous, and an affront to Canadians who value their country and their lives. But even though Amara is a duel citizen, and has another country to land in should that ever be necessary, at one point in his life, Canadians believed he was qualified by every measure to be a citizen. When he committed these crimes, he belonged to us.

How secure is citizenship if the government of the day decides that if you break this or that law, they have the right to strip it from you? Amara is a terrorist - but what if, say cyber criminals become a target? Or habitual criminals? Or any violent offender - even one who commits a minor violent offense? It seems to me that the Harper government wants to be able to say Amara wasn't "one of us" or he wouldn't have done what he did. If he was, well, now we've disowned him.

I believe this is terrible policy in regard to Citizenship. I believe if a country takes you in as a citizen, you are theirs for better or for worse. There can not be two classes of Canadian citizen. Those with dual citizenship cannot worry that future winds of change may allow their hard won rights to be stripped from them.

I'm fairly certain this law will be challenged. I hope it is. The precedent it sets is dangerous and demotivational for anyone thinking of becoming a Canadian citizen.  

Read the Globe and Mail article here

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Coming soon - a focus on Canadian citizenship

After a prolonged hiatus from The Expatriate Mind, I will be returning to the blog shortly to focus on Canadian citizenship issues. 2016 will be the year I make my own application, and I thought that just as you dear readers around the world shared my immigration story, you might also be well served to get a first hand account of the citizenship process.

So look for new posts coming with my usual mix of how-to, news, and opinion on citizenship issues facing immigrants and Canadians in general. I'm excited to start this new adventure with you! 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thank you and goodbye for now

Since April of 2005 I have shared with all of you my Canadian immigration experience, as well as commentary on the politics of immigration, Canadian culture, and since I became a permanent resident, settlement issues and concerns. Now, nearly 10 years, and just shy of 600 posts later, it's time to step away from this blog, at least for a little while; to recharge my batteries, to figure out where I can best serve you in the years ahead.

In the time I've been writing for you, many of you have taken the time to let me know how I've helped you, what you've gained from these posts, and what would help in the future. I hope I've done right by you. Thank you for your feedback.

To those of you who have purchased my books: Thank you. I hope they have helped you in your immigration applications. Part of the work I will be doing in the near future is to update these books to reflect the current immigration reality.

This isn't farewell, just goodbye for now. Please don't hesitate to drop me a note if you have questions, or comments and thank you again for your support over the last decade.

You have seen me through my immigration experience, and I can only hope I've given you solid information, encouragement and most of all, hope in your great future.

Canada is waiting for you. Come join us.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

What the f*** is FACTA?

From the ‘The Alliance for the Defence of Canadian Sovereignty (ACDS):

The Government of Canada has signed a ‘FATCA IGA’ (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act Intergovernmental Agreement) with the United States to help that foreign country acquire assets of those Canadians it alone deems to be ‘U.S. persons’.  

FATCA is the enforcement tool for the imposition of that peculiar and punitive U.S. style ‘place of birth’ taxation on the world.  

We believe that the Canadian legislation that implements the FATCA IGA violates the Canadian Constitution, Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the principles of Canadian sovereignty and democracy, and the fundamental rights of all Canadians. 

We are now taking legal action in the form of a lawsuit against the Government of  Canada to stop our elected government from imposing the U.S. FATCA law on Canada and Canadians.

As I've mentioned before on this blog, only the U.S. and Eritrea tax the earnings of their expatriate citizens. And the way the U.S. goes about it, you can also be taxed on things like the gains from the sale of real estate that are NOT taxable in Canada. Further, U.S. Persons include those who were born of at least one U.S. parent, who may never have spent a day in their entire lives in the U.S..

If you want to learn more about the ACDS, FACTA and how it might impact you as an American expatriate, check out their web site at

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy Holidays from Canada

2014 wasn't the most eventful year on the immigration front in Canada, but 2015 is shaping up to be a game changer. The biggest change of course will come with the Expression Of Interest program. This will impose a major change not in the application process for skilled workers, but in the actual chances a skilled worker has for immigrating to Canada.

Where Canada has historically had a first-come-first-served approach to immigration in all classes, it is moving toward a very selective, and therefore highly political approach that will bring the "most qualified" to the front of the line - even if they just got in line yesterday. While this approach is currently limited to economic immigrants, don't think for a minute that it wont come to apply to all classes of immigration.

In the future, who knows? Even reunification of families may be prioritized by which families might be more economically successful as immigrants in the government's eyes.

Outside of the immigration front, and on a more personal note, 2014 finds me fully settling in to my Canadian life. America is becoming a crazy memory, where my only remaining concerns are with friends and family. What goes on there - fair or unfair, just or unjust - only matters to me to the extent that it impacts those I love. Beyond that, living in Canada has confirmed what I've long felt about my home country: there's something fundamentally wrong with the United States.

For those seeking to immigrate to Canada, I wish you the best in 2015. More than ever it will be important for you to understand the program options available to you and to seek out qualified advice on the path you set out on. Canada is likely to welcome more immigrants than ever in 2015 - mainly because it's a year in which we will see a federal election, and the Tories are going to want to play the immigrant card has strongly as they can. But to be one of the lucky ones who get through the red tape, be sure you are informed, proactive, and consistent in your immigration strategy.

Have the happiest of New Years and God bless you all, my faithful readers!  

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Half of a change on the way for January 1, 2015 - Express Entry debuts

The CIC announced on December 1st:

In January 2015, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will launch a new electronic system called Express Entry to manage applications for permanent residence under these federal economic immigration programs:

  • The Federal Skilled Worker Program,
  • The Federal Skilled Trades Program, and
  • The Canadian Experience Class.

Provinces and territories will also be able to recruit candidates from the Express Entry system for a portion of the Provincial Nominee Programs to meet local labour market needs. 

Express entry means that qualified applicants will no longer be processed on a first-come-first-served basis, but instead, be put into a pool of applicants. When an applicant has a job offer from a Canadian company (that cannot be filled by a Canadian citizen), or a job becomes available that matches the applicant's skills (same caveat that the job has to be one no Canadian is available for), then applicants will be matched to the opportunity by the Federal government.

That's right - the Federal government is going into the headhunting business.

Only one hitch though: The job-matching aspect of this new legislation is not ready to roll out yet. Ottawa is going ahead with half a program.

Why? Because it means as of January, they can stop processing applications under the three programs while giving the impression that they are still pro-immigration.

Ottawa says the program will be fully running by the spring of 2015. But this is the same government that brought you the Canada Action Plan - a well advertised jobs program that has generated few new opportunities, despite (according to the Toronto Star) "...spending more than five times as many taxpayer dollars on promoting its economic plan as it is on raising public awareness about the flu pandemic."

Skilled worker program? Read "Killed" worker program.

You can thank the Tories.