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Immigration officials cut ‘legacy’ refugee backlog … as new one grows

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OTTAWA — A backlog of “legacy” refugee claims filed by applicants who have been waiting over seven years to find out if they can remain in Canada will soon be cleared, as Ottawa now turns its attention to an even bigger backlog of fresh asylum claims.

The old list of stagnating cases one point stood at 32,000 claims and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen was eager to shine a spotlight this week on his government’s successful efforts at cutting it to almost nothing.

The people whose cases have been on that list came to Canada seeking refugee protection prior to December 2012. That’s when the Conservatives, then in power, established new 60-day deadlines for refugee hearings. That left the 32,000 cases already in the system to be bumped to lower priority for scheduled hearings because they were already late.

Thanks to the efforts of a special task force struck to deal specifically with legacy cases, only a handful remain. The one per cent that are left have been suspended, have already had hearings and are awaiting decisions or are scheduled to be heard between now and July.

“The legacy cases consist of people who have been in the backlog for many, many years and they were simply waiting to get a hearing so they can have finality in their cases and stop their lives being held in limbo,” Hussen said in an interview Monday. “I’m really happy about the fact we’ve kept our promise to eliminate that backlog.”

The task force worked closely with the legal community and other stakeholders to schedule and hear legacy claims as quickly and efficiently as possible, Hussen added.

But even as immigration officials celebrate the elimination of this backlog, another even larger inventory of refugee claims looms at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), where asylum-seekers go to have their claims heard by an arms-length tribunal.

Departmental plans for the 2019-20 fiscal year published just last week show the board has been “experiencing significant pressure as intake continues to substantially exceed funded capacity.”

“The past 24 months have seen the highest volumes of refugee protection claims in the IRB’s history,” the departmental plan document states. “As a result, an inventory of more than 75,000 claims has accumulated, representing more than two years of work at the current funding levels.”

In the 2017-18 fiscal year, the number of new claims began exceeding the board’s capacity to process them by an average of about 2,300 cases a month. This new backlog was created in part by an influx of over 41,000 “irregular” migrants who have crossed into Canada since 2017 by avoiding official border checkpoints. Canada has also seen a rise in the number of refugees entering the country through regular, legal channels.

Hussen says the government is responding to this increased pressure, pointing to new investments contained in this year’s federal budget that promise $208 million in new money for the IRB to tackle refugee claims. This money go toward hiring 130 new staff, including 85 new decision-makers. 

Spending of $74 million over two years contained in last year’s federal budget helped the IRB to finalize its highest number of cases ever, Hussen said. 

This year, even more money is to get the IRB to the point where it can process 50,000 claims per year.

“The capacity has increased,” Hussen said. “You have in the IRB now a system that is actually funded for the volumes that Canada is actually experiencing, which is similar to volumes that other Western countries are experiencing around the world because there is just an increase in global migration patterns.”

The government also plans to expand a pilot project that streamlines a previous process that saw refugee judges reviewing three files for each asylum case: an RCMP file, a file from the Canada Border Services Agency and a file from the Immigration Department. The new system combines all these into one decision-ready file, which reduces a major administrative burden on asylum judges, Hussen said.

“This will dramatically cut the processing time and efficiencies.”

The Immigration Department projects wait-times for asylum seekers awaiting a refugee hearing will be cut almost in half, from the current two years to 13 months. And for those who go through the streamlined file-management system, wait times could be as low as four months, Hussen said.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


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Minority Government passes Bill C10 on internet freedom. Opponents pleading with Senate to block it.

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Bill C 10 which is expected to fundamentally affect how Canadians experience the internet, has been hammered through the House of Commons.  At 1:30 AM Ottawa time, the minority Liberal Government with help from the BQ and the NDP were able to pass the bill.  In opposition were the federal Conservatives and lone Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould.   The urgency to pass C 10 before an election call expected later this summer resulted in the Liberals actually shutting down debate at the committee level.  That’s only happened twice in the history of the country before now!  The Liberals also attempted to pass secret amendments which were caught by the Conservatives and ruled “out of order” by the House Speaker.

Why the rush?  Opponents are concerned the Liberals, BQ, and NDP are far more concerned with regulating social media use, than they are with boosting individual Canadians creating new content.  It appears the urgency has to do with giving themselves the ability to guide internet content, just in time for the federal election campaign.

OpenMedia.org, a group striving to keep the internet “open, affordable, and surveillance-free” calls the government’s bill “outrageously flawed”.  The group published an article called “What’s wrong with Bill C 10?”  which asks and answers 8 key questions surrounding C 10.  The article provides excellent background knowledge for Canadians concerned about the future of the internet.

OpenMedia says the goal of the bill is to expand “Canada’s Broadcasting Act to apply to all streaming audio or video content on the Internet, including Netflix, Spotify, Youtube, and other popular streaming services.”  Streaming services will be forced to make higher payments to the Canada Media Fund which would mean higher rates paid for Canadian users.  According to OpenMedia streaming services will charge higher Canadian specific fees, and may even avoid Canada altogether.

OpenMedia calls C 10 a “cash-grab for traditional broadcast industries” which actually does nothing to serve the new wave of content creators who could really use a boost on the international stage.  As a last ditch attempt to stop the bill, OpenMedia.org is urging Canadians to email the Senate right now to ask for a REAL democratic examination of Bill C-10.

Conservative critic Pierre Poilievre is especially concerned with the federal government giving itself the power to block unapproved ideas from popular content creators like himself, just in time for the next federal election. Surprisingly, and maybe most concerning of all, both OpenMedia and Pierre Poilievre point out the bill ‘DOESN’T ADDRESS WHAT CANADIAN CONTENT IS’.  The current definition of “Canadian Content” was last updated in 1984, more than a decade before the internet changed everything.

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Alberta

Loss of Brother to Addiction and Mental Illness Inspires Sister to Raise Money by Selling Face Masks.

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Starting June 10th, until midnight Sunday, June 13th customers across Canada can help raise funds for Mental Health Organizations in their own provinces by purchasing much needed luxury cotton face masks.

Jodee Prouse, from Sylvan Lake, Alberta, co-owner of Service Mask Supply (SMS) is the provider of one of Canada’s best-selling luxury 3-layer Cotton Face Masks. She announced today that they will be donating $1.00 from every mask purchase on June 10, 11, 12 and 13th to Mental Illness Programs and Organizations in communities across Canada. “We all look forward to when we no longer need to wear face masks,” says Jodee, “and we are getting really close. I am proud that we can provide a much-needed product and at the same time allow others the opportunity to come together to raise money for Mental Health in their own communities.”

SMS is excited to announce that for 4 days this week, $1.00 from every mask will be donated to different Mental Health Organizations across Canada. Customers can place their order online, each mask is $5.00, and will ship directly to their homes or businesses. Jodee is proud of her team and orders quickly ship the next business day, leaving from their warehouse in Alberta. All monies collected will go back into each province to where the order was shipped. As an example, Alberta portion will go back to Canadian Mental Health Association Alberta Division, Manitoba to Rainbow Resource Centre and so on. This allows every Canadian the opportunity to make a difference and take part.

From the beginning, SMS had an amazingly simple business model, originally supplying schools and oilfield companies: provide comfortable and affordable masks (each is only $5.00) with patterns that make people smile. Smile. It is what Jodee and her business partner son Ryan believes we need more of right now during these unprecedented times. “My son and I, at different times in our lives, have both struggled with anxiety and depression. We lost a much-loved member of our family when our brother/uncle lost his battle with mental illness and alcoholism when he took his own life in March of 2012. He was only 39. This helped solidify our commitment to helping to eliminate the shame and stigma surrounding mental health.”

Now more than ever we want to bring communities together. And remind people they are not alone.

SMS is proud to be celebrating over 17,000 customers across Canada this week. They know that much of their success has been driven by their passionate customers, repeat business and recommendations to family, friends, and co-workers. “It fills my heart to receive not only Facebook messages and emails daily on how much they love our masks,” says Jodee, “but also the heartfelt words where strangers feel comfortable and safe enough to share some of their own mental health or addiction challenges.”

SMS has over 150 unique colors and patterns with such unique designs as sunflowers, flamingo’s, tie dye, dog lover, pretty kitties, fishing lures, butterflies, hearts, breast cancer, yoga, fine wine, pride, cupcakes and many more. Great for work, play, indoors and outdoors too with sizes for the whole family.

Learn more visit: www.servicemasksupply.ca

For more information you can email [email protected]

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june, 2021

tue04may(may 4)4:57 pmwed30jun(jun 30)12:00 pmMove Your Mood Family Challenge (June)(may 4) 4:57 pm - (june 30) 12:00 pm

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