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Baloney Meter: Has every single refugee claimant in Canada been screened?

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  • OTTAWA — “We have made sure that every single person crossing our borders, whether legally or illegally, gets processed according to all our rules. We have seen over the past years all around the world an increase in migration and in asylum seekers happening everywhere, and Canada is not immune to that. However, we have a strong immigration system that continues to apply all its steps to everyone crossing the border.” — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in question period, May 7, 2019.

    The influx of asylum seekers to Canada has become a sustained political headache for the Liberals over the last two years and is likely to be the subject of divisive debates in the upcoming fall federal election.

    The most heated rhetoric tends to revolve around tens of thousands of “irregular migrants” who have crossed into Canada through unofficial paths along the Canada-U.S. border since early 2017.

    The Conservatives have been accusing the Trudeau government of not being in control of the country’s immigration system and have been using the number of migrants — whom they typically call “illegal,” not “irregular” — to highlight those concerns.

    Trudeau and immigration officials continue to insist the system is just fine and that Conservatives are merely stoking fears for partisan gain.

    The prime minister responded to one recent question from deputy Conservative leader Lisa Raitt by  saying “every single person crossing our borders, whether legally or illegally, gets processed according to all our rules.”

    Is this statement true?

    Spoiler alert: The Canadian Press Baloney Meter is a dispassionate examination of political statements culminating in a ranking of accuracy on a scale of “no baloney” to “full of baloney” (complete methodology below).

    This one earns a rating of “Full of baloney.”

    Here’s why.

    THE FACTS

    Anyone wishing to make an asylum claim in Canada faces a number of screenings by three different federal agencies.

    The Immigration Department and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) first conduct an eligibility assessment, which involves biometric screening (fingerprints and photos) and biographic checks as well as a security check for anyone over 18 years of age. This determines whether the person is eligible to make a refugee claim. Factors that rule out eligibility include whether the person has committed a serious crime, made a previous claim in Canada or received protection in another country.

    If, after those checks, the person is deemed eligible for refugee protection, the Immigration Department or CBSA then refers the claim to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) — an arm’s-length tribunal that decides refugee cases and appeals.

    Once a claim is referred to the IRB, it’s reviewed for security, credibility and for possible grounds for exclusion from Canada’s asylum system.

    THE AUDITOR GENERAL

    Federal auditor general Sylvain Ricard recently probed whether all three government agencies involved in refugee determinations have been consistently processing asylum claims in an efficient and timely manner.

    The audit found Canada’s refugee system has a backlog of asylum claims that is worse now than it has ever been, caused in part by systemic inefficiencies.

    Ricard’s office also zeroed in on whether biometric checks for criminality or identity were completed for a sample of 82,503 claimants.

    His office found that the CBSA had no quality-assurance program to ensure all the proper screening procedures had been completed. For example, the audit found some files contained errors in electronic documentation. It also flagged 400 claims where biometric checks for criminality or identity were not completed, as required. In some of these cases fingerprints were simply not taken and in others there were system errors that occurred when information was transmitted.

    “Although these cases represent 0.5 per cent of all claimants for whom criminality or identity checks were required, the checks are important for public safety and the integrity of the refugee determination system,” the auditor’s report says. “Neither organization systematically tracked whether a criminal records check was always completed because of poor data quality.”

    Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale responded by saying the system has “layers of protection.” When the auditor general found those 400 cases with missing biometrics, the CBSA immediately checked those files and in every case, proper criminal screening was done to ensure no bad actors inadvertently slipped through the system, Goodale told reporters May 7.

    “With respect to biometrics, (CBSA officials) were able to identify that in 0.2 per cent of cases, that part of the screening process was not completed properly. I guess you could look at it the other way around and say 99.8 per cent of the cases, it was properly completed, but in 0.2 per cent, they acknowledge an error and they have taken steps to make sure, by way of proper protocol, that doesn’t happen again,” Goodale said.

    THE VERDICT

    Trudeau clearly and matter-of-factly stated that “every single person crossing our borders, whether legally or illegally, gets processed according to all our rules.” He made this statement on the same day the auditor general’s report was published, describing the 400 cases where biometric screenings were not completed as well as other gaps in information collected or shared among government agencies about asylum seekers.

    The audit report did find that in most cases, proper procedures were followed, but it did flag areas where some people did not get screened according to all the rules.

    For that reason, Trudeau’s statement in the House of Commons earns a rating of “Full of baloney.”

    METHODOLOGY

    The Baloney Meter is a project of The Canadian Press that examines the level of accuracy in statements made by politicians. Each claim is researched and assigned a rating based on the following scale:

    No baloney — the statement is completely accurate

    A little baloney — the statement is mostly accurate but more information is required

    Some baloney — the statement is partly accurate but important details are missing

    A lot of baloney — the statement is mostly inaccurate but contains elements of truth

    Full of baloney — the statement is completely inaccurate

    Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

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    National

    Canada-China relations hit ‘rock bottom’ and at ‘freezing point’: Chinese envoy

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  • OTTAWA — China’s ambassador to Canada says the bilateral relationship is now at “rock bottom” compared to any time since diplomatic ties were first established decades ago.

    In prepared text for a speech Thursday, Lu Shaye said he’s saddened Canada-China relations are at what he called a “freezing point.”

    Lu’s remarks come at a time of heightened tensions following the December arrest of Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on an extradition request by the United States.

    The Huawei executive’s arrest has enraged China, which has since detained two Canadians on allegations of endangering Chinese national security, sentenced two Canadians to death for drug-related convictions and blocked key agricultural shipments.

    Lu did not mention Meng’s arrest — but he said the China-Canada relationship is now facing serious difficulties.

    He said China has long valued its relationship with Canada, particularly since it was one of the first Western countries to establish diplomatic ties with the Asian country.

    “For clear reasons, the current China-Canada relations are facing serious difficulties and are situated at the rock bottom since the two countries have established diplomatic relations,” said a copy of Lu’s speech, which was posted on the Chinese Embassy’s website.

    “It saddens us that the current China-Canada relations are ‘at a freezing point’ and face huge difficulties. The knots shall be untied by those who got them tied.”

    He continued by urging Canada to view China’s development in a “fair and objective” manner and to respect its concerns. Lu also warned Canada to “stop the moves that undermine the interests of China.”

    In recent months, Beijing’s envoy has used strong words when talking about the relationship. In January, he told Canadian journalists that Meng’s arrest was the “backstabbing” of a friend and said it was evidence of white supremacism.

    Lu also warned of repercussions if the federal government bars Huawei from selling equipment to build a Canadian 5G wireless network.

    He made the remarks in Toronto at an event hosted by the Globe and Mail. The document said former prime minister Jean Chretien was in attendance as was Darryl White, chief executive of BMO.

    The Canadian Press

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    Environment

    Keep guard up against hurricanes in 2019, as risk remains potent: forecaster

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  • HALIFAX — It has been years since a major tropical storm wreaked havoc in Canada, but the Canadian Hurricane Centre is warning against complacency.

    The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its hurricane outlook Thursday, predicting nine to 15 named storms this season, with four to eight becoming hurricanes and two to four being major hurricanes.

    Bob Robichaud of the Canadian centre noted that’s similar to last year’s hurricane season, when only two storms hit Canada, including post-tropical storm Chris, which made landfall in Newfoundland in July 2018.

    However, Robichaud warns that some Atlantic Canadians may be forgetting storms like post-tropical storm Arthur, which snapped trees and caused massive power outages in 2014, and hurricane Juan’s widespread wrath in 2003.

    And he reminded journalists attending a briefing in Halifax about hurricane Michael, which flattened parts of the Florida panhandle last October.

    The Halifax-based centre has created a fresh smart phone app, and recommends people begin tracking storms as soon as they start and then monitor for shifts in direction and intensity.

    “What we advocate is for people to really stay in tune with weather information because the forecast can change as the storms are approaching,” Robichaud said.

    Robichaud says studies show that complacency levels rise about seven years after a storm like hurricane Juan, and that as a result people do less to prepare.

    “People tend not to take any preparedness action if they haven’t had any kind of hurricane in recent years,” said Robichaud, a warning preparedness meteorologist.

    “For us it’s been five years since any major impactful storm … so it’s even more important to take the necessary precautions to get ready.”

    The Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo has published a simple guide for Canadians on basic measures to take to prepare in particular for flood risk from extreme weather.

    The centre has repeatedly pointed out that without basic measures, basement flooding can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage during hurricanes.

    Its publications include a Home Flood Protection Program that begin with such simple steps as testing sump pumps, cleaning out eaves troughs and maintaining backwater valves.

    More advanced measures include removing obstructions from basement drains and creating grading to move water away from homes.

    The hurricane season runs from June 1 to early November.

    Robichaud said hurricanes tend to “feed on” warmer waters, and as result the centre is closely monitoring those trends.

    The meteorologist said as summer progresses it’s projected the water will warm in the eastern Atlantic and become warmer than average.

    In addition, Robichaud said the Atlantic Ocean continues to be in an overall period of high hurricane activity that hasn’t yet come to the end of a cycle.

    — Follow (at)mtuttoncporg on Twitter.

    Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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