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.”
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.
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.”
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
A year after Danforth shooting, teens who lost friend grapple with anxiety
TORONTO — They were eight care-free teenagers out celebrating a birthday when the bullets flew. The rampage that ensued on July 22, 2018, changed their lives.
Days before the first anniversary of the shooting in Greektown, four of the teens who survived the tragedy sit in the living room of an east Toronto home talking about their struggles with anxiety, depression and the feeling of loss. It’s better than therapy, they say.
“I feel like the people I am surrounded with is my therapy,” says Skye McLeod, as her friend Noor Samiei, whose 18th birthday they were celebrating the night of the shooting, gently holds her hand.
Their best friend, 18-year-old Reese Fallon, was one of two people who were killed when a deeply troubled 29-year-old man went on a shooting spree. Thirteen people were injured, including their other friend, Samantha Price.
Price has largely recovered physically, but she says she cannot stop the morbid thoughts that often race through her mind. The 18-year-old will watch cars go by and think the driver will shoot her in the head. She’ll notice a stranger on the street and fear for her life. She thinks large crowds make for a perfect place for a bomb to go off.
“It’s horrible,” she says. “But I can’t help it.”
All four have tried various forms of therapy. Three say it didn’t help.
McLeod stopped after one session with a therapist. Samiei, 19, says she saw a therapist twice.
“The therapist would look at me and if she didn’t initiate the conversation, I would just look back at her,” Samiei says. “What I really wanted was feedback.”
“Tell me how to heal,” Price says. “It sucks to go outside and be this age and not have fun.”
Max Smith, however, says therapy has helped his recurring anxiety.
“We just talk about what I’m feeling,” he says. “(My therapist) is super helpful and gives me insight and has given me some breathing techniques.”
All four say they think about the shooting a lot.
The night of the celebration started with dinner at an Italian restaurant downtown. Then they moved to Greektown for gelato. They were chatting at a nearby parkette when some noticed a man across the street, staring at them.
Price remembers Faisal Hussain raising a gun and firing. A bullet shattered her right hip and she collapsed. Next to her, two of her friends were on the ground bleeding.
McLeod also went down, but wasn’t shot.
“I remember looking at him,” she says. “Do I get up to run? Will that make me a bigger target? Do I play dead?”
Smith, who was next to McLeod, says he crouched down when the bullets flew.
“It was like tunnel vision,” he says. “I remember saying ‘Skye, we have to go.'”
“You saved my life,” she says to Smith. He blushes.
In the commotion, Samiei ran straight onto Danforth Avenue, tripped and fell, smashing her chin and knee on the road.
“While on the ground, I looked behind me and saw him shooting,” she says.
Samiei noticed Smith, McLeod and another friend duck into a nearby cafe so she got up and followed. The four ended up in a basement bathroom with two strangers.
Price watched her friends dash into the cafe, but also noticed restaurants were closing their doors.
Somehow, despite her shattered hip, Price made her way to Christina’s, a restaurant where a waitress helped her in and called for a doctor. She’d spend the next five days in hospital.
Her friends, meanwhile, were trying to track down members of their group. Samiei, while still in the basement bathroom, called Fallon repeatedly but got no answer. McLeod called her father, who rushed over.
Patrick McLeod, a retired police officer, found his daughter and her three friends in the cafe bathroom. After speaking with police at the scene, he ended up identifying Fallon’s body.
The friends later learned that Fallon had run in one direction while they scrambled in another. Her body was found in the parkette where they had gathered.
“That’s when our lives changed forever,” Samiei says.
While three of them started university last September, McLeod chose to travel. She headed to Greece, but the horror of what happened soon took hold.
“I immediately had a panic attack,” she says. “I had never been so depressed in my life. Crying constantly. Everything just hit me.”
Her father flew over to help and McLeod eventually carried on to Italy, but delayed her trip to Australia.
“I realized I needed time at home to heal,” she says.
Her travels helped, but like Price, McLeod says she grapples with disturbing thoughts. At a recent concert, for instance, she found herself thinking “this is a great place for a shooting.”
Smith moved to Guelph, Ont., for university and said being away from Toronto has also helped.
“It’s easy to forget about the shooting because you’re just not there,” he said. “It hits you when you get home.”
Samiei, now a student at the University of Toronto, says commuting to the school’s downtown campus was a challenge because crowds on the subway distressed her. So her mother commuted with her for months. Now, she’s able to make the journey on her own.
“I will change cars if I see someone weird, though,” she says.
Price has also struggled with parts of city life — a walk around her neighbourhood on Canada Day triggered a panic attack when she heard fireworks.
“It’s become so difficult,” she says. “I’ve loved growing up here and loved living here, but I feel uncomfortable at any public event.”
Despite their issues, the friends say they try to be positive as much as they can, especially when it comes to remembering Fallon.
“Reese’s last meal was her favourite: raspberry and chocolate gelato,” Samiei says with a smile.
Smith shows a video of the group at the restaurant that night where Fallon makes a goofy face. Everyone laughs.
“As horrible as that night was, at least until then, we had such a good time,” Smith says.
Samiei visits the parkette regularly to keep Fallon’s memory alive. She puts photographs of her friend on a tree. Someone takes them down, but she returns to put them back up.
“It’s important,” Samiei said. “So people don’t forget.”
Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
Lyme-infected ticks are so common in parts of Canada, testing no longer done
OTTAWA — Lyme disease has settled so deeply into parts of Canada many public health units now just assume if you get bitten by a tick, you should be treated for the potentially debilitating bacteria.
In Ottawa, where more than half of the ticks tested in some neighbourhoods carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, the public-health unit no longer bothers to test ticks because it’s assumed they carry the illness.
Dr. Vera Etches, the top doctor at the health unit, says that means if a tick is found on a person, and is believed to have been there for more than 24 hours, then the patient should get antibiotics to prevent Lyme infection.
After three days, preventive treatment won’t work so patients then wait for symptoms or enough time for antibodies to evolve to show up on a test.
Similar rates of Lyme disease have been found in parts of every province except Alberta, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, but the disease is marching further afield every year.
Lyme disease began appearing in Canada in the early 1980s but it has only been since about 2012 that the ticks that carry the bacteria have become plentiful, mostly due to warmer winters that allow more of them to survive.
The Canadian Press
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