TORONTO — A group of advocates is urging the federal government to remove the limit on applications to sponsor certain Afghan refugees in Canada – or at least stop counting rejected applications towards it.
The government introduced a new program last month to allow Canadian individuals and organizations to privately sponsor up to 3,000 Afghan refugees who don’t have refugee status from the United Nations refugee agency or a foreign state.
It said it will accept sponsorship applications under the new program until Oct. 17, 2023, or once it has received applications for 3,000 refugees – whichever comes first.
In a letter sent to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser last week, a volunteer with Northern Lights Canada, a non-profit that’s been helping Afghan refugees in Toronto, said the new program’s cap is “highly prejudicial,” compared to the accommodations made for Ukrainians who want to come to Canada.
“Minister Fraser, I urge you to reconsider the design of the Afghan special program,” Heather Finley wrote in her letter dated Oct. 22.
“By raising the applicant quota and removing rejected applications from it, you will allow a more fair and equitable opportunity for Afghans in Canada to sponsor their families to join them here.”
Stephen Watt, co-founder of Northern Lights Canada, said the new program doesn’t come close to meeting the needs of Afghan refugees and their families and friends in Canada.
“Just having 3,000 spots in a crisis where millions of people are very recently displaced. It is insulting,” he said in an interview.
Almost 109,000 Ukrainians arrived to Canada between Jan. 1 and Oct. 23 under special programs the government introduced to help unlimited numbers of Ukrainians and their family members flee the war in Ukraine to safety.
Meanwhile, Ottawa has committed to resettling a total of 40,000 Afghan refugees after the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August of last year, with fewer than 23,000 having arrived in Canada so far.
Immigration Department spokeswoman Isabelle Dubois said the program that has allowed Ukrainians to come to Canada is using the department’s existing temporary resident visa processes, networks and infrastructure to bring as many of them as quickly as possible.
“This is not a refugee program, as compared to our Afghanistan refugee resettlement program, since Ukrainians have indicated that they need temporary safe harbour,” she said.
“Many of them intend to return to their home country when it will be safe to do so.”
Dubois said the government provided 3,000 additional spaces for organizations wanting to sponsor Afghan refugees in addition to the 3,000 spaces under the new special program.
“We are also processing existing and new private sponsorship applications for up to 7,000 Afghan refugees,” she said.
Watt said the new program’s application system crashed shortly after the government opened it at midnight on Oct. 17 due to many people rushing to submit applications.
He said many will likely end up rejected on a technicality because the government said it will process only the first 3,000 applicants and thus sponsors had to raise funds and write their sponsorship applications quickly.
“It’s so disappointing,” he said.
“This announcement that whether (the applications) are good or bad, we’re still going to count them towards the total. So, what that did was create this condition where people were frantically rushing to put together applications.”
Dubois confirmed the government will count all completed applications towards the new program’s 3,000 limit and said the department is currently reviewing the received applications to determine whether it reached that cap.
“We understand some clients experienced issues when submitting an application. No applications were lost as files were automatically backed up,” Dubois said.
“Applications are reviewed on a first-in, first-out basis to determine their completeness. We will continue to send out acknowledgments of receipt for applications that are determined to be complete and accepted into processing.”
Watt said the government should remove the cap on how many Afghan refugees can be privately sponsored for one year to allow people to work on the sponsorship applications — which he said can take months to put together because the requirements are so stringent and excessive.
“If you had a family of seven that may be $70,000 you have to get together. You have to get all the sponsorship documents lined up. You have to write the application,” he said.
“Filling out PDFs perfectly in perfect English when you’reanew Canadian, and having to having to rise to the challenge of these applications which are very demanding even for people who are completely fluent in English and have great use of computer skills.”
Andrew Griffith, a former director at the federal Immigration Department, said he is not aware of any government immigration or refugee program that counted rejected application towards the target other than the new special program for Afghan refugees.
He said many have been criticizing the government for apparently prioritizing Ukrainian refugees over Afghan refugees.
“The situations for both sets of refugees are dire in many cases,” he said. “I’m not (trying to) apply any value statements on that, but it does highlight another discrepancy between the the two groups of refugees in my view.”
Griffith said it’s true that the Ukrainians are formally coming to Canada on temporary visas, but many of them may end up staying here.
“Realistically, how many of the people accepted from Ukraine will go back?” he said. “I think most of them would probably like to go. I don’t deny that. But it depends on the situation.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2022.
Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press
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Turning the Tide on Cyberbullying: How Social Media Can Be a Protective Force
14 year old Adriana Kuch from New Jersey took her life because of bullying.
This article submitted by Cheryl Lynn Mark of DownloadAstro
In a digital age where the lines between reality and the virtual world blur, cyberbullying has emerged as a dark cloud on the horizon. But what if, instead of being a part of the problem, social media platforms could be channeled as a part of the solution?
This article will delve into the potential of social media as a protective force against cyberbullying. Here’s a roadmap of the discussion.
The rise of cyberbullying: current standing
Despite numerous expert-backed articles and the efforts of concerned organizations, cyberbullying remains a pervasive issue.
Earlier this year, we learned that 14-year-old Adriana Kuch from New Jersey took her life because of bullying. Apparently, another girl assaulted her at school, and the video of the said incident was posted on TikTok.
Before she did the unthinkable, Adriana said to her father, “I don’t want to be that girl who gets beat up on video and made fun of.” It was a sad thing for such a young girl to end up that way. And we hope that no one else will ever be in that situation again. Her story serves as a harrowing reminder of the devastating impact of cyberbullying.
The sad reality is that cyberbullying is difficult to fight as it comes in many different shapes and forms and is prevalent on all the major social media platforms.
But the truth is that social media is just a tool… Sometimes it’s not just about apps/websites — it’s the bad people on them.
This is why today, we’re going to dig deeper into how to use social media to our advantage. For parents, it’s essential to guide their children through navigating the platform. Time is always changing, and so is how we protect our children from harm like cyberbullying.
Social Media Tools for Protection
In the dynamic realm of social media, user safety is paramount. As cyberbullying continues to pose challenges, platforms are arming users with tools designed to enhance their online protection.
Consider the following essential features:
Privacy Settings: Controlling who sees posts and personal information
Privacy settings act as the first line of defense against unwanted intrusions. Most platforms allow users to decide who can view their content, be it the public, friends, or specific groups.
By limiting the visibility of posts and personal details, users can minimize exposure to potential threats. Regularly reviewing and updating privacy settings ensures that one’s online profile remains secure from prying eyes. It’s also advisable to restrict location sharing to prevent unsolicited real-world confrontations.
Reporting and Blocking: Quick actions against bullies
When faced with online harassment, a swift response can deter the perpetrators. Social media platforms have streamlined their reporting processes, making it easier for users to flag inappropriate content or behavior.
The blocking feature serves as an immediate barrier, ensuring that the bully can no longer contact or view the victim’s profile. This empowers the victim to reclaim their digital space without fear of further victimization.
Safety Centers: Resources offered by platforms for users in distress
Recognizing the profound impact of cyberbullying, many platforms have established safety centers. These are dedicated hubs containing articles, tutorials, and resources about online safety.
These centers often collaborate with mental health professionals and NGOs to provide guidance, helplines, and support for those affected by cyberbullying. They serve as a testament to the platform’s commitment to fostering a safer and more inclusive online environment.
While cyberbullying remains a concerning issue, armed with the right tools and knowledge, users can better protect themselves. Regularly updating oneself with the latest safety features and practices is essential to navigating social media’s vast and often tumultuous waters.
Positive Online Communities
If you’re not joining any communities right now, you’re missing out. Positive online communities stand out as beacons of hope. These communities are a testament to the fact that the internet, when harnessed correctly, can be a space for unity, support, and upliftment.
Here are some of the best benefits of joining a positive and uplifting community:
1. Emotional Support
Being part of a positive community provides a safety net, offering members a place to share their feelings, challenges, and experiences, knowing they’ll be met with understanding and empathy.
2. Personal Growth and Learning
Uplifting communities often foster an environment of continuous learning, where members share resources, advice, and experiences, contributing to personal development and growth.
3. Networking Opportunities
Beyond emotional support, these communities provide opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals, potentially leading to collaborations, partnerships, or new friendships.
4. Increased Positivity and Well-being
Regular interaction within a positive community can boost one’s mood, decrease feelings of loneliness, and contribute to overall mental well-being.
5. Resilience During Difficult Times
During challenging phases of life, having a supportive community can provide the strength and resilience needed to navigate and overcome adversity.
6. Shared Resources and Opportunities
Uplifting communities often pool together resources, information, or opportunities that can be beneficial for members, be it in the form of job leads, workshops, or educational content.
7. Sense of Belonging
Perhaps one of the most profound benefits is the innate human desire for connection and belonging. Being part of a positive community fulfills this need, reminding members that they are part of something bigger than themselves.
To find a positive and uplifting community, start by researching forums, groups, or platforms related to one’s interests or needs, paying attention to reviews or feedback from current members. Attend virtual or in-person events to get a feel for the community’s vibe.
For guiding children, emphasize the importance of online safety, encourage them to share their online experiences, and advise them to seek out communities that promote kindness, mutual respect, and constructive communication, steering clear of negative or toxic spaces.
The Influencer Effect
In the age of social media, influencers hold considerable sway over their vast audiences, making them invaluable allies in the fight against cyberbullying. Influencers have taken up the mantle of being digital role models. Many leverage their platforms to advocate for kindness, inclusion, and mutual respect in the online realm. To have a positive online environment, populate your social media platforms with influencers promoting such acts.
Remember to follow positive people in your life to strengthen your mind when fighting off negative forces.
Parental involvement in navigating the digital realm
Navigating the digital realm can be a daunting task for children, making parental involvement and guidance essential to ensuring a safe and wholesome online experience.
Open dialogue between parents and children about their online experiences is fundamental. Such conversations allow children to share their online triumphs and challenges and feel supported.
Regular discussions educate kids about potential online hazards, from cyberbullying to privacy concerns. When children know they can turn to their parents without fear of judgment or punishment, they are more likely to seek advice during troubling times.
Simple strategies for parents to stay involved:
1. Set Boundaries
Establish designated tech-free times, such as during meals, encouraging face-to-face communication and ensuring devices don't overshadow real-world interactions.
2. Co-View and Co-Play
Occasionally, join your child in their favorite online game or watch their beloved YouTube channel together. This shared experience provides insights into their online world.
3. Educate Through Discussion
Instead of merely setting rules, explain the reasons behind them, fostering understanding and cooperation.
4. Tech in Common Areas
Keep computers and other devices in shared spaces, like the living room, to casually oversee your child’s online activities.
5. Stay Updated
Familiarize yourself with the latest social media platforms, games, and online trends popular among kids. This knowledge aids in understanding their digital experiences better.
By actively participating and showing genuine interest in their child’s online life, parents can build trust, promote safety, and foster responsible digital habits.
Suggested read: What is the Most Likely Way Your Child can be Bullied Online?
The Bottom Line
As the fabric of our digital interactions evolves, social media’s role shifts from being merely a platform for connection to a force that can either uplift or harm. While challenges like cyberbullying persist, the collective effort of users, platforms, influencers, and parents can transform these virtual spaces into nurturing environments.
The onus isn’t just on the individual or the platform, but on the entire online community. Just recently, Georgia’s Republican leadership identified combating cyberbullying as a primary legislative focus. Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who’s going to collaborate with educational institutions and social media firms to formulate the bill, said, “That’s not going to be limited to school districts, it’s going to have teeth in it where the people perpetrating these things, we’re going to try to hold them accountable.”
By promoting empathy, understanding, and proactive protection, we all can play a part in ensuring that the internet remains a space of positivity, growth, and safety for everyone, especially our younger generation.
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