Canadian refugee claims and the Trump effect
by Michael Scott
The news round the world for the past 20 days has been the actions and words of U.S. President Donald Trump. His executive orders, without apparently much consultation with expert or cabinet appointees at times, has astonished the entire world. His travel ban on persons from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen created mass confusion around the world, a separation of families, and panic. The shock waves are still reverberating. The ban has been challenged in the courts and the world awaits the outcome. The travel ban and Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims, Mexicans and immigrants in general have ushered in a new time for not only the United States but also neighbouring countries, like Canada.
Our country, and particularly our province, has seen record numbers of claimants coming across the border from the United States and submitting refugee claims in the country. We can wonder aloud about the slogan on the Statue of Liberty “give us your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” In Trump’s America it appears that the rule of law and American openness are both under serious challenge. The local headlines have more to do with persons leaving the United States than wanting to stay.
Just this past weekend there were reports of more than twenty illegal entries into Canada including families. The Winnipeg Sun reports stories of families coming across the border. One resident of Emerson reports, “they just walk on thorough or get picked up and brought the border service.” Residents report that most come from Minneapolis and are originally from Somalia. One month earlier local media reported the plight of two men who entered Manitoba on foot in the bitter cold of January with wind chills exceeded 35 below. They became disoriented, lost their way, lost their gloves and suffered severe frost bite. The men interviewed on television were sorry to have lost their fingers to amputation but were not sorry to leave the unwelcoming United States. A local immigration lawyer reported, “the actions of these people is understandable.”
Why Canada, why now? It is important to understand that one objectives of our Canadian Immigration Refugee Protection Act is “about saving lives and offering protection to the displaced and persecuted,” section 3 (2)(a). Canada has a long and distinguished history in responding to world crises and the plight of refugees. Canada signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1951 and the 1967 Protocol. Prime Minister Trudeau delivered on his election promise to bring in over 20,000 Syrian refugees while even President Obama admitted a faction of that total number into the United States.
It is important to note that there are two types of claimants: convention refugees and protected persons. In general terms, IRPA section 96 Convention refugees are persons who face “a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion” and are outside their country of nationality, unable to submit a claim in current or last country of residence” and are “unable or, by reason of that fear, unwilling to return to that country.” A Section 97 protected person is “a person in Canada whose removal to their country or countries of nationality” would “subject them personally (a) to a danger, believed on substantial grounds to exist, of torture …or (b) to a risk to their life or to a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.”
There are also differences between claims submitted by persons from Designated Countries of Origin (DCOs) and Designated Foreign Nationals (DFN) and also, as is the specific case of the refugee claimants coming into Manitoba for those fleeing the United States. At this time the Canada-U.S. Safe Country Agreement is still in effect. It is important to note that the agreement applies to persons who apply at a land based port of entry, but not at an airport or an inland office. The persons streaming into Manitoba and Canada are not coming through any land port of entry but rather circumventing these checkpoints to apply from inside the country.
We need to stop and think why persons and families would risk their lives and health to cross into Canada in the midst of one of the coldest winters on record. President Trump has achieved his apparent goal of putting more fear into refugees – refugees who already fear being forced to return to persecution in their home countries by an unwelcoming government and country. Canada is not the only country responding to the refugee plight in the world. We should pride ourselves as a nation for following the golden rule or second great commandment to “love your neighbour as yourself.” Manitoba Premier Pallister speaks for many when he says, “I would hope that if someone comes to a door and they’re freezing, that they would have that door opened.”
Michael Scott is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC, R525678) who has 30 years of experience with Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. He currently works as a licensed consultant with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. 204-691-1166 or 204-227-0292. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.