Nehir Aydin could be forced to make what she calls an “impossible” decision: either leave her five-year-old son alone in Canada, making him a ward of the state, or return to Turkey with him, where she and her family are at risk of persecution because of their religious beliefs.
“I don’t want to think about it,” Aydin said. “He’s so small, he needs protection.”
Aydin and her three children came to Canada in August 2019.
They made refugee claims because they fear they may be arrested, even tortured, by Turkish authorities for belonging to the Hizmet religious movement, a Muslim minority group that Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan outlawed and blames for a 2016 coup attempt.
The family also fears persecution in Hong Kong, which is where they lived before coming to Canada, because of Beijing’s controversial national security law and the mistreatment of Uyghur Muslims in Mainland China.
An adjudicator at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) rejected Aydin’s claim and the claims of her two oldest children, saying it’s safe for them to return to Hong Kong. This means Canada could deport them at any time.
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But the claim made by Aydin’s five-year-old son was accepted by the IRB because he’s too young for residency in Hong Kong and because his only travel document, an expired Turkish passport, might not be renewed by Turkish officials, who routinely reject applications made by Hizmet followers.
“I’m afraid,” Aydin said. “He can stay, but me and my other two kids, we cannot.”
The adjudicator didn’t dispute Aydin’s claim that she and her children are at risk if they return to Turkey.
“The Turkish state has and is engaging in a widespread campaign targeting known and suspected Hizmet supporters in Turkey and abroad, placing them all at risk of mistreatment by state authorities,” the adjudicator wrote in his decision.
Global News has agreed to use pseudonyms for Aydin and her children because of the risks they face if sent back to Turkey.
Parents are not ‘family members’
Threatening to deport the parents of child refugees — or denying them entry to Canada — is standard practice for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
That’s because a government policy, created in the 1980s, says the parents of children are not “family members” for the purpose of Canadian immigration law. This leaves parents vulnerable to deportation, even after their children are granted refugee protection.
Unlike adults, who can add their spouses, common-law partners and dependent children to applications to remain in Canada permanently, children are barred from adding parents to these applications because only “family members” can be included.
The government said this policy protects children from human traffickers and prevents exploitation because it discourages parents from sending their kids to Canada alone.
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But the policy has also been called “cruel” and “inhumane” by lawyers and child rights advocates, including a former UN special rapporteur, who say it’s akin to state-sanctioned family separation.
“It makes no sense,” said Meera Budovitch, a Toronto immigration lawyer who represents Aydin and her family.
Budovitch has filed an application for Aydin and her two oldest children to remain in Canada on “humanitarian and compassionate” grounds.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, these applications, which include any humanitarian reason to stay Canada, were accepted about 60 per cent of the time.
While Budovitch said it’s unlikely the government will deport Aydin when her application is still being processed, the threat of removal and the fear of being separated has caused significant psychological and emotional distress for the family.
“If this application is refused, [Aydin] will have to face the difficult decision of either being permanently separated from [her son], or returning to Turkey, where the entire family will be at risk,” Budovitch wrote in a letter sent to Immigration Canada in March.
“Both options will have a devastating impact.”
Policy is ‘inhumane’
This isn’t the first time this policy has been criticized.
A 2018 Global News investigation looked at three cases in which the government either threatened to deport or refused entry to the parents of child refugees.
In one case, the government prevented a teenage boy from reuniting with his parents. The boy came to Canada from Afghanistan in 2016 and was given refugee protection because the Taliban threatened to kill him for participating in a model UN conference.
The other cases involved nine- and 11-year-old girls who the IRB said were at risk of female genital mutilation if sent back to their home countries. Both girls came to Canada in 2016 with their mothers and were granted refugee protection, but their mothers’ claims were rejected.
At least one of the mothers was mutilated as a child.
Girl, 9, faces being separated from family or genital mutilation
“There’s very little political momentum to change these policies because, for most of us, it doesn’t affect us,” said François Crépeau, a law professor at McGill University and the former UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.
Crépeau said it’s “ridiculous” that the government would even consider deporting the mother of a five-year-old boy in need of protection.
He also said it’s clear from the government’s actions — the fact that it settles similar cases when challenged in court and that it allows parents to stay on humanitarian grounds when their kids are accepted — that politicians know the policy is wrong and unjustified.
“They wouldn’t even think about it for one second if it was their own family that was at stake,” Crépeau said. “But these are migrants — there’s no pushback.
Global News asked the government to respond to Crépeau’s criticisms, and whether Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino agrees with his remarks.
The government’s response did not address Crépeau’s comments directly, nor did it include anything about the child refugee policy.
Alex Cohen, a spokesperson for Mendicino, said Canada is a “global leader in refugee resettlement,” but said nothing about whether the policy Crépeau criticized harms children and their families.
Policy prevents ‘anchor’ babies
The government insists parents and siblings of child refugees are not “family members.”
A spokesperson for Immigration Canada said its definition of a family member is based on “economic dependency.” Since parents are “de facto” not economically dependent upon their children, they’re not considered family members.
“The definition of family member is based on a concept of dependency,” said Isabelle Dubois in a written statement.
Dubois defended this definition of “family member,” saying it protects children from human trafficking and discourages parents from sending their kids to Canada alone.
Mother could be separated from 11-year-old daughter at risk of genital mutilation
“We must provide safeguards against the potential exploitation of children,” Dubois said. “Allowing children to include parents on their (residency) application increases this risk as unaccompanied minors are more vulnerable.”
In 2006, a senior government bureaucrat testified in Federal Court that the policy that bars children from adding parents to residency applications was created in response to concerns that children could be used as “anchors” or “beachheads” for adults to gain residency in Canada.
But the official also acknowledged that the government had no empirical evidence to support its claim that children were at risk of exploitation or that they were being used by their parents. He said the policy was based on concerns about a small number of cases involving children smuggled into Canada from China several decades earlier.
No evidence to support policy
In 2018, Immigration Canada told Global News it still had no empirical evidence to support the policy.
“We are not aware of any research being conducted or available statistical evidence,” said a government spokesperson at the time.
Global News asked the government if it currently has any evidence to support the policy. Dubois didn’t answer this question directly.
“Allowing children to include parents on their applications increases their vulnerability to dangers like trafficking and exploitation, as the child’s application is the only way for the parent to get status in Canada,” she said.
Dubois also said parents of child refugees can submit their own applications to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds if their child’s claim is successful.
“This policy aims to ensure that a child’s best interests and safety are taken into consideration,” Dubois said.
Toronto mother could be separated from 11-year-old daughter at risk of genital mutilation
But Budovitch said this two-step process is a waste of time and resources.
She also said not every family can afford the cost of submitting a separate humanitarian application, which can be several hundred pages long and which can require complex legal arguments on top of those already made during the refugee claim process.
Budovitch thinks the government should also distinguish between cases involving unaccompanied minors, which she acknowledges may require additional scrutiny, and those of parents who come to Canada with their children.
“If that’s what they’re concerned about, that kids might be trafficked, … that would obviously no longer be a concern if the family is coming together and making a claim,” she said.
The IRB received roughly 180,000 refugee claims between 2017 and 2020. Of these, 1,611 or a little less than 0.9 per cent were made by children who came to Canada without their parents.
The IRB said that due to the “complexity” of the cases involved, and limitations of its computer software, no information is available on how many children came to Canada with their parents and were granted refugee status when their parents’ claims were rejected.
Aydin, meanwhile, said she’s terrified of what might happen if her application to remain in Canada is rejected.
She can’t go back to Turkey, she said, but she’s also unwilling to leave her son alone.
“It’s very difficult,” Aydin said. “How can I choose?”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada, China trade barbs at UN General Assembly over 2 Michaels, Meng Wanzhou – Global News
Canada and China were involved in a war of words at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Monday over the detentions of their citizens who were released over the weekend in an apparent prisoner swap.
Speaking on the closing day of the 76th session of the UNGA in New York, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau thanked international allies for their support in the case of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who returned to Canada after nearly three years in Chinese detention.
The announcement of their release by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday night came hours after a deferred prosecution agreement in the case of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who was accused of committing fraud in order to circumvent U.S. sanctions against Iran.
On Friday, a B.C. Supreme Court judge withdrew the U.S. extradition charge against her, allowing her to return home to China.
Garneau told the UNGA that Canada applied both Canadian and international law in response to the U.S. request for extradition of Meng, and that the “two Michaels,” as they are known, paid a “heavy price” for Canada’s commitment to the rule of law.
“We continue to oppose the way these two citizens were treated,” Garneau said, adding that Canada “will never forget this experience.”
Canada and China’s relationship status after Meng, 2 Michaels return home: it’s complicated
China has long maintained that there is no connection between Meng’s case and that of Spavor and Kovrig, who were arrested over espionage charges just days after the Huawei executive’s apprehension.
Using the right to reply at the UNGA, a representative for China’s UN mission, speaking shortly after Garneau’s address, said Meng’s case is “completely different” to the Canadian men.
He accused the U.S. and Canada of arbitrarily detaining Meng, categorizing it as a “complete political incident and frame-up.”
“We hope that Canada can face up to the facts squarely, correct their mistakes and draw lessons from what happened so that they could not make further mistakes,” the Chinese diplomat added.
Exercising its own right to reply, a representative for Canada’s UN mission said the “two Michaels” did not benefit from a similar degree of transparency, respect, due process or judicial independence as Meng did.
Meng was kept under house arrest in one of her Vancouver mansions, while the two Canadians faced harsh conditions in Chinese detention — where they had limited access to the outside world and their families.
“We continue to oppose the way these Canadian citizens were treated and we will continue to speak out against arbitrary detention in state-to-state relations,” the Canadian diplomat added.
The Chinese representative fired back a final time, saying China could not accept what the Canadian representative said.
“Facts cannot be denied,” he said.
Analysing Canada-China relations after return of the two Michaels
Kovrig and Spavor’s safe return to Canada on Saturday, where they were greeted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Calgary, marked an end to a tense international stand-off that has strained ties between Ottawa and Beijing.
In another twist earlier on Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry said that Spavor and Kovrig were released on bail for health reasons.
China released the two Canadians on bail after a “diagnosis by professional medical institutions, and with the guarantee of the Canadian ambassador to China,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a daily briefing.
In an interview with the Global News on Sunday, Garneau said the federal government’s “eyes are wide open” when it comes to China.
“It’s an eyes-wide-open policy with respect to (the Chinese government),” Garneau told Mercedes Stephenson during an episode of Global News’ The West Block. He added that the arbitrary detention of the “two Michaels” had ground Canada’s relationship with China to a halt.
However, the country’s relationship with China is continually evolving, said Garneau, and the two will still “co-exist.”
“We will compete. We will cooperate in areas where we need to cooperate, such as climate change, and we will challenge China, whether it’s on human rights or whether it’s on arbitrary detention, when appropriate,” he said.
— with files from Global News’ Emerald Bensadoun, The Canadian Press and Associated Press
The West Block: September 26
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Tuesday – CBC.ca
Confirmed deaths from the coronavirus in Russia hit another record at 852 on Tuesday, up from a previous record of 828 on Friday, Russia’s state coronavirus task force reported.
Daily coronavirus infections in Russia have fallen from more than 20,000 in late August to about 18,000 in mid-September. However, the numbers have started creeping up again. Since last Thursday, the state coronavirus task force has been reporting more than 21,000 new cases a day. On Tuesday, 21,559 new infections were registered.
Despite the increase, there are few restrictions in place in Russia, which had one, six-week lockdown last spring. Vaccination rates have remained low, too, with only 32 per cent of the country’s 146 million population having received at least one shot of a vaccine and only 28 per cent fully vaccinated.
Russian authorities have reported a total of about 7.4 million confirmed infections and more than 205,000 confirmed deaths. However, reports by the government’s statistical service Rosstat indicates the tally of coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively reveal much higher mortality numbers.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 8:25 a.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
The COVID-19 case count continues to rise in New Brunswick, where health officials reported 86 new cases Monday — another record daily high since the pandemic began.
Premier Blaine Higgs reimposed a state of emergency on Friday after a senior health official admitted the province made a mistake by lifting all health protection measures — including mask wearing — on July 30.
With an active caseload of 650 as of Monday, the province was treating 41 patients in hospital — 16 of them in intensive care. Health officials confirmed that 78 per cent of the new cases were among those not fully vaccinated.
“The surge in COVID-19 cases is causing delays at assessment centres throughout the province and leading to longer-than-anticipated wait times for appointments and test results,” the province said in a statement Monday.
-From The Canadian Press, last updated at 8:30 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Tuesday morning, more than 232.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.
In the Americas, Chilean authorities announced the end of a state of emergency in force since the start of the pandemic, a sign of life returning to normal following a sharp decrease in cases in the country.
New York hospitals began firing or suspending health-care workers for defying a state order to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and resulting staff shortages prompted some hospitals to postpone elective surgeries or curtail services.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Pakistan’s planning minister says the government will begin a drive to vaccinate children ages 12 and above to protect them from the coronavirus.
Japan’s government announced Tuesday that the coronavirus state of emergency will end this week to help rejuvenate the economy as infections slow.
In the Middle East, Jordan will fully reopen its main border crossing with Syria from Wednesday, government and industry officials said, as a high-level Syrian team arrived in Amman to discuss how to ease the flow of goods hit by the pandemic and a decade of conflict.
In Africa, health officials in South Africa on Monday reported 578 new cases of COVID-19 and 164 additional deaths, bringing the number of reported deaths in the country to 87,216.
Meanwhile, the head of the World Trade Organization said on Tuesday that the low COVID-19 vaccination rate of around four per cent in Africa was “devastating,” saying that trade should help address vaccine inequity.
WTO director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s remarks came at the opening session of a Geneva-based trade event alongside South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa.
In Europe, Portugal is winding down its military-led vaccine task force after almost reaching its target of fully inoculating 85 per cent of the population against COVID-19.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 8:15 a.m. ET
Canada foreign minister says eyes wide open when it comes to normalizing China ties
Canada‘s “eyes are wide open” when it comes to normalizing its relationship with China, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said on Sunday, two days after the release of a Huawei executive following almost three years of house arrest in Vancouver.
Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, flew back to China on Friday after reaching an agreement with U.S. prosecutors to end a bank fraud case against her. That resulted in the scrapping of her extradition battle in a Canadian court.
Soon after Meng flew to China, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – two Canadians detained by Chinese authorities just days after Meng’s arrest in Vancouver in December 2018 on a U.S. warrant – were released by Beijing.
Garneau told CBC News the government is now following a fourfold approach to China: “coexist,” “compete,” “cooperate” and “challenge.”
He said Canada would compete with China on issues like trade and cooperate on climate change, while challenging it on its treatment of Uighurs, Tibetans and Hong Kong as Ottawa has done in the past.
“Let me say, our eyes are wide open. We have been saying that for some time. There was no path to a relationship with China as long as the two Michaels were being detained,” Garneau said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Garneau received the two Canadians on Saturday when they arrived in Calgary, Alberta, after spending more than 1,000 days in solitary confinement.
Spavor was accused of supplying photographs of military equipment to Kovrig and sentenced in August to 11 years in jail. Kovrig had been awaiting sentencing.
Trudeau, who won a third term last Monday after a tight election race, had vowed to improve ties with China after becoming prime minister in 2015, building on his father’s success in establishing diplomatic ties with China in 1970.
But even before Meng’s arrest, Canada‘s repeated questioning of China’s human rights positions had irked Beijing, and the two countries have failed to come closer.
China has always denied any link between Meng’s extradition case and the detention of the two Canadians, but Garneau said that “the immediate return of the two Michaels linked” it to Meng’s case in a “very direct manner.”
Garneau said he had heard about the deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) several weeks ago, which opened the door to the return of the two men.
Canadian Ambassador to the United States Kirsten Hillman denied Washington had made the release of Kovrig and Spavor a condition for the resolution of the charges against Meng.
“Absolutely not. The DPA and the resolution of the charges against Ms. Meng was a completely independent process, and it was proceeding as it did,” Hillman told Canadian broadcaster CTV.
Garneau also said he did not think the timing of the men’s return had anything to do with that of the federal election.
“I think it just worked out that way.”
(Reporting by Denny Thomas; Editing by Grant McCool and Peter Cooney)
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