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Canada ‘contracts out’ obligations to refugee claimants, advocates tell top court

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OTTAWA — Refugee and human-rights advocates are telling the Supreme Court of Canada that a binational pact “contracts out” Canada’s international obligations to refugee claimants to the United States, without proper followup to ensure Washington is doing the job.

In a written submission, opponents of the 18-year-old Safe Third Country Agreement ask the top court to declare the legislation underpinning the pact in violation of the Section 7 Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees of life, liberty and security of the person.

The Supreme Court is slated to hear oral arguments on Thursday about the constitutionality of the agreement, under which Canada and the United States recognize each other as havens to seek protection.

The pact allows Canada to turn back prospective refugees who show up at land ports of entry along the Canada-U.S. border on the basis they must pursue their claims in the U.S., the country where they first arrived.

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The Canadian government argues in its own brief to the court that returnees have access to fair asylum and detention processes south of the border. “It is not unreasonable to remove claimants to the United States so that they can claim protection in that country.”

Canadian refugee advocates have long battled the asylum agreement, contending the U.S. is not always a safe country for people fleeing persecution.

Several refugee claimants took the case to Federal Court along with the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Council of Churches and Amnesty International, who participated in the proceedings as public interest parties.

In each case, the applicants, who are citizens of El Salvador, Ethiopia and Syria, arrived at an official Canadian entry point from the U.S. and sought refugee protection.

They argued in court that by returning ineligible refugee claimants to the U.S., Canada exposes them to risks in the form of detention and other rights violations.

In her 2020 decision, Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald concluded the Safe Third Country Agreement results in ineligible claimants being imprisoned by U.S. authorities.

Detention and the consequences flowing from it are “inconsistent with the spirit and objective” of the refugee agreement and amount to a violation of the rights guaranteed by Section 7 of the Charter, she wrote.

“The evidence clearly demonstrates that those returned to the U.S. by Canadian officials are detained as a penalty.”

However, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the decision last year.

“The alleged constitutional defect in this case stems from how administrators and officials are operating the legislative scheme, not the legislative scheme itself,” the Appeal Court said.

“But because the claimants chose not to attack any administrative conduct, we have neither the ability nor the evidence before us to assess it.”

The Court of Appeal also found the legislative regime consistent with the Charter unless the treatment experienced by those sent back to the U.S. could be shown to “shock the conscience.”

In their submission to the Supreme Court, the claimants and advocates say the Appeal Court “declined to engage with the substantive merits of the case” and adopted a “highly restrictive approach to Charter review.”

They argue the U.S. immigration detention system has been “widely condemned for its serious violations of international minimum standards” for holding asylum seekers.

“This legislative scheme effectively contracts out Canada’s international obligations to refugee claimants based on the premise that the U.S. will fulfil those obligations for us,” the submission says.

While Canada is required by law to ensure this premise remains valid through ongoing monitoring of U.S. asylum policies and practices, “it has failed to do so,” they argue.

On the contrary, the government says, at the time of the Federal Court hearing, Canadian review of the binational agreement was “efficient, effective, and thorough,” and the information gathered did not reveal significant problems.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2022.

 

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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Canada’s ‘most beloved’ restaurants: OpenTable

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A new list by OpenTable shows the 100 “most beloved” Canadian restaurants in 2022, based on more than one million reviews.

The restaurant reservation company says it analyzed reviews and ratings by diners who used its service from Oct.1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2022. The list was determined by overall rating, user-based “klout,” total number of reviews and regional overall rating.

“We’re seeing a strong interest in a variety of dining establishments and experiences this year, and strong representation from traditional continental to diverse international cuisines,” said Matt Davis, Country Director at OpenTable, in a news release.

Ontario dominates the list with 49 restaurants, followed by Alberta with 23, British Columbia with 18, Quebec with nine and New Brunswick with one.

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These are top 100 restaurants featured by OpenTable, listed in alphabetical order:

  1. 1 Kitchen – Toronto, Ont.
  2. Akira Back – Toronto, Ont.
  3. Alloy – Calgary, Alta.
  4. Amal Restaurant – Toronto, Ont.
  5. Anejo Restaurant – Toronto (King St) – Toronto, Ont.
  6. Auberge du Pommier – Toronto, Ont.
  7. Bar George – Montreal, Que.
  8. Bar Isabel – Toronto, Ont.
  9. Baro – Toronto, Ont.
  10. BLOCK ONE Restaurant at 50th Parallel Winery – Lake Country, B.C.
  11. Blu Ristorante – Toronto, Ont.
  12. Bocado Restaurant – Prince Edward County, Ont.
  13. Bonaparte – Montreal, Que.
  14. Botanist – Vancouver, B.C.
  15. Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar – Vancouver, B.C.
  16. Bridgette Bar – Calgary, Alta.
  17. Byblos – Downtown – Toronto, Ont.
  18. Bymark – Toronto, Ont.
  19. Café Boulud – Toronto, Ont.
  20. Cano Restaurant – Toronto, Ont.
  21. Canoe Restaurant and Bar – Toronto, Ont.
  22. Capocaccia Trattoria – Toronto, Ont.
  23. Cardinale – Calgary, Alta.
  24. Carisma – Toronto, Ont.
  25. Chairman’s Steakhouse – Calgary, Alta.
  26. Charcoal Steak House – Kitchener, Ont.
  27. Chuck’s Steakhouse – Banff, Alta.
  28. Crossroads Restaurant – Rousseau, Ont.
  29. Cucci Ristorante – Oakville, Ont.
  30. D.O.P. – Calgary, Alta.
  31. Damas – Montreal, Que.
  32. Dolcetto – London, Ont.
  33. Don Alfonso 1890 – Toronto, Ont.
  34. Earth to Table: Bread Bar – Guelph – Guelph, Ont.
  35. Elora Mill Restaurant – Guelph, Ont.
  36. Estiatorio Milos – Montreal – Montreal, Que.
  37. Gibbys – Old Montreal – Montreal, Que.
  38. Giulietta – Toronto, Ont.
  39. Grey Gardens – Toronto, Ont.
  40. Haven Kitchen + Bar – Langley, B.C.
  41. Hello Sunshine Japanese Restaurant + Private Karaoke Rooms – Banff, Alta.
  42. Home Block at CedarCreek Estate Winery – Kelowna, B.C.
  43. Homer Street Cafe & Bar – Vancouver, B.C.
  44. Hoogan & Beaufort – Montreal, Que.
  45. Hy’s Steakhouse – Toronto – Toronto, Ont.
  46. Ibérica – Montreal, Que.
  47. Italian by Night – Saint John, N.B.
  48. Joe Fortes Vancouver – Vancouver, B.C.
  49. Ki Modern Japanese + Bar – Toronto – Toronto, Ont.
  50. Kitchen76 at Two Sisters Vineyards – Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
  51. La Vecchia – Marine Parade – Etobicoke, Ont.
  52. Lee – Toronto, Ont.
  53. Locale King City – King City, Ont.
  54. Lonely Mouth Bar – Calgary, Alta.
  55. Lulu Bar – Calgary, Alta.
  56. Lupo Restaurant & Vinoteca – Vancouver, B.C.
  57. Maison Boulud – Montreal, Que.
  58. Maison Selby – Toronto, Ont.
  59. MAJOR TOM – Calgary, Alta.
  60. Marked – Toronto, Ont.
  61. Mercato – Mission – Calgary, Alta.
  62. Miku Restaurant – Vancouver – Vancouver, B.C.
  63. Minami Restaurant – Vancouver, B.C.
  64. Modavie – Montreal, Que.
  65. Model Milk – Calgary, Alta.
  66. MODERN STEAK – Southport Rd – Calgary, Alta.
  67. Morton’s The Steakhouse – Toronto – Toronto, Ont.
  68. Osteria Giulia – Toronto, Ont.
  69. Osteria Savio Volpe – Vancouver, B.C.
  70. Pepino’s Spaghetti House & La Tana – Vancouver, B.C.
  71. Raven Bistro – Jasper, Alta.
  72. REIGN – Toronto, Ont.
  73. Riviera – Ottawa, Ont.
  74. Sabor Restaurant – Edmonton, Alta.
  75. Sassafraz – Toronto, Ont.
  76. Scaramouche Restaurant – Toronto, Ont.
  77. Shook Kitchen – Toronto, Ont.
  78. Sofia – Toronto, Ont.
  79. Sorrel Rosedale – Toronto, Ont.
  80. St. Germain’s – Casino Rama Resort – Orillia, Ont.
  81. Sukiyaki House – Calgary, Alta.
  82. Tableau Bar Bistro – Vancouver, B.C.
  83. Tea at The Empress – Victoria, B.C.
  84. Teatro Restaurant – Calgary, Alta.
  85. Ten Foot Henry – Calgary, Alta.
  86. The Bauer Kitchen – Waterloo, Ont.
  87. The Bison Restaurant – Banff, Alta.
  88. The Butchart Gardens – The Dining Room – Brentwood Bay, B.C.
  89. The Good Earth Vineyard And Winery – Beamsville, Ont.
  90. The Keg Steakhouse + Bar – Oshawa – Oshawa, Ont.
  91. The Lake House – Calgary, Alta.
  92. The Nash – Calgary, Alta.
  93. The Story Cafe – Eatery & Bar – Richmond, B.C.
  94. Three Bears Brewery – Banff, Alta.
  95. Trattoria Timone – Oakville, Ont.
  96. Treadwell Farm-to-Table Cuisine- Niagara on the Lake – Niagara-on-the-lake, Ont.
  97. Tutto Restaurant & Bar – Vancouver, B.C.
  98. Vineland Estates Winery Restaurant – Vineland, Ont.
  99. Vintage Chophouse & Tavern – Calgary, Alta.
  100. Zarak by Afghan Kitchen – Vancouver, B.C.

Reporting for this story was paid for through The Afghan Journalists in Residence Project funded by Meta. 

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Alberta NDP says premier’s rejection of federal authority lays separation groundwork

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Alberta’s NDP Opposition leader says Premier Danielle Smith‘s comments rejecting the legitimacy of the federal government betray her unspoken plan to lay the groundwork for eventual separation.

Rachel Notley cited Smith’s comments to the house just before members passed her sovereignty bill earlier Thursday, in which Smith rejected the federal government’s overarching authority.

“It’s not like Ottawa is a national government,” Smith told the house at 12:30 a.m. Thursday.

“The way our country works is that we are a federation of sovereign, independent jurisdictions. They are one of those signatories to the Constitution and the rest of us, as signatories to the Constitution, have a right to exercise our sovereign powers in our own areas of jurisdiction.”

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Notley, speaking to reporters, said, “At 12:30 last night when she thought nobody was listening, the veil was lifted and Danielle Smith’s interest in genuinely pursuing initial steps toward separation were revealed.

“(They) demonstrate that her view is actually that which is aligned with these fringe separatist wannabes like folks who drafted the Free Alberta Strategy.

“Those comments are utterly chaos-inducing.”

Free Alberta Strategy was a 2021 policy paper drafted in part by Smith’s current top adviser Rob Anderson.

The authors of the paper argue that federal laws, policies and overreach are mortally wounding Alberta’s development.

They urge a two-track strategy to assert greater autonomy for Alberta within Confederation, while simultaneously laying the policy and administrative groundwork to transition Alberta to separation and sovereignty should negotiations fail.

The strategy was the genesis for Smith’s controversial sovereignty bill that stipulates the Alberta legislature, rather than the courts, can pass judgment on what is constitutional when it comes to provincial jurisdiction.

The bill also grants cabinet the power to direct municipalities, city police forces, health regions and schools to resist implementing federal laws.

During question period, Smith rejected accusations the bill is a separatist Trojan Horse, noting its intent is contained in the title.

“The name of the bill is Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act,” said Smith.

“The (act) has nothing to do with leaving the country. It has everything to do with resetting the relationship (with the federal government).”

Political scientist Jared Wesley said it appears constitutional chaos and baiting the federal government are the actual aims.

“When you start to deny the legitimacy of the federal government, that is part of the worrying trend that ties all of this to the convoy movement and the separatists,” said Wesley, with the University of Alberta.

“Albertans need to know those comments are inappropriate and misleading at best and sparking a national unity crisis at worst. Sooner or later, someone’s going to believe her.”

Wesley added that there is a sentiment among a small group of people in Alberta, including the premier, who “are just tired of losing and don’t want to play the game anymore,” he said.

“The sad thing is that that game is democracy and the rule book is the Constitution, and they’re just ignoring all of it now.”

Political scientist Duane Bratt said Smith was not describing Canadian federalism.

“She is confusing the European Union with Canada,” said Bratt, with Mount Royal University in Calgary. “Canada is not made up of sovereign provinces. We share sovereignty between orders of government.”

Political scientist Lori William, also with Mount Royal University, said the comment “betrays a profound lack of understanding of Canada, of federalism, of what powers belong to the federal and provincial governments.”

During question period, Smith waved away Opposition demands that she refer the bill to Alberta’s Court of Appeal to determine if it is onside with the Constitution.

Smith told the house that Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, a lawyer, wrote the bill and that the government received independent advice from constitutional lawyers to ensure it was not offside.

“The constitutionality of this bill is not in question,” Smith said.

The bill was introduced by Smith a week ago as centrepiece legislation to pursue a more confrontational approach with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government on a range of issues deemed to be overreach in provincial areas of responsibility.

It was a short, brutish ride for the bill.

Smith’s government, due to a public outcry, had to bring in an amendment just days after introducing the bill to reverse a provision that gave it ongoing emergency-type powers to unilaterally rewrite laws while bypassing the legislature.

Alberta’s First Nations chiefs have condemned the bill as trampling their treaty rights and Smith’s Indigenous relations minister has said more consultation should have been done.

Smith told the house she met with Indigenous leaders just hours earlier to discuss concerns and shared goals. She rejected the assertion the bill doesn’t respect treaty rights.

“There is no impact on treaty and First Nations’ rights. That’s the truth,” she said.

Law professor Martin Olszynski said the bill remains problematic because it must be clear the courts have the final say on interpreting the Constitution in order to stabilize the checks and balances of a democratic system.

He said Smith’s bill threatens that, perhaps putting judges in the awkward position of having to decide whether they are the ones to make those decisions.

“Can that judge exercise their judicial function without being affected by that very politicized context?” said Olszynski, with the University of Calgary.

“It essentially politicizes the judicial process.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

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At least five B.C. children died from influenza last month, as mortalities spike

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At least five children died last month in British Columbia from influenza as a rise of early season respiratory illnesses added strain to the beleaguered healthcare system.

The figure marks a departure from the average of two to three annual flu deaths among children in the province between 2015 and 2019, data from the BC Coroners Service shows.

“Public health is monitoring the situation closely and is reminding people of the steps they can take to protect themselves, their children and their loved ones against the flu,” the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said in a statement.

“It is important to know that death associated with influenza in previously healthy children continues to be rare.”

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The centre said it is aware of a sixth reported flu death among children and youth under 19, but it was not immediately clear why the sixth wasn’t included in the coroners’ figures.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the children who died included one who was younger than five years old, three who were between five and nine, and two adolescents who were between 15 and 19.

“Early findings indicate some of the children experienced secondary bacterial infections contributing to severe illness, which can be a complication of influenza,” Henry said in a statement Thursday.

The deaths in British Columbia suggest figures could tick up across the country given the common challenges facing health systems this respiratory season. Alberta has also recorded the deaths of two children with influenza so far this season.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, an average of five to six kids died per flu season across Canada, data collected from 12 hospitals across the country shows.

The national data was collected between 2010 and 2019 by IMPACT, a national surveillance network administered by the Canadian Paediatric Association. It was included in a research paper published in March in “The Lancet Regional Health — Americas” journal that also found no deaths from the flu among children in either 2020 or 2021.

No one from either IMPACT or the B.C. Centre for Disease Control was immediately available for an interview.

On Monday, Henry said that after two years of low flu rates, mostly due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the province is seeing a “dramatic increase” in illness and it arrived sooner than normal.

She urged parents to get their children vaccinated against the flu.

On Thursday, British Columbia’s Health Ministry announced a “blitz” of walk-in flu clinics that will open across the province Friday through Sunday. Flu vaccines are free to all kids aged six months and older in B.C.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control said getting the shot is particularly important for those at risk of severe outcomes, including those with chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, kidney or liver disorders and diseases, those with conditions that cause difficulty breathing or swallowing, those who need to take Aspirin for long periods of time and those who are very obese.

The BC Coroners Service said its data is preliminary and subject to change while investigations are completed.

The cases include those where influenza was identified as an immediate, pre-existing or underlying cause of death, or as a significant condition.

Henry said updates on pediatric influenza-related deaths will be posted weekly as part of the respiratory surveillance summaries on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

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