The novel coronavirus has now claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people in Canada.
According to the latest figures reported by public health authorities across the country, there are now more than 80,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 6,027 deaths linked to the virus. Just over half of those infected have recovered from the illness.
Coronavirus survivor wants British Columbians to remain vigilant
The grim milestone came as provinces reported their latest coronavirus numbers on Wednesday, during a week in which several provinces are moving to reopen their economies and loosen some public health restrictions.
Ontario accounts for roughly a third of Canada’s confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths.
To the east, Quebec accounts for more than half of total COVID-19 cases and deaths.
More than 1,405,000 people across Canada have been tested for the virus.
Over half of the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases are considered resolved.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Tangled in Canada's immigration backlog? What you can do about the delay – National | Globalnews.ca – Global News
Dixon D’mello hasn’t seen his wife since she left India and came to Canada for university 10 months ago.
D’mello, who lives in Mumbai working as a lawyer, says looking after two young kids – aged 1 and 3 years – without their mom around has been “very difficult.”
“Especially the children are missing their mom,” the 39-year-old told Global News. “A young child without its mom, how can he survive?”
His wife is enrolled in a two-year program at the Red Deer Polytechnic in Alberta.
The family applied for a Spouse Open Work Permit (SOWP) for D’mello and a temporary resident visa for the children in July 2021 and since then, has received no updates to their applications from the Canadian immigration department.
“We have done our … medical and then our biometrics. We are just waiting,” says D’mello.
He is not alone.
Displaced Ukrainians struggling to obtain Canadian visas
More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, wait times for immigration applications to come to Canada continue to be a concern, with many people stuck in limbo and growing impatient.
There are currently more than two million immigration applications for citizenship, permanent residence and temporary residence in the inventory, according to the latest figures from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) shared with Global News this month.
While travel restrictions and other constraints brought on by the pandemic have caused long delays, the war in Ukraine this year has only added to the inventory backlog, IRCC says.
“Despite our considerable efforts, we know that some applicants have experienced considerable wait times with the processing of their applications, and we continue to work as hard as possible to reduce processing times,“ said Rémi Larivière, an IRCC spokesperson, in an email.
IRCC is trying to play catch up and reduce wait times with additional funding, hiring new processing staff, digitizing applications and reallocating work among offices around the world, Larivière said.
Long lines reported at Service Canada offices as demand grows for passports
But for those applicants tangled in the backlog, there is “a lot of frustration” as they wait to be reunited with family members or get work permits, immigration lawyers say.
“Many of them are waiting for months and months and months, and they don’t know what to do,” said Ravi Jain, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer and co-founder of the Canadian Immigration Law Association.
“Some of them are just distraught over how long it’s taking and they don’t have any answers as to how more long it could be,” he said, adding that customer service is at “an all-time low.”
What options do applicants have?
In March, the IRCC updated its processing times tool to “more accurately show” the expected wait times.
When D’mello filed his application last year the estimated wait time shown was 16 weeks. That has now gone up to 55 weeks.
Lawyers say the new tool has helped reduce the number of inquiries to IRCC and alleviate the anxiety for many applicants — but it doesn’t solve their problems.
“I think it’s a good initiative for sure … but … what you really need is someone to process the file,” said Jain.
The main way to communicate with the IRCC is to submit a web form through their website to follow up on the progress of an application, said Sonia Matkowsky, a partner at an immigration law firm based in Toronto whose firm has been helping the D’mello family.
“The majority of the time we receive a generic or automated response, basically saying your application is processing and there are delays due to COVID,” she said. “So we don’t really get any substantive information when we follow up.”
International students in limbo due to paperwork delays
However, for clients whose applications have been pending for a very long time, a judicial review by the federal court can be requested that often speeds up the process, Matkowsky says.
The federal court is asked to issue a mandamus, which is a court order that requests the IRCC to make a decision within a certain time period.
“If we can show that the processing times have been unreasonably delayed and it’s at no fault of the applicants, then the federal court is very cooperative and a lot of times we don’t even get to a hearing,” said Matkowsky.
Her firm has been able to settle cases with the Department of Justice lawyer and the counsel for the IRCC.
Delays in processing permanent residence applications causing ‘uncertainty’
Many applicants also try to follow up with MPs, which D’mello has tried without much luck.
He got a response saying there is absolutely nothing they can do and IRCC would be processing applications on a first-come-first-serve basis, D’mello said.
For people who submitted a visitor visa application before Sept. 7, 2021, whose situation has changed since then, the recommendation is to start a new online application.
In January 2021, the IRCC also introduced a new program that allows international students whose post-graduation work permit is no longer valid or is expiring to be extended for another 18 months.
That extension will be offered again starting this summer, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced last month.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
A timeline of events since the finding of unmarked graves in Kamloops last May
VANCOUVER — The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc announced in May last year that the remains of as many as 215 children were found using ground-penetrating radar around the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia’s Interior. Since then, many other First Nations have also searched school sites in their territories.
Here is a timeline surrounding the events:
May 22-23: A specialist using ground-penetrating radar makes preliminary findings that the remains of 215 children were buried around the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
May 27: Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir issues a statement saying she has confirmed “an unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented by the Kamloops Indian Residential School.”
May 30: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces that all Canadian flags in federal buildings are to be lowered to half-mast to honour the 215 and all other Indigenous children who didn’t make it home from residential schools.
June 11: Victoria city councillors vote unanimously to cancel Canada Day celebrations to allow for “thoughtful reflections” about what it means to be Canadian after the discoveries in Kamloops.
June 23: The Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan says as many as 751 unmarked graves have been discovered near the former Marieval Indian Residential School.
June 30: The Lower Kootenay Band in B.C. says a search using ground-penetrating radar has found 182 sets of human remains in unmarked graves outside St. Eugene’s Mission School, a former residential school operated by the Catholic Church.
June 30: Survivors of a former residential school in the community of Lower Post in northern B.C. gather to mark the demolition of the facility.
July 13: The Penelakut Tribe announces in an online newsletter that more than 160 unmarked and undocumented graves have been found at the former Kuper Island Industrial School site near Chemainus, B.C.
July 15: Prof. Sarah Beaulieu of the University of the Fraser Valley says the discovery of a child’s rib bone and a tooth had triggered the use of ground-penetrating radar to search the apple orchard at the former Kamloops residential school site in May.
July 20: The B.C. government says it will provide immediate funding to 21 First Nation communities to help search for human remains at former residential schools or hospitals.
July 22: Vancouver police say there has been a “dramatic increase” in vandalism or mischief incidents against properties owned by churches, coinciding with reports of remains being found near Indigenous residential schools.
Sept. 30: Canada marks its first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Trudeau spent part of the day flying to Tofino, B.C., to join his family.
Oct. 5: The Federal Court approves the settlement of a class-action lawsuit for those who attended residential schools.
Oct. 7: The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation says Trudeau “missed an opportunity” to show his commitment to the survivors of residential schools by not replying to its invitations to take part in an event marking the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Oct. 18: Trudeau is rebuked by Casimir during his visit to the nation. Trudeau apologizes to those gathered, saying he regrets his decision not to spend the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with them.
Nov. 7: The Canadian flag is returned to full mast ahead of Remembrance Day.
Nov. 9: Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario begins a search for unmarked grave sites on the grounds of the former Mohawk Institute.
Dec. 7: A trip to the Vatican by Indigenous leaders and residential school survivors to meet Pope Francis is cancelled because of a new wave of COVID-19.
Jan. 20: Canada’s Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller announces an agreement with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to hand over more records on residential schools that Ottawa had been holding back.
March 23: Indigenous organizations in Manitoba, officials from the City of Winnipeg and the provincial and federal governments form a council to support searches for burial sites of children who attended residential schools.
March 30: Trudeau visits Williams Lake First Nation in B.C.’s Cariboo region, saying “all of Canada grieves” with the community after 93 “reflections” were found in January that could indicate the burial sites of children around the former St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School.
April 1: Pope Francis issues an apology for the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the harm caused to generations of Indigenous people by residential schools. “I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry,” he says.
May 16: Miller says the searches on the grounds of former residential schools to date are just the beginning, with 140 former residential school sites in Canada.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2022.
The Canadian Press
Unmarked graves finding triggered Canada’s year of reckoning over residential schools
KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Percy Casper, 73, spent 10 years as a child at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.
He has spent the past year grieving.
A member of the Bonaparte Indian Band near Cache Creek, B.C., Casper said he was deeply distraught when he heard the news last May, when Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation chief, announced that a war graves expert using ground-penetrating radar had located 215 suspected unmarked graves at the site of the former school.
So, Casper grieved, for lost classmates, and for himself. His emotions twisted into a painful knot when Indigenous leaders later visited the Vatican to meet the Pope, who represents the church that he says abused him.
But his spirits have been lifted by strangers, he said.
“Families have walked up to me and literally put their hands out and said they were ashamed of who they were on account of what we went through,” he said.
Casper’s emotional journey echoes a year of reckoning for Canada as it confronts the legacy of its residential school system for Indigenous children. The findings in an old apple orchard would reverberate from British Columbia’s Interior to Ottawa, the Vatican and beyond.
The discovery represented what Casimir called at the time, an “unthinkable loss.” The existence of unmarked graves had been a “knowing” among school survivors and elders, but the high-tech survey represented confirmation for Canada, she said.
The detection of hundreds more suspected graves connected to residential schools across the country would follow.
“When I look back and reflect with having to share with the world the findings of the unmarked graves, it was something that was devastating personally as a mother and a grandmother and as a leader,” Casimir said Wednesday at a news conference.
She described the past year as “very traumatic.”
A daylong cultural ceremony is set for Monday at the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Pow Wow Arbor to mark the anniversary of findings, which Casimir said “confirmed the children that didn’t come home.”
Prof. Geoff Bird, an anthropologist at the school of communication and culture at Victoria’s Royal Roads University, said the unmarked graves represent a profound moment in the nation’s history.
“The discovery of children buried in residential schools across the country was perhaps, I would say, the most traumatic event in recent Canadian history in terms of defining who we are,” Bird said.
“When you actually have a discovery such as this, it can’t do anything but impact the nation and its perception of itself,” he said.
Bird, an expert on cultural memory and war heritage, said Canada could not ignore the harsh realities of the residential school experience, even as it grappled with other issues, like climate change or the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The whole field of cultural memory is what we remember, what we forget, what we silence,” he said. “We can’t be blind to our own history.”
There have been previous attempts to face that history. A 4,000-page report in 2015 by the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission detailed harsh mistreatment at residential schools, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children, and at least 4,100 deaths at the institutions.
The report cited records of at least 51 children dying at the Kamloops school between 1914 and 1963. Officials in 1918 believed children at the school were not being adequately fed, leading to malnutrition, the report noted.
But the findings last May would transfix the national gaze in a way that a written report, no matter how grim, could not.
The Kamloops residential school operated between 1890 and 1969, when the federal government took over operations from the Catholic Church and operated it as a day school until it closed in 1978.
“When you look at other nations around the world that have gone through their efforts toward truth and reconciliation, these are difficult things to come to terms within a nation’s past,” Bird said.
The moment of reckoning has extended abroad. China, for example, has said Canada should not criticize other nations on human rights while unmarked graves of missing children were being discovered on its own soil.
“I think those kinds of situations with, say, China are just examples to dilute the focus on their lack of human rights internally,” Bird said.
On the other hand, a visit to Canada this summer by Pope Francis “will be a powerful and symbolic act,” said Bird. Indigenous leaders visited Francis at the Vatican last month, prompting him to issue an apology for the harm caused by the church at residential schools.
“For the deplorable conduct of these members of the Catholic Church, I ask for God’s forgiveness, and I want to say to you with all my heart, I am very sorry,” Francis said.
Kamloops school survivor Garry Gottfriedson, 69, an internationally known poet, said people from outside Canada often ask him about the Kamloops burial site.
At a recent international book fair in Bogota, Colombia, where he was a keynote speaker, Gottfriedson said many asked about Indigenous issues in Canada.
“The questions were related to this very topic and why isn’t Canada doing anything about it,” he said. “The people from abroad know what’s going on here.”
Gottfriedson, who provides counsel and curriculum advice to Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops on Secwepemc Nation protocols and cultural practices, said any act of recognition would help because Canada had so far to go in coming to terms with residential school history.
Over the past year, many Canadians sent messages of support and understanding, said Gottfriedson, adding much of the correspondence came from immigrants to Canada.
“The Sikh people in Surrey, I got invited to a feast,” he said. “I am a poet. They read my work. It was beautiful. The message was: ‘You are not alone.’”
Any acts of recognition and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, big or small, were steps toward national healing, said Bird.
“It’s about addressing, in an open and transparent way, what’s happened over the decades and not silencing it and not forgetting it,” said Bird. “It’s about symbolic action right now. Acts of remembrance, acts of reconciliation that are very visible and very powerful.”
Prof. Nicole Schabus, an Indigenous and environmental law expert at Thompson Rivers University, said the discovery of unmarked graves had resulted in many school survivors pursuing a deeper sense of healing.
The graves also left the chilling question of genocide on Canadian soil.
“You need international oversight,” she said. “Canada can’t investigate itself. The forceful removal of children from their families with that intention of taking their culture away is genocide.”
The outpouring of shock and emotion by many Canadians could signal a new understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, said Bird, calling it a breakthrough moment.
“Little shoes on the steps of the legislature are powerful images,” said Bird, referring to how protesters used children’s shoes to represent lives lost at residential schools. “When we think of children, we can all understand the terror and the trauma of that. It cuts across every culture.”
Casper said he was grateful for the acknowledgment of his experiences, and the shared grief of strangers.
“They showed some remorse and I really appreciate it,” he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2022.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
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