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Canada’s SOA commitment: $27M on irregular migration, 4,000 more migrants by 2028

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LOS ANGELES — Leaders from across the Americas, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, signed on Friday to what U.S. President Joe Biden called a “historic commitment” to ease the pressure of northward migration.

The agreement, the central accomplishment of the Summit of the Americas in California, commits Canada to spend $26.9 million this year on slowing the flow of migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection also includes a Canadian promise to welcome an additional 4,000 migrants from the region by 2028, as well as a pre-existing plan to bring in 50,000 more agricultural workers from Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean.

“Each of us is signing up for commitments and recognizing the challenges that we all share, and the responsibilities that impact all of our nations,” Biden said as he shared the stage with 19 fellow leaders.

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He blamed the growing migratory pressure on the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, made worse by the war in Ukraine and what he called the “turmoil” wrought by autocracies in the region.

Colombia, he said, is hosting millions of refugees from Venezuela, while as much as 10 per cent of Costa Rica’s population consists of migrants — a problem he said demands a collective approach for the sake of the hemisphere’s health and well-being.

“Our security is linked in ways that I don’t think most people in my country fully understand, and maybe not in your country as well,” Biden said.

“Our common humanity demands that we care for our neighbours by working together.”

Canada’s new funding will go toward programs to improve integration and border management, protect the rights of migrants and host communities, advance gender equality and tackle human smuggling.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly was asked Friday about the seemingly paltry number of new migrants Canada agreed to bring in over the next six years. Canada’s already doing plenty, she said.

“Migration is definitely an issue throughout the hemisphere, but we know also we’re playing our part every year by taking one per cent of our population as new immigrants,” Joly said.

“At the same time, we want to do it in a way that respects the system,” she added, noting that Canada and the U.S. continue to negotiate the terms of the Safe Third Country Agreement, which currently allows migrants to seek refugee status in Canada if they enter the country from the U.S. at unofficial crossing points.

The L.A. declaration is based on four key pillars, Biden said: stability and assistance for communities, wider legal migratory routes, humane migration management and co-ordinated emergency response.

It seeks, the White House said in a fact sheet released earlier in the day, “to mobilize the entire region around bold actions that will transform our approach to managing migration in the Americas.”

It includes commitments from an array of Latin American and Caribbean nations on everything from economic stabilization and humanitarian relief to “regularizing” migrants living illegally in host countries.

Colombia, for instance, has already regularized 1.2 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and has agreed to do the same for 1.5 million more by the end of the summer.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. is doing the heaviest lifting, including US$25 million to support countries that are implementing new regularization programs, $314 million for stabilization efforts and a $65-million pilot project to support agricultural workers.

The Biden administration is also committing to resettle 20,000 refugees from the Americas over the next two years, three times the current resettlement rate, the White House said.

At the same time as the funding and resettlement efforts, the U.S. plans to crack down on human smuggling operations, including a new campaign that’s “unprecedented in scale” aimed at disrupting and dismantling criminal smuggling enterprises in Latin America.

Earlier in the day, Trudeau sat down with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who welcomed him warmly as he met with the summit’s congressional delegation.

“We can no longer sort of imagine we’re islands, or isolated from what’s going on in the rest of the world — the pandemic taught us that, climate change is teaching us that,” Trudeau said.

“All of us have a responsibility for each of us.”

Trudeau was also to hold bilateral meetings with the leaders of Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

On Thursday, Trudeau met for an hour with Biden, who agreed to a visit to Canada in the “coming months,” his first since becoming president in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we both share the same sense that the possibilities for our hemisphere are unlimited,” Biden told Trudeau, calling it the “most democratic hemisphere in the world.”

Trudeau responded by saying it’s “extraordinarily important” for close partners like Canada and the U.S. to be there for each other and for allies around the globe.

“The work that we can do on supporting and projecting and sharing our values is a way of actually supporting and impacting citizens around the world,” Trudeau said.

Doing so, he said, helps make the case “that democracy is not just fairer, but it’s also better for citizens, putting food on the table, putting futures in front of them.”

The federal government’s official readout of the meeting mentioned their mutual support of Ukraine in its fight against Russia, and that Trudeau also brought up Canada’s support for NATO and the plan to modernize the continental defence system known as Norad.

Trudeau also “expressed his support” for Biden’s proposed hemispheric “Partnership for Economic Prosperity,” but the readout did not mention whether Canada has been invited to take part.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2022.

 

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

 

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version, based on incorrect information from officials, reported that Canada will spend nearly US$27 million this year on slowing irregular migration from Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Northwest Territories releases fiscal year 2023-2024 budget

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Northwest Territories releases fiscal year 2023-2024 budget

The Northwest Territories government released its new budget Wednesday, the last before the territorial election set for the fall.

Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek said the plan aims to maintain the stability of the territory’s economy during times of “volatility and uncertainty” without reducing services and programs.

“I am confident that we are leaving the next assembly with a fiscally sustainable foundation on which to build,” she said.

The proposed $2.2-billion budget forecasts the territory will have an operating surplus of nearly $178 million. It projects revenue to increase by 2.9 per cent, largely due to an increase in federal transfers, while spending will increase by $187 million or 7.3 per cent compared to the previous budget.

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Wawzonek said initiatives to address the rising cost of living in the North include increasing student financial assistance, improved income assistance for seniors and people with disabilities, and support for non-government organizations.

“Students, seniors, the non-profit sector, these are areas where we can have a real impact and hopefully help mitigate the impacts of inflation,” she said.

Increased spending in the budget is to include $82 million for mandate priorities and enhancements to existing programs, as well as $62 million to cover the costs of flooding in 2022. Thousands of residents in Hay River and the nearby K’atl’odeeche First Nation reserve were ordered to evacuate their homes due to the worst flooding on record in May.

Other budget highlights include $10.9 million for the transition from the pandemic to endemic stage of COVID-19, $10.1 million to help recruit and retain front-line health-care workers, $10.3 million for the territory’s $10-a-day child-care agreement with the federal government, $8.3 million to help offset the effects of the increased carbon tax, and $4 million for core Northwest Territories Housing Corporation programs.

The budget also proposes $833,000 for community governments and $89,000 for the Deline Goti’ne Government to reach the territory’s goal of reducing its municipal funding gap by $5 million between 2019 and 2023.

The N.W.T. government is not proposing any new taxes, but property taxes are expected to increase due to inflation. The territory also plans to change its carbon tax system to align with new federal requirements.

The federal government announced in August 2021 it would increase the carbon price by $15 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually, starting at $65 a tonne beginning in April and rising to $170 a tonne by 2030. It is also prohibiting rebates that directly offset the carbon tax. In response, the N.W.T. plans to adjust its carbon tax rates, replace its heating fuel rebate by increasing its cost of living offset, and replace a carbon tax rebate for large emitters with a rebate tied to a facility-specific baseline.

Some legislature members have expressed concern with the plan as heating costs are high in the North, especially in the Arctic, and many communities are reliant on diesel.

Wawzonek said if the proposed changes aren’t passed by the legislature, the federal government will determine how to return revenue to the N.W.T.

The territory projects borrowing will increase by 4.5 per cent, bringing its total debt to about $1.5 billion, which it said is well below the federally imposed limit of $1.8 billion.

When the previous budget was tabled a year ago, the territory expected its total debt to increase to more than $1.6 billion by the end of the fiscal year. In October, however, the territory revised its capital estimates or the amount of money it expected to spend on infrastructure, to better reflect the territory’s capacity to complete projects, reducing spending from more than $500 million to a cap of $260 million.

The territory’s 2022-2023 $2.1-billion budget saw a 2.3 per cent increase in spending compared to 2021-2022.

Wawzonek touted that budget as a sustainable plan, promising to not cut programming or add new taxes while limiting new spending.

While the budget was passed in April 2022, several legislature members opposed the plan, criticizing limited spending on communities outside of Yellowknife.

Wawzonek said at a news conference Wednesday that she suspects there may be similar criticisms of the new budget.

She said, however, that she believes the budget can respond to those concerns, adding she has had discussions with legislature members about what they wanted to see in it.

“I think we as a collective 19 are getting a little better at doing that,” she said.

“I actually think this is maybe going to be the best year for the consensus-style approach to passing a budget.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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Driver charged with first-degree murder in Quebec daycare bus attack that killed two

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Quebec daycare bus attack

The driver of a bus that crashed into a suburban Montreal daycare this morning, killing two children, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

Pierre Ny St-Amand, 51, appeared by video late this afternoon from a hospital room and will remain detained

Court documents show he faces a total of nine charges, including attempted murder, aggravated assault and assault causing bodily harm.

Six other children were injured and transported to hospitals in Laval and Montreal, but doctors said their lives were not in danger.

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At around 8:30 a.m., a Société de transport de Laval bus crashed into the daycare building, which sits at the end of a driveway a significant distance from the nearest bus route.

Witnesses who rushed to the scene said they had to subdue the driver, who seemed to be delirious and removed his clothing after getting off the bus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.

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Canadian assessment team deployed to Turkey after earthquake

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Canadian assessment team deployed to Turkey

A senior government official says a Canadian assessment team is on its way to Turkey to determine how Canada can contribute to earthquake relief efforts.

International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan was expected to formally announce the deployment of the Canadian Disaster Assessment Team this evening.

The senior official, who spoke on background pending Sajjan’s official confirmation, said the team consists of a handful of military and Global Affairs officials.

The official underscored that the deployment of the team does not automatically guarantee a further deployment of Canadian resources to the country.

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The earthquake, which razed thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria on Monday, is one of the deadliest quakes worldwide in more than a decade and the federal government is facing criticism that the window to help with rescue efforts is closing.

Search teams from more than two dozen countries have joined tens of thousands of local emergency personnel and Canadian humanitarian aid workers with charitable organizations were arriving Wednesday

Defence Minister Anita Anand said late Tuesday that the federal government had not ruled out sending a Disaster Assistance Response Team, to help with the recovery effort, but that it was working to figure out what would be most useful.

The assessment team would recommend whether to send additional support, such as a DART.

Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government would match funds donated to Canadian Red Cross relief efforts up to $10 million on top of an initial aid package of $10 million.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.

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