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“I Don’t Want to be Excluded”: With Mass Regularization in Sight, Migrants Rally to Demand a Fully Inclusive Program

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Montreal, September 18 – On Sunday afternoon, migrants and allies rallied in downtown Montreal as part of a pan-Canadian day of action to demand that the regularization of undocumented migrants be comprehensive, immediate, and fully inclusive, with no exclusions or discriminations. The march took place in response to news that the Canadian government is finally moving forward on a regularization program for undocumented migrants.

“I do not want to be left behind, again! We are sick of being excluded – from society, from labour standards, from healthcare and other services, from immigration processes! This is why we demand a program that includes absolutely everybody,” said Samira Jasmin, an undocumented organizer with Solidarity Across Borders (SAB). “Equality is equality. All exclusion is discrimination. All exclusions are just means for continuing exploitation – leaving us prey to bosses, landlords, unscrupulous lawyers, and sexist violence.” Demonstrators marched past the downtown site of Immigration Canada at 1010 rue Saint-Antoine, banging pots and pans to express their anger, and leaving behind hundreds of hand-written signs saying, “I don’t want to be left behind.”

The case of Mamadou Konaté, spokesperson for the Immigrant Workers’ Centre (IWC)  is a perfect example of why the new program must be fully inclusive. Despite working as a janitor in long-term care during the pandemic, He was excluded from  the one-time “ange gardien” regularization program, because he was not working directly with elders. Konaté now faces deportation on September 30th, deemed inadmissible for permanent residency due to his political activity in Côte d’Ivoire. “My life, my friends, my support network are all in Montreal,” said Konaté. “Like everybody living with precarious or no status, I deserve equal treatment and permanent residency under the new program.”

There are at least 500 000 undocumented migrants in Canada and there are another 1.2 million migrants living with precarious status. Undocumented migrants are migrants who entered Canada as refugee claimants or as temporary workers or students and then lost their legal status because Canada’s immigration system failed them. Most people with temporary status in low-waged work do not have access to permanent residency, so eventually they are forced to either leave Canada or to stay in the country undocumented.

“Migrant workers here on temporary visas are deeply exploited,” said Gaurav Sharma, another organizer with the IWC and a refugee claimant. “Be it on farms, in restaurants, or in long-term care facilities, we are subject to underpay and harsh conditions, even death. Speaking up can mean losing your job or your housing, being deported or losing your status. And it’s made even more complicated by  provincial immigration policies. For example, Quebec excludes “low-skilled” jobs from the Programme de l’expérience québécoise, one of the very few pathways to permanent residency here. That’s why we need an effective regularization program that includes everybody!”

“When we make the difficult decision to stay in Canada without papers,” added Aboubacar, another non-status organizer with Solidarity Across Borders (SAB), “we face the constant threat of arrest, detention and deportation, and separation from our loved ones. It’s incredibly stressful. This is discrimination at the deepest level, which can only be solved by Status for All.”

Over 480 organizations across Canada support the call for a simple and accessible regularization program without barriers like excessive paperwork or exclusions and inadmissibilities, including in Quebec the Ligue des droits et libertés, Fédération des femmes du Québec, Doctors of the World, and the FRAPRU.

In the midst of a provincial election where debates about immigration have given free reign to xenophobia and racism, migrants and their allies are calling on all Quebec political parties to support their struggle for regularization. Demonstrators ended the march with a joyfully defiant moment of dancing in front of the offices of Quebec Premier François Legault.

“We are building a mass movement against structural racism in Quebec,” said Aboubacar, “And the demand of our movement is clear: Status for All, with no exceptions, now!”

 

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Federal government unlikely to declare victory on COVID as travel restrictions loosen

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OTTAWA — The thundering sound of hoofbeats charging toward the end of the track was met with a chorus of cheers from thousands of revellers in cowboy hats and jeans, dazzled by the colourful lights of the midway in the distance.

The Calgary Stampede attracted 500,000 visitors in 2021 after a year of pandemic isolation and uncertainty, epitomizing Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s “best summer ever.”

Kenney beamed from behind a podium that spring as he declared that Alberta had “crushed” the spike of COVID-19 infections and heralded the return of backyard barbecues, dream weddings, concerts, parties and, of course, the stampede.

“Today we are truly near the end of this thing. We’re leaving the darkest days of the pandemic behind and walking into the warm light of summer,” Kenney declared.

Months after what came to be known as Kenney’s “mission accomplished” moment, Alberta was pummeled by the Delta wave. The province’s intensive care units were devastated.

The moment left a lasting impression on the country’s political psyche.

Such a jubilant, if premature, declaration is not likely to be seen again in Canada’s COVID-19 response, even as other world leaders appear ready to leave the pandemic behind.

“The pandemic is over,” U.S. President Joe Biden said last week, striding down the blue carpet of the Detroit Auto Show in Michigan during an interview with “60 Minutes.”

The president said there is still work to be done, but suggested the disaster had passed.

“No one’s wearing masks, everyone seems to be in pretty good shape and so I think it’s changing.”

Canada’s cautious political message about the virus has never ceded to such optimism.

“What we have seen consistently is that people are still struggling in hospitals across our country with the impacts of COVID,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday at a press conference at the UN General Assembly in New York.

He encouraged people to get up to date on their vaccine booster doses, assuring the public “we will make sure this pandemic gets behind us as quickly as we possibly can.”

Two senior government sources, speaking on the condition they not be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly, told The Canadian Press that Trudeau has agreed in principle to let Canada’s vaccine mandates expire on Sept. 30.

When the order expires, the ArriveCan app will no longer be mandatory for international travellers, either.

The decision to put an end to some of the last vestiges of federal COVID-19 restrictions is expected to be announced officially on Monday.

Trudeau has yet to speak publicly about the change, but the tenor of that announcement could be telling as to how the federal government plans to navigate this new transitional phase of the pandemic.

The last time the Liberals loosened restrictions in June, removing vaccine mandates for domestic travellers, the tone was decidedly circumspect.

Rather than proclaim the mandates were no longer needed, federal officials said they were merely “suspended,” and warned they would “bring back” necessary policies if there’s a resurgence of the virus in the fall.

“I think part of the restraint that provincial and territorial governments and the federal government have, as far as walking past COVID, is because we have our memory of how that didn’t actually work out well,” said Dr. Alika Lafontaine, president of the Canadian Medical Association.

Of course, Alberta’s cautionary tale isn’t the only reason for the federal government’s political COVID-19 message.

“In Canada, our focus has been, every step of the way, on listening to science, to responding to the facts on the ground,” Trudeau said Thursday, repeating a similar message when questioned by reporters in Ottawa Friday.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, allege the Liberals are more focused on “political science.”

“There’s a lot of questions that Canadians have, why the government appears to be making decisions not based on medical science, but based on political calculations,” Conservative health critic Michael Barrett said last week.

The official opposition has accused the Liberals of using the pandemic and federal restrictions as a political wedge since the last election, when Trudeau first floated the idea of vaccine mandates.

“There’s no question of whether politics plays a role in the decision-making,” said Julianne Piper, a research fellow with the international Pandemics and Borders project at Simon Fraser University.

“I think there are different political, geographic, public health factors that play into those decisions.”

That alchemy of politics and public health has the potential to set the tone for the rest of the country, she said.

“I think it signals the general feelings around the pandemic and potentially signals what different actors who would be impacted are going to expect,” she said.

Lafontaine said it will be important for politicians to keep that in mind during this next phase of the pandemic.

“I think it’s really important for politicians to realize that the things they say have an enormous impact,” he said.

“We need, more than ever, for people to be clear about the problems that we’re facing, to declare crises when there are crises and to talk about plans for after crises when it’s time to walk through those problems, into what comes next.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2022.

 

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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Military to be deployed to Nova Scotia to assist recovery after Fiona lashes region

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SYDNEY, N.S. — Post-tropical storm Fiona, one of the strongest storms to ever strike Eastern Canada, left a trail of destruction in its wake early Saturday before lingering over western Newfoundland, where a record-breaking storm surge destroyed several homes.

The devastation sent local officials scrambling amid widespread power outages and washed out roads, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government would be deploying members of the Canadian Armed Forces at the request of Nova Scotia and will do the same for other provinces that ask for help.

Police said they had received reports of two people in Port aux Basques, N.L., being swept out of residences that collapsed into the sea as Fiona hit. RCMP Cpl. Jolene Garland said one woman was rescued by local residents and is believed to be fine after receiving medical attention.

“We have a report about another woman who was believed to be swept out into the ocean as her residence was damaged as well — apparently swept out from the basement,” Garland said. “We haven’t been able to verify a status on that woman.”

She said Saturday’s stormy conditions made it too dangerous for searchers to try finding the woman.

Towns in Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton and on Newfoundland’s southwestern coast declared states of emergency as Fiona lashed the region.

Trudeau cancelled his planned visit to Japan for the state funeral of former prime minister Shinzo Abe to instead focus on supporting Canadians affected by the storm, he said.

The federal government will match any donations to the Canadian Red Cross by individuals and corporations over the next 30 days, he added.

Trudeau also said he will visit as soon as possible, while noting he doesn’t want to displace any emergency teams who are focused on important work on the ground.

“Recovery is going to be a big effort. We will be there every step of the way,” Trudeau said.

Defence Minister Anita Anand said the military began preparing to respond before receiving the request for assistance from Nova Scotia.

She did not say how many troops would be deployed, but said reconnaissance is underway to ensure they go where and when they are needed most. They will help with tree and debris removal, restoration of transportation links and more, she added.

Although some storm-related winds were expected to persist through the evening in parts of Newfoundland, the coastal community of Port aux Basques felt Fiona’s effects early.

Rene Roy, editor of the town’s weekly newspaper, said he saw evidence that nine homes, including a two-storey apartment building, were washed out to sea by a massive storm surge and wind-driven waves that soared about 25 metres into the air.

“There are homes gone. There are homes in the street,” Roy said.

Port aux Basques Mayor Brian Button pleaded with residents not to roam around and urged those at risk to seek higher ground, noting some houses had already been washed away.

“So anybody that’s being told to leave their homes, you need to leave,” Button said during a Facebook Live broadcast. “There are no ifs, ands or buts.”

Fiona was churning out hurricane-force winds at about 150 kilometres per hour when it made landfall between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. in eastern Nova Scotia, between Canso and Guysborough. The brawny storm knocked out power to more than 500,000 homes and businesses across the Maritimes.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth, N.S., said Fiona set an unofficial record for the lowest-ever barometric pressure for a tropical storm making landfall in Canada. The recorded pressure at Hart Island was 931.6 millibars.

“The pressure of a storm is a very good indication of its intensity — how strong and intense the winds will be,” said meteorologist Ian Hubbard. “The deeper the pressure, the more intense it’s going to be.”

Bob Robichaud, warning preparedness meteorologist with the hurricane centre, said during a press conference the hardest hit areas of southwestern Newfoundland lay in the path of the strongest winds on the edge of the storm.

“The same winds that went through Cape Breton in the early hours of this morning are now going through the Port aux Basques area. That, coupled with the fact that they’re wide open to the incoming surf and storm surge, that’s why you’re seeing what you’re seeing there now,” Robichaud said.

Other Nova Scotian officials described the breathtaking impacts of the storm that brought flying debris, snapped power poles and trees across roadways and cut power to three-quarters of provincial residents as of Saturday afternoon.

In Halifax, 160 people were evacuated from two apartment buildings that were severely damaged, including one with a collapsed roof.

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said the province requested both military and disaster assistance from the federal government and support from Ontario through a mutual aide agreement. The province is urgently working to get power, phone and internet service back up and running, he said.

The Halifax Stanfield International Airport reported a gust of 109 km/h at 3 a.m., and a gust hit 135 km/h at the mouth of Halifax Harbour. A gust also reached 161 km/h over Beaver Island, N.S., which is along the province’s eastern shore. In Sydney, N.S., gusts hit 141 km/h at 3 a.m. local time, causing severe damage to some homes.

“We’ve had several structural failures,” said Christina Lamey, a spokeswoman for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, adding no one was hurt. She said it was unclear how many homes had been damaged, but there were reports of collapsed walls and missing roofs.

Several dozen people in Sydney were forced to move into a shelter set up inside a downtown hockey arena.

Arlene and Robert Grafilo fled to Centre 200 with their children after a massive tree fell on their duplex apartment, trapping them in their basement unit.

“We heard a lot of noise outside and then we realized that there are a lot of cracks in the house and we looked outside and saw the tree had fallen,” said Arlene Grafilo, 43, as her children — ages 3 and 10 — played in a waiting area set up by the Red Cross.

“We were trapped and we couldn’t open the doors and the windows, so that’s when we decided to call 911. The children were scared,” she said, adding firefighters eventually rescued them.

Conditions weren’t much better on Prince Edward Island, where officials recorded wind gusts of up to 110 km/h around 2:30 p.m. local time.

That was down from levels of up to 170 km/h recorded earlier in the day, and Premier Dennis King said the island was also hit by two-metre storm surges, widespread flooding and downed power lines that left about 95 per cent of provincial residents in the dark.

King praised Islanders for heeding warnings to stay indoors, noting authorities have received no reports of injuries.

But while he said it’s still too early to fully gauge the extent of damage across the Island, he said early indications already make it clear that Fiona dealt an unprecedented blow.

“It seems that few communities, large or small, have been spared,” King said at an afternoon news conference.

In Charlottetown, where the city urged residents to stay off the streets, Fiona left a trail of debris, downed power lines and uprooted and splintered trees in its wake. Gas pumps were pulled from foundations, power lines twisted and fallen and mailboxes blown over.

Lena Caseley, a Charlottetown resident who has been living in the Parkdale neighbourhood since 1993, said she’s never seen anything that compares with the Fiona’s fury and destruction.

On Saturday afternoon, Caseley surveyed the damage on her street.

“It’s going to be a long time recovering from this,” she said.

Steve Clements, who spent the night at Jack Blanchard Hall, one of Charlottetown’s temporary shelters, said he was thankful to be “out of the elements.” He said it was loud and hard to sleep, but “it’s better than the alternative. It’s better than being out.”

Meanwhile, parts of eastern Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island had recorded 75 to 150 millimetres of rainfall. Final totals have yet to be tallied.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2022.

— With files from Michael MacDonald in Halifax, Hina Alam in Charlottetown, Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal and Amy Smart in Vancouver.

 

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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City of Brampton teams up with National Bank and Tennis Canada to unveil National Bank Tennis Courts at Morris Kerbel Park First court in the National Bank Play Your Court Program

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From left to right: Peter Amaral, Branch Manager, National Bank, Mayor Patrick Brown, City of Brampton, Councillor Rowena Santos, City of Brampton, Michael Palleschi, Regional Councillor of Brampton, Michael Downey, president and CEO of Tennis Canada

BRAMPTON, ON (September 23, 2022) – The City of Brampton along with National Bank and Tennis Canada revealed the City’s new National Bank Tennis Courts at Morris Kerbel Park on September 23, 2022. This is the first project of Tennis Canada’s National Bank Play Your Court Program announced earlier this summer to help Canadian municipalities revitalize their outdoor public tennis courts.

The new courts were made possible thanks to funding from the National Bank Play Your Court program as well as a naming rights agreement between the City of Brampton and the National Bank.

In addition to the resurfacing of four tennis courts, the final court surface will be added prior to the start of the 2023 playing season. The revamped facilities will include new posts, nets, court perimeter fencing, gates and signage for the duration of the agreement. 

The City, National Bank, and Tennis Canada will be hosting an official grand opening event in the spring of 2023 to kick off the tennis season.

This multifaceted, multiyear partnership is part of a commitment by all partners to make tennis more accessible for all and is part of the City of Brampton’s Sponsorship and Naming Rights Policy, which was approved by Brampton City Council in March 2019. The citywide sponsorship and naming rights program offers customized opportunities for businesses to connect with the community, creating enhanced experiences for residents. To learn about the sponsorship and naming rights opportunities available visit www.brampton.ca/sponsorship.

 

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“We are excited for this partnership with National Bank and Tennis Canada. The National Bank Play Your Court Program is a great initiative that will provide residents with an updated place to play. Whether you’re a tennis enthusiast or new to the sport, I encourage you to check out the updated courts!”– Patrick Brown, Mayor, City of Brampton

“We are thrilled to unveil the National Bank Tennis Courts. I encourage everyone to enjoy the courts through the remainder of the season and join us for the official grand opening next spring!”– Rowena Santos, Regional Councillor, Wards 1 & 5; Chair, Community Services, City of Brampton

“Brampton is a Healthy and Safe City, and this partnership with National Bank and Tennis Canada has provided welcomed upgrades to the tennis courts at Morris Kerbel Park for residents to enjoy.”– Paul Morrison, Interim Chief Administrative Officer, City of Brampton

“National Bank is pleased to be working with the City of Brampton and Tennis Canada on the first project to revitalize tennis courts. Quality courts in our community will allow players of all ages to come together and enjoy the benefits of the sport.”– Maria Pavlakos, Regional Vice-President, GTA North and West at National Bank

“This project is the perfect showcase for our new National Bank Play Your Court Program. All stakeholders, from the mayor to city personnel and members of our own tennis community here in the region demonstrated incredible zeal for revitalizing these courts. This is another great day for tennis in Canada as we believe that investments in tennis infrastructures can have a direct impact on participation. Tennis is a sport that brings communities together in a safe, sociable, and healthy environment.”

– Michael Downey, President and CEO, Tennis Canada

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