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'I'm appalled': Lawyers alarmed as Ottawa gives more powers to U.S. border officers at Canadian airports – CBC.ca

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Concerns are mounting over added powers Ottawa has granted U.S. customs officers to strip-search, question and detain U.S.-bound travellers — on Canadian soil.

The changes are part of Canada’s new preclearance act, which the federal government says will enhance border security and make travel to the U.S. easier.

But Pantea Jafari, an Iranian-Canadian immigration lawyer, fears it could make travel more difficult for her.

That’s because the act gives U.S. customs officers in Canada broader interrogation powers — at a time when the U.S. has toughened its stance on immigration and has increasingly hostile relations with Iran.

“I will not allow a border officer to have access to me and have unfettered right to question me to no end,” said Jafari, who’s based in Toronto and serves many Iranian clients. 

Since the preclearance act took effect in August, she has stopped travelling to the U.S. and says the country’s current standoff with Iran has only strengthened her resolve. 

“My concerns of going to the U.S. have now 100 times increased.”

Toronto immigration lawyer Pantea Jafari had laid out her concerns about the new preclearance act at a Senate committee hearing in 2017. (Senate of Canada)

Preclearance act explained

Canada’s new preclearance act overrides a previous agreement with the United States that allowed travellers to clear U.S. customs in preclearance zones at Canadian airports, before flying across the border. Eight major Canadian airports already have preclearance areas — and the new act paves the way for more zones involving all modes of transport.

Proponents say preclearance offers many benefits, including allowing Canadians to clear U.S. customs in their own country.

“They land in the U.S. as a domestic passenger, so you don’t have to go through long lineups,” said Gerry Bruno, co-chair of the Beyond Preclearance Coalition, an industry group supporting efficient Canada-U.S. border travel. 

A scene from a preclearance explainer video showing the benefits of clearing U.S. customs, before actually flying into the country. (Toronto Pearson Airport/YouTube)

While they don’t dispute the benefits of preclearance, some immigration lawyers claim the new act could jeopardize Canadian rights. 

The big concern is that American preclearance officers could now further interrogate Canadians who withdraw their application to enter the U.S., perhaps because they feel uncomfortable during a customs inspection.

Previously, law-abiding travellers could simply leave and return home, because they were still on Canadian soil. 

Now they could be detained — even handed over to Canadian authorities to face charges — for refusing to answer questions about why they’re withdrawing.

“You say, ‘I think you’re racially profiling me and I’m offended. I don’t want to go to your country, I want to leave,'” said Calgary-based immigration lawyer Michael Greene. “[U.S. officers are] entitled to examine those reasons and if they think you’re not being truthful, they’re entitled to detain you.”

Government defends changes

Jafari said the new rules are particularly concerning for racialized populations, such as those of Middle Eastern descent, who could be targeted for questioning. 

“We’re the ones that are deemed the threat, right; the domestic threat of some sort that they need to data mine.”

Public Safety Canada said the withdrawal rules were revamped to prevent bad actors from probing preclearance zones in search of a weak entry point.

“Allowing a traveller to withdraw without any type of examination creates challenges in terms of border security,” spokesperson Tim Warmington said in an email.

He added that U.S. preclearance officers questioning travellers who opt to withdraw can’t “unreasonably delay” them.

But what constitutes an “unreasonable” delay could be open to interpretation, argues Greene.

“When you look at it from the U.S. perspective of wanting to protect the security of the country, that could result in some very extensive questioning,” he said.

Protected by Canadian rights?

Bruno said that law-abiding travellers shouldn’t encounter problems at the preclearance zones, and maintains that it beats clearing customs in the U.S., where you “can’t withdraw.”

“You’re there. You’re subject to U.S. laws,” he said.

U.S. preclearance officers in Canada must follow Canadian laws, including the charter and Human Rights Act. In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made this point when defending the new act — before it had become law. 

“There is extra protection,” he told The Canadian Press

However, Canada’s privacy commissioner has argued that protection appears to be “hollow” due to Canada’s State Immunity Act, which grants the U.S. government immunity in most cases.

“A Canadian who believes a U.S. customs official has broken Canadian law has little recourse in the courts,” states the Office of the Privacy Commissioner’s website

Right to strip-search?

Immigration lawyers are also concerned that under the new act, U.S. preclearance officers can now strip-search Canadian travellers.

Public Safety spokesperson Warmington said that U.S. officers must have reasonable grounds to do the search and that it will only happen in rare circumstances “where Canadian [border] officers are unable to respond or decline.”

Immigration lawyer Len Saunders said he’s been swamped with calls from Canadians distraught and confused over receiving a five-year ban at a Canada-U.S. land crossing. He’s now worried about what might happen in airport preclearance zones.

Immigration lawyer Len Saunders said his concerns with the act are compounded by the fact that some customs officers appear to be getting tougher at U.S. land crossings along the country’s northern border.

In 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol doled out almost double the number of five-year bans to travellers crossing from Canada, compared to 2018.

“When the Americans are treating Canadians like this on American soil, why would you allow them so much autonomy on Canadian soil?” said Saunders, whose office sits close to the Canadian border in Blaine, Wash.

“I’m appalled by what the Canadian government has agreed to.”

Travellers who feel mistreated can submit feedback to a “preclearance consultative group” set up to provide oversight, said Warmington. 

He also pointed out that Canadian customs officers will have equal powers in U.S. preclearance zones.

Canada currently has no preclearance zones in the U.S., but Warmington said the government is “exploring the potential.”

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Behavioral tools of pandemic should be applied to climate policy – scientists

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Lessons learned from the pandemic about shifting people’s behavior will be applied to policies to counter climate change and disinformation in the future, leading scientists said Thursday.

Carlos Scartascini, from the Inter-American Development Bank, said behavioral tools became critical in the pandemic, in a panel at the Reuters Next conference.

“When you say ‘wash your hands’ – you can say (it) 20 times, but if you don’t change the way you say people basically do not react,” he said.

Dr. Laura de Moliere, who heads up behavioral science in the UK Cabinet office, said a better understanding of human behavior became critical to policymakers in the pandemic, and that should carry forward.

“Climate change is probably quite an obvious one, where if we aren’t designing rules and regulations well, we will be seeing rebound effects where people are insulating their houses, but then buying bigger houses because the energy is cheaper,” she said.

She said transparency of decision making, central to COVID communication, would also be important for winning support for climate change policies.

“There’s lots of really interesting avenues for behavioral science application that have arisen because of because of the pandemic,” said Mary MacLennan, the cofounder of the United Nations Behavioral Science Group.

 

(Reporting by William James; writing by Merdie Nzanga)

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Majority of Canadians want to ditch the British monarchy. How feasible is it? – Globalnews.ca

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Canada’s ties with the British monarchy are under scrutiny once again after Barbados officially removed Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as its head of state and became a republic this week.

For Barbados, the transition on Tuesday marked an end to its last remaining colonial bonds nearly 400 years after the first English ships arrived at the Caribbean island.

Read more:

Barbados celebrates as it officially becomes a republic, cuts ties with British monarchy

There is now renewed debate in Canada over whether to follow Barbados’ lead, with a majority of Canadians saying the monarchy is becoming less relevant or is no longer relevant at all, new polling shows.

According to an Angus Reid survey published Tuesday, more than 50 per cent say Canada should not remain a constitutional monarchy indefinitely, while one-quarter say it should.

The same poll also suggests that as long as Queen Elizabeth II continues to reign, 55 per cent of Canadians support continuing to recognize her as the official head of state.


Click to play video: 'Rising number of Canadians support dropping monarchy: poll'



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Rising number of Canadians support dropping monarchy: poll


Rising number of Canadians support dropping monarchy: poll – Mar 1, 2021

However, that support has declined over the years, polling shows.

In an Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News in March 2021, two in three Canadians, or 66 per cent of respondents, said the Queen and the Royal Family should not have any formal role in Canadian society, as they are “simply celebrities and nothing more.”

That was up two per cent over last year and six per cent since 2016, according to Ipsos.

The waning support comes amid uncertainty around the 95-year-old monarch’s health that has recently limited her public appearances.

Challenges for Canada

Despite Canadians’ dwindling enthusiasm for the royals, eliminating the monarchy in Canada will be a “complicated process,” experts say.

To make any change to the role of the Queen or her representatives in Canada, there must be unanimous consent from the House of Commons, the Senate and each of the provincial legislatures to change the constitution — a process that could take years to complete.

Read more:

How Canada could break up with the monarchy

“Under our constitution, all 10 provinces would have to agree on changes to the office of the Queen and it’s very difficult for all 10 provinces to be on the same page at the same time,” said Carolyn Harris, historian and author of Raising Royalty: 1,000 Years of Royal Parenting.

Because Canada’s Indigenous communities have their own treaties with the Crown, First Nations would need to be consulted as well for any transition to take place, Harris said.

“So in Canada, it would be a very complicated process compared to the comparatively straightforward process in Barbados,” she told Global News.


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Queen responds to Harry and Meghan’s tell-all interview


Queen responds to Harry and Meghan’s tell-all interview – Mar 9, 2021

​Citizens for a Canadian Republic (CCR), a non-profit group, acknowledges there would be challenges when it comes to amending the Constitution but still encourages the discussion.

Among the hurdles it highlights on its website is “an unfair amending formula.”

“Compounding these difficulties is the subject of how Canadians should choose their new head of state and what role it would play in the federal system,” CCR states.

In the practical sense, abolishing the monarchy would not change much for Canada, as the Queen has no political authority, argued Melanie Newton, an associate professor of history at the University of Toronto.

“And the federal government could become a republic without the Indigenous people necessarily having to give up those symbolic ties to the British monarchy,” she said.

Barbados breaks free

Barbados’ move to becoming a republic was the culmination of a more than two decades-long push to ditch the monarchy.

A “major shift” took place last year spurred on by the racial inequalities of the COVID-19 pandemic response, access to vaccines and the Black Lives Matter protest movement across the world, said Newton.

Read more:

53% of Canadians skeptical of the monarchy’s future beyond the Queen’s reign: Ipsos poll

In a historic throne speech in Sept. 2020, governor-general Dame Sandra Mason told the world Barbados was removing Queen Elizabeth as its head of state.

A two-thirds majority vote was needed to amend the country’s constitution.

The parliament unanimously passed the Constitution (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2021 last month, effectively transferring the responsibilities of the governor general to a new position of president.

Mason was elected as the island’s first president by the Barbados parliament on Oct. 20 and formally sworn in on Nov. 30.


Click to play video: 'Barbados becomes a republic and parts ways with the Queen'



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Barbados becomes a republic and parts ways with the Queen


Barbados becomes a republic and parts ways with the Queen

Cynthia Barrow-Giles, professor of political science at the University of West Indies, said the transition to the republic represents a “moment of pride for many Barbadians.”

“This move is very emblematic of overthrowing the yoke of British colonialism and with it some of the negative connotations that people have been dealing with more recently with respect to the character of British colonialism,” she told Global News.

But there is still a “significant amount of work” left to do in terms of the constitution and governance, Barrow-Giles added.

The process of becoming a republic is “far easier” when there is a centralized system of government, as was the case with Barbados, she noted.

“Canada’s situation compared to the Caribbean situation is a little more complex,” she said.

What about other Commonwealth nations?

Other Caribbean nations have also left the monarchy to become republics, including Trinidad and Tobago, but the last country to remove the Queen as head of state was Mauritius in 1992.

With Barbados cutting ties, that leaves 15 Commonwealth countries that have the Queen as their monarch, including Canada.

Read more:

Barbados becomes a republic: What it means for the Crown, the Commonwealth and Canada

However, Barbados will remain part of the Commonwealth, a grouping of 54 countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.

Other Caribbean nations, including Jamaica and St. Lucia, have also discussed breaking away from the monarchy.


Click to play video: 'The details on the Queen’s mounting health concerns'



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The details on the Queen’s mounting health concerns


The details on the Queen’s mounting health concerns – Nov 16, 2021

Now, Barbados’ move may fuel republicanism within the Commonwealth, experts say.

“It’s certainly something that will be discussed and debated in the Commonwealth realms, especially as this transition does not mean a departure from the Commonwealth,” said Harris.

Barrow-Giles concurred, saying, “I would think that for a lot of the other Caribbean countries, the conversation would resume, and hopefully we’ll get that transition going.”

— with files from Global News’ Redmond Shannon

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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New travel rules: Canadian airports warn of 'chaos' – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canada’s plan to require novel coronavirus tests for all but U.S. arrivals on international flights risks causing “chaos” and long lines if all passengers are expected to get tested at airports, industry groups said.

The move, announced Tuesday, comes as the travel season kicks into gear and could stretch airport resources as well as testing holiday-makers’ patience, they said.

Daniel Gooch, president of the Canadian Airports Council, said airports cannot test all overseas arrivals on-site without long wait times.

“Do we really want people waiting for hours for a test in a customs hall?” he asked by phone on Wednesday.

“We want to avoid chaos. And we want to ensure that travelers who have booked trips are comfortable to travel.”

Canada on Tuesday said it will require people arriving internationally by air, except from the United States, to take a COVID-19 test, seeking to halt the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Currently, only randomly selected passengers from international flights are tested at airports by private companies the government contracts.

The announcement came as the country’s aviation sector, battered by the pandemic, had been looking forward to a stronger holiday season this year.

Canadian public health authorities did not say Wednesday when the policy will come into effect, who will administer the tests or whether the tests will be administered on-site or through take-home kits.

Airports are pushing for the latter.

Tori Gass, a spokesperson for Toronto’s Pearson International Airport – Canada’s largest – said in an email that “a combination of onsite and off-airport testing must be considered to accommodate the volume of tests contemplated.”

Some travellers, meanwhile, who had rushed to book trips amid loosening restrictions just weeks before, were having second thoughts.

“I know various clients who have decided to cancel and are now looking at what refunds they’ll be able to get,” said Marty Firestone with Travel Secure insurance, adding that the travel landscape had been getting better.

“Now we’ve taken two steps back,” he said.

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