Dozens of Canadians and Americans of Iranian descent say they were held and interrogated at a U.S. border crossing in B.C. over the weekend as tensions between Iran and the U.S. heat up.
According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), more than 60 Iranian nationals and American citizens were held at the Peace Arch border linking B.C. to Washington state after attending an Iranian pop concert in Vancouver.
Among those reportedly held for questioning included Iranian-Canadians.
Sam Sadr, an Iranian-Canadian who travelled to the U.S. using his Canadian passport, says he was held at the border for eight hours, during which time he saw dozens of other Iranians held, including children.
“This is the first time I put my feet in the U.S. I told the border person this is very [shocking] and called discrimination,” Sadr told CTV News Channel Monday.
Len Saunders, a Blaine, Wash.-based immigration lawyer, witnessed what he described as “chaos” at the border crossing first-hand. Speaking to CTVNews.ca by phone from Washington state, Saunders said there were so many people waiting to speak to officials, they were given foodbecause of the delays. He says two of his clients were held by border agents.
“One recently became an American citizen and they were taken into secondary and questioned for four to five hours with regards to their family ties to Iran; parents’ information; siblings’ information; what they do for work; and when they travelled there,” Saunders said during an interview on CTV News Channel Monday.
“It was basically a dragnet of anyone who was born in Iran coming through the local port of entry over the weekend.”
What concerns Saunders most is his client’s claims that when she volunteered to withdraw her application for entry, she was told she was not allowed to leave.
“It’s troubling,” he said by phone. “Usually you’d think if you knock on the door of someone’s house you can leave whenever you want, but they weren’t letting them leave.”
CAIR claims that those detained had their passports confiscated and were questioned about their political views and allegiances.
The organization also claims to have information from a source at U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) that said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had issued a national order to report and detain anyone with Iranian ties.
On Sunday, CBP denied that it had ordered the detention of Iranian nationals.
“Social media posts that CBP is detaining Iranian-Americans and refusing their entry into the U.S. because of their country of origin are false. Reports that DHS/CBP has issued a related directive are also false,” the agency said in a tweet.
But Robert McCaw, Director of Government Affairs at CAIR, says those words may be a smokescreen.
“While they say no one was detained, people were held for up to 10 to 12 hours in secondary screening and, again, interrogated,” McCaw told CTV News Channel.
“If you’re held for more than 10 to 12 hours and interrogated by federal law enforcement, I would call that detention.”
Saunders says the detentions were particularly problematic for U.S. citizens.
“As an American citizen, you have the right to enter the country and not be interrogated for many hours,” he said.
“This is something I’ve never seen. I’ve been practising in northern Washington state for over 20 years; I’ve never seen one country’s individuals taken in and questioned for such lengthy periods of time.”
He notes that Iranian-Canadians would have no legal recourse if they were to be detained at the border.
“You have no right to enter the U.S. [without a U.S. passport],” he told CTVNews.ca.
He notes that anyone attempting to cross into a foreign country has the right to withdraw their application for entry and return to their home country at any time during the immigration process.
However, he worries that U.S. immigration officials may have been given different orders.
Saunders notes that he did not hear of issues atany other Canadian-American land border crossings over the weekend.
“It seems to be a local phenomenon which makes it even worse,” he said.
Michael Friel, a spokesman for CBP, told the Associated Press that border wait times increased Saturday at the Washington border crossing because of “increased traffic and reduced staffing” over the holiday season.
Youth-led climate change lawsuit dismissed by Federal Court – CBC.ca
A Federal Court judge ruled Tuesday that the Canadian government won’t be going on trial for contributions to climate change — striking down a lawsuit brought by 15 young Canadians who argued the government was violating their charter rights.
Federal Court Justice Michael Manson rejected a lawsuit initiated by the youths aged 10 to 19 years old. Their case called on the court to compel Ottawa to develop a science-based climate recovery plan.
But Manson ruled the claims don’t have a reasonable cause of action or prospect of success, so the case cannot proceed to trial.
The lawsuit filed in 2019 says Canada’s failure to protect against climate change is a violation of the youths’ charter rights.
On Tuesday, Manson ruled the network of government actions that contribute to climate change is too broad for the court to grapple with, and the court has no role in reviewing the country’s overall approach to climate change.
First and hardest hit
Plaintiff Haana Edenshaw, 17, of the Haida Nation, says despite her disappointment, she is refusing to get discouraged and plans to keep pushing to have the case heard, after seeing the effects of climate change in her village of Masset on Haida Gwaii off B.C.’s North Coast.
She said poverty rates and the location of communities leave Indigenous people at higher risk to the negative effects of climate change.
“Indigenous youth in Canada are often the first hit and the hardest hit,” she said.
Another plaintiff named Sophia said that it is “a big wake-up call for all Canadian and Indigenous youth. Canada has tried to silence our voice in court and block our calls for climate justice. We won’t be dissuaded.”
In September, government lawyers argued the lawsuit should be thrown out, as it was far too broad to be heard in court. In Tuesday’s ruling, Manson agreed the terms were too broad. Joe Arvay, the lead lawyer on the case, says it’s a disappointment, but he plans to push forward and appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The case, La Rose et al. v. Her Majesty the Queen, was initially filed on Oct. 25, 2019.
The lawsuit argued that the plaintiffs — 15 children and teens from across Canada — had their rights to life, liberty and security and equality violated by a government that had failed to do enough to protect against climate change.
In the government’s defence submission, federal lawyer Joseph Cheng said the drivers of climate changes are a global problem, and Canada can’t act alone to solve the issue. He also argued that the case fell beyond what courts can meaningfully adjudicate.
The statement of claim was filed the day teen climate activist Greta Thunberg visited Vancouver and led a climate strike rally attended by thousands. It says that “despite knowing for decades” that carbon emissions “cause climate change and disproportionately harm children,” the government continued to allow emissions to increase at a level “incompatible with a stable climate capable of sustaining human life and liberties.”
But there’s no explicit environmental right in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And, in his decision, the justice disagreed that right is implicit, as argued in the case.
“Of course it’s disappointing, but the journey is far from over,” said Brendan Glauser of the Suzuki Foundation. Glauser said the ruling acknowledged the negative impact of climate change as something that’s significant and pointed out the justice also said the “public trust” doctrine is a legal question that the court can resolve — which, he said, offers legal ground with which the group can attempt to move forward.
“We are proud of our plaintiffs. These brave young plaintiffs know we only have a decade to turn things around, and so far, we are not on track,” said Glauser.
For more on this story, tap here to listen to the Sept. 27 episode of What on Earth with Laura Lynch.
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – CityNews Toronto
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):
Ontario is reporting 827 new cases of COVID-19 today, and four new deaths due to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says 355 cases are in Toronto, 169 in Peel Region, 89 in York Region and 58 in Ottawa.
The province has conducted 23,945 tests since the last daily report, with an additional 22,636 being processed.
In total, 312 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 75 in intensive care.
Quebec is reporting 963 new cases of COVID-19 and 19 more deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.
The Health Department said today four of the deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, 14 date back to last week and one death was from an unknown date.
The number of patients in hospital declined by 16 to 527 while the number of intensive-care patients dropped by two to 91.
Quebec has reported a total of 101,885 COVID-19 cases and 6,172 deaths linked to the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.
Nova Scotia is reporting one new case of COVID-19.
Health officials say the case is in the central health zone, which includes Halifax, and is related to travel outside the Atlantic region.
The province has six active cases of novel coronavirus.
In total, Nova Scotia has confirmed 1,102 cases, while 1,031 cases have been resolved and there have been 65 deaths.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2020.
The Canadian Press
Trudeau says pandemic 'sucks' as COVID-19 compliance slips and cases spike – CBC.ca
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he understands that Canadians are increasingly frustrated by “annoying” measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19, but he’s urging people to stay the course as cases continue to climb in some parts of the country.
Canada is in the grips of a second pandemic wave. Some provinces — notably Alberta, B.C., Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec — are now seeing case counts larger than those reported in the spring, at the onset of the pandemic.
“This sucks, it really, really does,” Trudeau told a COVID-19 press briefing this morning. “It’s going to be a tough winter. It’s easy for us to want to throw up our hands … it’s frustrating to have to go through this situation.
“Nobody wanted 2020 to be this way, but we do get to control how bad it gets by all of us doing our part.”
Trudeau said Canadians must get this latest pandemic wave under control or risk putting their Christmas festivities in jeopardy.
“Unless we’re really, really careful, there may not be the kinds of family gatherings we want to have at Christmas,” he said.
After a summer lull, the death count in Canada has also started to climb. Hospitalizations and the number of people in intensive care units (ICUs) remain at manageable levels in most regions, despite the cresting caseload.
Some Toronto-area hospitals are nearing 100 per cent capacity as they grapple with both COVID-19 cases and other patients.
Data indicates that younger, healthier people — who are more likely to recover without medical intervention — are driving the COVID-19 spike during this round of the pandemic.
Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, said there’s no doubt that Canadians are tired of the restrictions that have upended their social and economic lives for the better part of eight months.
“What we’re seeing around the world is people are suffering from COVID fatigue,” Njoo said.
Another full lockdown is not necessary at this point, he said.
“We want to get back to as normal as possible, the functioning of society,” he said, adding Canada needs to find the “sweet spot” where new cases of COVID-19 don’t threaten to overwhelm the health care system.
Asked if governments bear any responsibility for conflicting messages from federal and provincial leaders and local public health officials about how Canadians should go about their daily lives during the pandemic, Trudeau said the situation on the ground in the provinces and territories varies greatly and does not demand national uniformity.
WATCH: Trudeau questioned about public confusion over pandemic messaging
Trudeau said Ottawa is not intent on plunging the country into another shutdown — and the country is better equipped to handle this wave than it was in March and April.
“We have a better understanding of COVID-19. We have better tools to deal with COVID-19 and we can be a little more targeted but, yeah, that means a little more complication in our messages,” Trudeau said.
“It’s frustrating to see friends at the other end of the country doing things you’d love to be able to do but you can’t.”
Trudeau said that when his six-year-old son Hadrien recently asked him if COVID-19 would with us “forever,” he assured him the pandemic would end — but its impact will depend on Canadians doing their part in the short term by wearing masks wherever possible, keeping a two-metre distance from others and avoiding large social gatherings altogether.
“We need to do the right thing, we need to lean on each other, we need to use all the tools that we can,” he said.
Trudeau sounded a positive note today, too, saying that Canada has placed orders for tens of millions of possible vaccine candidates. He said pharmaceutical companies are developing promising treatments.
“Vaccines are on the horizon. Spring and summer will come and they will be better than this winter,” he said.
All told, the federal government has secured 358 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines — an insurance policy if some of the vaccines in development prove to be ineffective in clinical trials.
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