Report says Canada should loosen visa requirements to allow more Ukrainian refugees
CALGARY — A new report says Canada needs to change its federal visa policy to speed up the admission of Ukrainian refugees, which has slowed to a trickle.
The study by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy released Thursday says that compared to other countries, Canada has received a small number of the millions of Ukrainians who have been displaced since Russia invaded the eastern European country in February.
“Applications by Ukrainians are starting to far outstrip the number that is being granted by the Canadian government and we don’t even have a really clear picture of how many Ukrainians are coming into the country,” said author Robert Falconer.
Statistics show the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program, which expedites visas and temporary residency permits for Ukrainians and their families, isn’t enough, he said.
As of June 22, there were approximately 190,000 Ukrainians with pending applications to come to Canada, up from 140,000 about one month earlier.
Falconer said the program, requiring those arriving to have visas, is to blame for Canada lagging behind other countries — most notably Ireland, which has waived its visa requirement.
“One of the objections within the committee in Parliament was if we let Ukrainians in, then Russian spies would use that to infiltrate the system,” he said.
“Russian espionage does exist, but the refugee channel is one of the more inefficient ways to try and infiltrate a Russian spy into the country.”
Falconer said federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, with proper resources, would be able to manage security risks involving the visa process. He recommends Canada adopt the Irish model or another option to do visa checks once people arrive.
“If we’re not doing the Irish model, I would say we do what’s called the on-arrival model, which is what a lot of countries do. When you arrive at the airport, you have to wait for a small period while the government officials run the security checks,” Falconer said.
“You do some risk assessments and can probably vet that eight-year-old kid who is probably not a Russian spy whereas an unaccompanied male in their mid-20s … you might hold them while you process the background check and let them into the country. Let them get here to safety first and then process them from there.”
Falconer said an overwhelming number of Canadians support bringing in a high number of Ukrainian refugees and our country has the highest percentage of people of Ukrainian descent next to Ukraine and Russia.
The report says Canada and the United Kingdom have similar processes for the admission of Ukrainian refugees and the numbers are comparable.
It says about 13 times the number of Ukrainian refugees per capita arrived in Ireland than in the United Kingdom during the first two months of the invasion.
Falconer said the findings of the report are to be forwarded to the federal government, but he isn’t sure whether it would result in a loosening of the requirements.
“I think they’re probably aware. I think they are very, very, very concerned — less with Ukrainians and more with how the overall immigration file is going generally.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2022.
Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
Canada helping Mexico invade the U.S., says Republican firebrand – CBC.ca
This item is part of Watching Washington, a regular dispatch from CBC News correspondents reporting on U.S. politics and developments that affect Canadians.
Here’s an attention-grabbing charge: the idea that Canada might be assisting an invasion of the United States by the other country on the continent.
Even more surprising? The comment came from a member of the United States Congress during a congressional hearing in Washington.
Less surprising? That member was Marjorie Taylor Greene, the controversy-courting Republican best known as a gleeful flinger of partisan bombs.
It came during a hearing organized by Republicans titled: “Biden’s Growing Border Crisis: Death, Drugs, and Disorder on the Northern Border.”
She used her spot in the committee hearing to draw attention to the fact that Canada allows Mexicans to travel into the country without a visa.
And she alluded to an increase in Mexicans being stopped trying to enter the U.S. between ports of entry, with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials reporting 1,604 such incidents at the northern border in the first four months of this fiscal year compared with 882 for all of last year.
“It’s extremely concerning, and dangerous to the United States of America’s national security, that Canada’s immigration policy allows Mexicans to travel, to Canada, without a visa,” Taylor Greene said.
“It seems that Canada wants to participate in Mexico’s invasion of the United States…. They end up coming into the United States.”
What’s the context
There has indeed been an increase in migrants entering the U.S. through Canada. Republicans have started raising it as an issue, part of their campaign against what they call the Biden administration’s lax border policies.
In that process, some have cherry-picked the data: they’ve made the numbers sound more dramatic by comparing them to early in the pandemic, when there was little travel, and they’ve in some cases lumped together routine incidents at border checkpoints with stops between checkpoints.
The number of apprehensions is indeed up significantly from the last few years. But even at the current pace, Border Patrol Agents would stop fewer than 9,000 people coming from Canada this year; that’s less than in the early 2000s, and a rounding error compared to the more than two million on the Mexican border.
A Democrat called the hearing a waste of time and said it would be better spent on serious problems.
“This manufactured northern border crisis,” is how Glenn Ivey of Maryland referred to it.
“There’s nothing going on with respect to Canada that merits them being treated like some kind of rogue state…. They’re a good working partner with the United States.”
Several Republicans, other than Taylor Greene, went out of their way to point out that their issue wasn’t with Canada. The chair of the hearing, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, said: “They’re friends — not anything other than that.”
The problem, several Republicans said, was that the northern border is severely understaffed. Barely 10 per cent of U.S. Border Patrol Agents are stationed along the vast Canadian frontier, and even among that limited pool many are seconded for stints at the busier Mexican border.
The head of the U.S. Border Patrol Agents’ union, Brandon Judd, said: “It’s impossible to patrol the [northern] border.” He said there’s only one agent every 30 miles (48 kilometres).
Some speakers at the hearing referred to the new Canada-U.S. migration pact announced last week while U.S. President Joe Biden was in Ottawa, and suggested it benefited Canada more than the U.S. Others, the Democrats, referred to it as a good example of co-operation between two friendly countries.
There’s no pressure on Canada, for now, to restore visa requirements on Mexicans. At issue is the fact that the country between Canada and Mexico, the U.S., requires a visa for Mexicans to enter.
This was a major irritant years ago. The Harper government created a visa requirement for Mexicans. The Trudeau government relaxed it.
Some U.S. immigration-watchers have been wondering whether the pressure from the U.S. could come for a policy switch.
Taylor Greene most certainly does not speak for the Biden administration, or for the Democrats who control the Senate, or even for many in her party; but she has a knack, sometimes, for serving as a bellwether of where her party is heading.
From groceries to booze, payday loans to plane tickets — here's what the budget means for your wallet – CBC News
With inflation still near its highest level in decades, the federal budget unveiled in Ottawa Tuesday offered a lot of talk about making life more affordable for Canadians — but few details about how it’s all going to work.
One of the biggest items leaked prior to the budget’s release is something the government is calling a “grocery rebate” meant to mitigate the cost of grocery prices that are still rising at an annual rate of more than 10 per cent.
It’s an extended version of the existing GST rebate cheque program, which gives cash payouts to refund GST payments incurred by low-income Canadians.
The government says the rejigged program will put an extra $467 into the pockets of the average family with two kids, and $234 for a single person. Government estimates suggest they think roughly 11 million people will qualify for the program, which is to be doled out via a quarterly cheque or direct deposit.
Strictly speaking, the government isn’t requiring that the money be spent on groceries. But the program’s branding suggests Ottawa hopes it will deliver $2.5 billion in relief where many Canadians need it most — in the checkout aisle.
That’s good news for people like Krystle Kisman, a single mother from Burlington, Ont., for whom putting food on the table has been a major source of stress of late.
“I remember I used to spend $200 every two weeks and I would get double what I’m getting now,” she told CBC News this week. “It’s tough. A lot of times I use my child tax credit towards our food for the month.”
The grocery program is targeted at people like Kisman, who have had to face impossible choices between paying rent and paying for food.
There’s very little else in the budget in the way of direct payments to Canadians to blunt the impact of inflation. But the document is also sprinkled with programs and policy ideas aimed at helping consumers keep a little more of the money they already have.
In recent weeks, the beer and alcohol industry has been sounding the alarm about a looming hike to the federal tax on beer, wine and spirits. The so-called excise tax is pegged to inflation, which means it was on track to increase by more than six per cent this weekend — a jump that would have taken the toll to 73 cents on a litre of wine and more than 37 cents for a litre of beer.
Those excise fees are paid by brewers, wine and spirit makers, but the costs filter down for consumers as they add to the cost of doing business, and pushing up retail prices.
The government announced in the budget that it will slash that increase to two per cent for this year, well below the inflation rate.
The budget also aims to rein in some of the more exorbitant costs that some Canadians pay to borrow money. While rates on conventional personal and business loans from major lenders tend to hover between the low single digits for a mortgage to slightly over 10 per cent for other forms of unsecured debt, that’s not true for all types of loans.
That’s why the budget targets what the government calls “predatory lending” by changing loopholes that currently allow some lenders to charge rates as high as 47 per cent per year.
The government says it’s going to amend the Criminal Code to cap those rates at 35 per cent, in line with existing regulations already on the books in Quebec.
Payday loans are currently exempt from that legislation due to various loopholes. Those loans are typically for small amounts of up to $1,500 and only for terms of up to two months — but despite their short term, their costs are far higher than other loans, as annualized rates can sometimes approach 400 per cent.
The government says it plans to tighten and eliminate some of those loopholes by requiring payday lenders to charge no more than $14 for every $100 borrowed. And says it will consult with the provinces on additional revisions on how to further regulate the payday-lending industry.
Credit card fee reductions
The government also laid out new rules for another source of frustration for small businesses and consumers: credit card fees.
Every time a customer swipes a credit card to pay for a purchase, the vendor pays what’s known as an interchange fee to the credit card company processing the transaction.
In Canada, such fees on some cards can amount to up to three per cent of the purchase price — far higher than they are in jurisdictions where they are capped.
While the budget stops short of imposing such a cap, the government did say it has struck a deal with the major credit companies that will see interchange fees reduced by about 27 per cent for about 90 per cent of the businesses that accept credit cards.
Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the lowering of fees is a good start, but more is needed. “A 27 per cent reduction in small business merchant fees is significant, but more details are needed to determine how many small businesses will benefit from this plan,” he said.
Government estimates suggest the new fee structure will save small businesses $200 million a year, savings that should theoretically filter down to consumers since a court ruling last fall established that merchants are allowed to pass those fees on to consumers directly now.
Credit card fees aren’t the only hidden fee facing scrutiny. Although it offers few details, the government says it wants to crack down on what it calls “junk fees” that get tacked on to goods and services.
The government says it wants to work with the provinces and various regulators to examine things like cellphone roaming charges, ticket fees and excessive baggage fees — just a few examples of the sort of nickel-and-dime fees that annoy consumers.
Travel fees set to increase
But even as the government talks tough about getting rid of hidden fees, it’s actually increasing one that Canadians pay every time they get on a flight.
The Air Travel Security Charge is one of many fees that flyers pay when they buy a plane ticket. The money goes to funding and improving vital airport services like passenger screening and baggage handling.
First implemented in 2002 after the Sept. 11 attacks, the fees have not increased since 2010, when they jumped up by more than 52 per cent to their current level.
The budget has earmarked an extra $1.8 billion to help fix the travel chaos that Canadians have experienced at airports of late, but it will come at a hefty cost for consumers. The Air Travel Security Charge is set to increase by almost 33 per cent next year.
That will bring the added fee on a one-way ticket within Canada to $9.94, on a flight to the U.S. to $16.89, and on a trip overseas to $34.42.
Economist Armine Yalnizyan said that, coming from a government claiming to be focused on helping Canadians deal with high inflation, the budget offered little of substance.
“Something is better than nothing,” she said of the grocery rebate program, “but affordability got the short shrift in this budget.”
She said tackling junk fees plays well among voters who can afford to do things like go on vacation and buy concert tickets, but they don’t help with the pain of necessities like food, shelter, and gas.
“They are catering to people who are inconvenienced by problems at the airport and the Taylor Swift crowd and saying ‘we are going to deal with Ticketmaster maybe’ but inconvenience is different than going hungry.”
“You don’t want to worry about inconvenience at a time of basic affordability.”
Here are 5 ways Budget 2023 will impact your wallet
Much of the federal Liberal government’s 2023 budget is geared towards helping Canadian households make ends meet — or at the very least, for example, shaving a few dollars off the cost of a concert ticket.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland teed up the 2023 spending plans as providing support for vulnerable Canadians who are feeling stressed about their own budgets after a year of high inflation and rapidly rising interest rates.
Some proposed measures will make a direct impact on households, while others will change the kinds of charges and interest rates businesses can levy at Canadians.
Here are five big takeaways from the federal budget you’ll want to know about.
Tax rebate aimed at grocery affordability
One highly touted measure in the 2023 budget is a one-time tax rebate aimed at helping Canadians cope with rampant food inflation.
The so-called “grocery rebate,” as reported by Global News and others ahead of the budget’s release on Tuesday, would be aimed at lower-income households. It would be delivered through the existing GST tax credit mechanism, with an estimated 11 million Canadians and families expected to qualify to receive the support.
The rebate is expected to deliver $467 directly to a family of four, $234 to a single Canadian without kids and $225 to the average senior.
Despite the name, the government won’t be checking that the rebate is spent directly on groceries.
But given that prices for food from the grocery store clocked in at 10.6 per cent annual inflation in February and has remained in double-digits since the summer, groceries continue to be major stressors on household budgets.
The timeline for the rollout of this rebate is uncertain and depends on when and if the 2023 budget is passed in Parliament.
Cracking down on ‘junk fees’
In the 2023 budget, the Liberal government is declaring war on “junk fees” — defined as “unexpected, hidden and additional fees” that crop up on everything from concert tickets to airfare, from telecom services to excessive shipping costs.
Details were sparse on how and when the government would tackle these fees, but the budget said Ottawa would work with regulatory agencies, provinces and territories to reduce unfair and excessive costs on some common expenses.
The United States government recently announced a similar crackdown on fees as consumers have swiftly complained online in the past few years about the exorbitant amounts charged for tickets to popular concerts, for example.
While some measures in the 2023 budget might reduce what you pay on airfare, others could see those costs rise.
The air travellers security charge (ATSC), which is typically paid by passengers on their tickets and helps to fund security screening and baggage protection services in Canada, is set to rise under the 2023 budget proposals.
The ATSC rate for a round-trip domestic flight would rise almost $5 to $19.87 under the new regime, while an international flight will see the charge hiked by nearly $9 to $34.42 on a flight out of Canada.
Help on loans
The federal government also announced its plans to help Canadians dealing with high interest rates on some loans.
Debt-servicing payments have grown rapidly over the past year as the Bank of Canada raised interest rates in an effort to cool spending and take some stream out of inflation. A rise in the central bank’s benchmark policy rate affects multiple kinds of debt, including mortgages, lines of credit and credit cards.
For Canadians struggling with mortgage payments after a year of rate hikes, Ottawa proposed a new mortgage code of conduct in the 2023 budget.
Through the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, the document would direct financial institutions to provide Canadians struggling to make mortgage payments with “fair and equitable access to relief measures.”
This could include adjusting payment schedules, extending amortizations on the loan or authorizing lump-sum payments, strategies some lenders already offer to clients who are in danger of defaulting on their mortgage.
Beyond mortgages, Ottawa is also planning to crack down on payday loans and predatory lenders.
The budget notes that these loans often target low-income and other vulnerable Canadians with a promise of quick relief at the cost of “very high interest rate loans” that can end up trapping consumers in a cycle of debt.
The Liberals are proposing to amend the Criminal Code to lower the threshold at which a rate of interest would be considered criminal from today’s annual rate of 47 per cent federally to 35 per cent, in line with the current rate in Quebec.
Payday lenders would also be able to charge Canadians no more than $14 per $100 borrowed under the new regime, bringing it down to the cap currently in place in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Standardizing chargers for devices
The federal government is also planning to cut down on the number of charging cables Canadians have lying around their kitchen drawers by standardizing the charging port for smartphones and other devices.
Following the lead of the European Union, which signalled it would mandate USB-C charging ports for small handheld devices and laptops by the end of 2024, Ottawa will also work with international partners to “explore implementing a standard charging port in Canada,” according to the budget.
The document said standardizing the charging port on phones and other devices could lower costs for Canadians and cut down on electronic waste.
Also in the vein of cutting down on waste, the Liberals are proposing a new “right to repair” framework for existing devices.
Currently, fixing broken appliances or devices can come with high fees or face delays when specific parts aren’t available.
The government is looking to roll out a framework in 2024 to make electronics easier to repair with spare parts expected to be readily accessible.
“By cutting down on the number of devices and appliances that are thrown out, we will be able to make life more affordable for Canadians and protect our environment,” the budget read.
Automatic tax filing to help low-income Canadians
Ottawa is also looking to help the estimated 12 per cent of Canadians who don’t currently file tax returns take advantage of benefits they might currently be missing out on.
Starting in 2023, the Canada Revenue Agency is expected to pilot a new “automatic filing system” to help vulnerable Canadians who don’t regularly file taxes receive the benefits they’re entitled to receive.
The government also intends to expand its existing auto-file program, File My Return, which sees low-income Canadians file returns by answering a few questions over the phone.
Ottawa plans to nearly triple the number of Canadians eligible for the auto-file program to two million by 2025.
Justin Trudeau has let Beijing deep into Canadian politics – The Telegraph
Canada helping Mexico invade the U.S., says Republican firebrand – CBC.ca
Canada’s 2018 world junior players ineligible for 2023 world championship amid investigation, Hockey Canada says – The Athletic
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