An asylum seeker died after waiting hours for a shelter space. Advocates are demanding action – CBC.ca
An asylum seeker who waited hours in the cold to be allowed inside a Mississauga shelter died over the weekend, say advocates demanding immediate action to address growing pressure on the region’s already overcrowded shelter system.
Kizito Musabimana, executive director of the Rwandan Canadian Healing Centre, identified the asylum seeker as Delphina Ngigi, 46, of Kenya. She had four children, all of whom are still in Kenya. Her family has been notified of her death.
“People are coming to seek refuge and what we are doing is leaving them on the street, in this case, leaving them outside for hours,” Musabimana said.
Musabimana said Ngigi arrived at the shelter at 1767 Dundas St. E. at about 1 p.m. on Saturday and was forced to wait outside in the cold for hours, before she was let into the lobby at about 8 p.m.
Ngigi spent the night there and collapsed when she was taking a shower in the shelter on Sunday, he said. She was taken to hospital shortly afterwards, was still awake and conscious at 2 p.m., but died there just after 4:30 p.m. Her cause of death has not been released.
The centre is trying to raise money to send her body back to Kenya to be buried, he added.
A spokesperson for Peel Region confirmed to CBC News that an asylum seeker arrived at the shelter over the Family Day weekend only to find there was no space, and died in hospital after spending the night on the floor of the shelter’s lobby.
‘When is this going to be a priority?’
In a news release, leaders of African Canadian groups said there is an urgent need for governments to address the situation, noting it has claimed the lives of two African migrants already. Last fall, another asylum seeker, a Nigerian man, died outside of the same shelter.
“It is unfortunate that this is the second time that I’m standing here for exactly the same reason,” said Pastor Eddie Jjumba, one of several members of those groups who spoke at a news conference in Mississauga on Friday, pleading for government action. Jjumba is a pastor at the Milliken Wesleyan Methodist Church in Markham.
“When is this going to be a priority?” he asked the crowd.
“This is not just an issue of Mississauga. This is not just an issue of York Region or Toronto. This is a national issue and it should be responded to as such.”
Alvin Nicholson, of Canadian Black Clergy and Allies, appealed to all Canadians to help people seeking shelter.
“Let us present to the world the Canada we want the world to see,” he said. “No one leaves their country, seeking refuge, to die.”
Local councillor calls for more federal funding
Ngigi’s death is prompting a local councillor to call on the federal government to provide $7 million in promised funding for a welcome centre for refugees and asylum seekers near Toronto’s Pearson International Airport as well as additional funding to help Peel Region settle asylum seekers. Specifically, Peel Region wants $84 million to provide shelter to asylum seekers and another $9 million to cover the costs of settling Ukrainian refugees.
The federal government has promised funding for the welcome centre, but Mississauga councillor Dipika Damerla, who represents Ward 7, says the money for that hasn’t begun flowing.
Damerla said the shelter is not to blame for the death. Instead, the death is a sign that the temporary shelter system in Peel Region is overburdened, she said.
The region is currently providing shelter for about 1,200 asylum seekers.
“This just shines a spotlight on the enormous pressure our shelter systems are under,” Damerla said on Thursday, adding the woman received timely medical assistance at the shelter and hospital.
“We are sometimes turning away asylum seekers and I think that’s a disgrace. The situation has gotten worse,” she added. “And it doesn’t have to be this way. If the federal government would just come to the table and start funding us properly, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said Friday he’s troubled by the lack of progress since another asylum seeker died in Peel Region in the fall.
“In November, you know, I was losing my mind over the fact that we were at 300 per cent capacity,” he said. “We’re at 400 per cent capacity now. It’s getting worse, despite the promises of new funding.”
“The shelter system is so much over capacity that we’re going to see more fatalities,” he said, calling this week’s death “heartbreaking” and “avoidable.”
Region needs to do more, advocate says
But local advocates say the region needs to do more than lobby for more funding.
“We want answers and the answers cannot be, ‘Oh, we need to get the money from the federal government so we can do this work,'” Musabimana said.
“We need to spend and then go to the federal government to be reimbursed if that’s what needs to be done.”
A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told CBC News the federal government has provided $10 million to Peel Region as an instalment toward its final 2023 Interim Housing Assistance Program claim.
“The federal government has also committed to supporting to open a new reception centre that will provide temporary shelter and more streamlined services and supports to asylum claimants. On January 31, 2024, Minister (Marc) Miller announced an additional $362.4 million in funding for the Interim Housing Assistance Program (IHAP). This is in addition to the $212 million that was announced in the summer of 2023,” the statement said.
“We are deeply saddened to hear news about the death of an individual at a shelter in Mississauga. Our hearts go out to the family.”
Online harms bill: What to know about new bill coming – CTV News
Years in the making, the federal government is poised to introduce a new piece of legislation on Monday aimed at addressing a series of online harms.
The bill will have a significant focus on protecting children with specific obligations for platforms, according to a senior government source who was not authorized to speak publicly about details yet to be made public.
It will also seek to address non-consensual AI porn deepfakes, though the legislation is not expected to provide law enforcement with new powers, the source said.
Put on the notice paper for Monday’s return to the House of Commons, the bill proposes to enact the “Online Harms Act” and advance amendments to the Criminal Code, the Canadian Human Rights Act, as well as laws regarding the mandatory reporting of internet child pornography.
This is not the first time the Liberals have tried to advance legislation to this effect, but after experts panned the first proposal as flawed, the government went back to the drawing board to reshape its plans amid an evolving online environment.
Government officials from the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Department of Justice will hold a technical briefing for reporters on Monday afternoon, followed by a press conference led by Justice Minister Arif Virani at 5:15 p.m. ET, according to a media advisory.
Ahead of the bill’s tabling, here’s what you need to know.
What online harms will be included?
While the full scope of the legislation won’t be revealed until it is made public upon tabling in the House of Commons, it is expected to be an evolved version of the Liberals’ initial proposal, to include an emphasis on harms to youth.
Originally, the government set out wanting to impose rules and regulations that would require online platforms to be more accountable for, and transparent about five kinds of harmful content: hate speech, terrorist content, incitement to violence, the sharing of non-consensual images, and child exploitation.
In addition to these areas of focus, according to the senior source CTV News spoke with, concerns were also raised during consultations about kids experiencing cyberbullying and inciting self-harm. Those two areas are expected to be addressed through this legislation.
Part of the legislation’s measures to tackle the non-consensual sharing of intimate images will include cracking down on the rising trend of sexually explicit deepfakes, and allowing for specific takedown requirements of what’s become known as “revenge porn,” as has been reported.
The source said despite the recent calls for action to address this area, sparked by international headlines related to fake images circulating of mega star Taylor Swift, the government has been working on legislative amendments to this effect, for some time.
Which minister is taking the lead?
While this file has been in the hands of successive ministers of heritage, and the Canadian Heritage department, Virani will be taking the lead on the incoming bill, rather than Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge.
Earlier this week, Virani was quietly sworn-in as “Minister of State (Online Harms)” specifically “to assist the Minister of Canadian Heritage in the carrying out that minister’s responsibilities.”
This, from a machinery of government perspective, is likely to allow the justice minister to continue to tap into Canadian Heritage departmental resources as the bill winds its way through Parliament.
Before being shuffled into the portfolio, St-Onge spoke to CTV News last year about how she’s personally seen the need for legislation to better protect people online.
It remains to be seen how the two ministers will collaborate on shepherding the legislation through the House and Senate, which will include fielding parliamentarians’ questions, and potentially testifying at committee.
What’s the backstory on this bill?
This bill originated with a 2019 mandate letter request from the prime minister to then-heritage minister Steven Guilbeault to: “Create new regulations for social media platforms, starting with a requirement that all platforms remove illegal content.”
Under his time heading the file, this resulted in two main actions. First, the introduction of what was known as Bill C-36, which was tabled at the eleventh hour of the last Parliament and focused on hate speech. It died on the order paper and has never been revisited.
The second move came two weeks before Trudeau called the 2021 election, when the government presented a “technical discussion paper” on a proposed legislative framework to tackle five forms of harmful online content.
Among the ideas floated in the government’s initial proposal were implementing a 24-hour takedown requirement for content deemed harmful; compelling platforms to provide data on their algorithms and provide a rationale for when action is taken on flagged posts; and installing a new system for Canadians to appeal platforms’ decisions around content moderation.
After facing significant pushback to this discussion paper, during the 2021 campaign, the Liberals promised to move on a “balanced and targeted” online harms bill within 100 days of the last election. After the vote, Pablo Rodriguez took over the portfolio and went back to the drawing board.
This reworking included tapping a panel of experts and specialists in platform governance, content regulation, civil liberties, tech regulation, and national security to help guide the government on what the bill should and shouldn’t include.
In the summer of 2022, Rodriguez and top officials from his department travelled across the country to hold panel discussions with stakeholders and representatives from minority groups. As of then, sources were expressing optimism that the bill would be ready for early 2023.
Months later and still no legislation in sight, experts that helped craft the bill penned an open letter indicating that after soliciting successive forms of consultation, it was time for legislation to be brought forward, noting the lacking protections for Canadian kids compared to other countries with similar laws already in place.
Will this be a political hot potato?
If the exchange of jabs between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre this week are any indication, this legislation has the potential of becoming a lightning rod.
Heading into the tabling of this bill after two previous rounds of highly contentious debates around their online news and online streaming bills, the government is mindful of the potential for an even bigger fight when it comes to online harms.
Already attempting to dispel the Conservative line of attack that this bill is centrally about censorship, Trudeau told reporters this week that the legislation will be “very specifically focused on protecting kids and not on censoring the internet.”
“We know, and everyone can agree that kids are vulnerable online… We need to do a better job as a society of protecting our kids online, the way we protect them in school yards,” Trudeau said. “Now how to go about that is a very careful balance.”
This came in response to Poilievre prepositioning his party as opposed to what he called the “latest attack on freedom of expression,” from the prime minister, who he accused of viewing hate speech as “speech he hates.”
Noting Poilievre has yet to see the legislation, the prime minister said his approach was not responsible.
“Leadership is about dealing in facts, actually reading a piece of legislation before he starts telling people what he thinks it does, and then having a rigorous debate in Parliament,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister also recently pushed back at NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who linked the October 2023 death of a 12-year-old boy in British Columbia who died by suicide after being a victim of online sextortion, with the Liberals’ delayed action on the online harms legislation.
Both Singh and Poilievre have put their support behind a separate but potentially conflicting piece of legislation from the Senate that would require age verification online to access explicit sites like Pornhub.
The Liberals are opposed to what is known as Bill S-210, with the source CTV News spoke indicating that Virani’s legislation will take a more overarching approach to protections for minors across online sites.
Some Ukrainians in Quebec struggle with French requirement for immigration – Canada News – Castanet.net
Inna Gonchukova never expected to live in Canada. But almost two years after fleeing war-torn Ukraine, she says she has mostly settled into life in Granby, Que., about 65 kilometres east of Montreal, though she longs to one day return to her home country and reunite with her husband who stayed behind.
“My husband has his war and I have my own war here because I need to give to my kids (the) best future,” Gonchukova said in a phone interview Saturday.
For now, however, she says that future is uncertain. She is considering staying in Quebec and even took French classes, but she doesn’t know if she will have time to further develop her language skills and prepare for the exam she would have to take to demonstrate French proficiency, a requirement for many of the province’s immigration programs.
“It’s not so easy,” she said. “You need to prepare and you need to have time. As a single mom of two kids and I work a lot, difficult to prepare, difficult to find the time.”
Gonchukova is among the displaced Ukrainians in Quebec who are unsure they would be able to meet the French requirement. Like many Ukrainians, she came to Canada through a federal program that allows her to stay and work in the country for three years, called the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel.
Beneficiaries have until the end of March to apply to extend their status, but immigration lawyer Nataliya Dzera says that even with an extension it will be difficult for some members of the community to attain French proficiency.
Dzera works with displaced Ukrainians and says many came to Quebec with some or no French skills because they never thought they would live in the province. But two years later, French has become key for some seeking a more permanent home in what was once a temporary refuge.
“But it’s not going to be easy and far from everybody will be able to do that,” Dzera said of Ukrainians trying to learn French while supporting their families and meeting other work requirements.
An update to Quebec’s immigration policy last year made French skills mandatory for both of the province’s major immigration programs for skilled workers, Dzera said. The province also eliminated an avenue for some people to immigrate without passing a French exam, she explained.
Other immigration streams, such as humanitarian and family reunification programs, are more limited in scope and likely unavailable to many Ukrainians, she explained.
Gonchukova says she may seek employer sponsorship, or even return to Europe and apply for permanent residence from outside Canada.
Tetiana Iriohlu is another displaced Ukrainian who says her life was turned upside down when the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, 2022. She and her two daughters eventually settled just outside Montreal in Longueuil, Que. and hope to stay, she said Saturday.
Iriohlu also took French courses and plans to apply for permanent residence. She says she has already passed an oral expression section of the requisite French test and is studying for a second exam on oral comprehension.
She is confident she will succeed and says she has benefited from a supportive community of both Ukrainians and Quebecers. Others don’t have that privilege, she said.
“A lot of the single mothers who came with children knew neither English nor French,” she said. “And they take low-skilled jobs, which severely limits their ability to apply for permanent residence, and they still have to learn French.”
“This mission is extremely difficult,” she said.
In a statement, Quebec’s Immigration, Francisation and Integration Department said it has no plans to relax immigration requirements to accommodate displaced Ukrainians. The department pointed to the availability of free French courses in the province with financial aid of up to $230 per week for qualifying immigrants in full-time courses and $28 per day for those in part-time courses.
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