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State legislators formally ask Ottawa, White House to reopen Canada-U.S. border – CTV News



A well-known American advocate of stronger Canada-U.S. ties helped state lawmakers from across the Midwest formally vent their bilateral frustrations Wednesday with an official request that the two countries “immediately” open their shared border to fully vaccinated travellers.

Scotty Greenwood, CEO of the Canadian American Business Council, was giving a presentation to the Midwestern Legislative Conference in Rapid City, S.D., when she got an earful from delegates complaining about Canada’s arbitrary enforcement of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

By the time the annual meeting of the conference was over, it had unanimously passed a formal resolution, at Greenwood’s suggestion, adding more political pressure to the burning question of precisely when and how incidental travel between Canada and the United States will resume.

“The interpretation of what is considered essential travel has been a matter of discretion by individual border crossing agents, creating confusion,” the resolution reads.

“The Midwestern Legislative Conference does hereby request that the United States and Canadian federal governments fully reopen the border to all fully vaccinated individuals immediately.”

It further notes that Canada is the second-largest source of foreign direct investment in the U.S., supporting about 500,000 jobs there, and that the two countries racked up $48 billion in two-way agricultural trade in 2019, before the onset of the pandemic.

The resolution describes the relationship as the most prosperous in the world, amounting to more than a trillion dollars in trade and investment each year, but one that depends on the “efficient movement of people, goods and services” to function properly.

The conference, an offshoot of the Council of State Governments, represents legislators from 11 states across the U.S. Midwest — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin — as well as the province of Saskatchewan. Alberta, Ontario and Quebec are also affiliate members.

The Maple Leaf flag was on display during Tuesday’s state dinner, Canada was mentioned in prayers beforehand and the national anthem was performed, but despite these flourishes none of the Canadian-based delegates were on hand because of the restrictions.

The resolution, Greenwood said in an interview, was not preplanned, but rather emerged organically from her discussions with delegates and was passed unopposed — an indication of the mounting frustrations south of the border, particularly in the agricultural community.

“This is not just the northern border. This is the entire Midwestern region of the United States,” Greenwood said.

“It’s significant because of the broad reach, if you just look at the map of the country and who these folks represent. It’s significant because it is bipartisan; it’s leadership from all of these state governments. And it is a validation of how important this Canada-U.S. relationship is, and what is at stake economically if we continue to keep the border closed.”

The border has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020, with the mutual restrictions extended bilaterally on a monthly basis ever since. They are currently set to expire July 21, which means an announcement about next steps is likely in the coming days.

Last week, Canada began exempting fully vaccinated Canadian citizens, permanent residents and a handful of eligible others from the requirement that they quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, including three days in a government-approved hotel in the case of air travellers.

Trudeau refused to say Wednesday when further changes might come. “We will make the appropriate announcements at the appropriate time,” he said.

Experts and observers have been speculating about whether the U.S. might lift its own restrictions along the northern border before Canada is prepared to reciprocate. Signals to date from White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggest that’s unlikely, at least for now.

Those same observers, however, see the prospect of a looming federal election in Canada — and fears of long delays at the border serving as the backdrop to a campaign sure to hinge on how the governing Liberals have handled the pandemic — as a major factor in the federal government’s thinking.

Public opinion in Canada, which was dead-set against the idea of allowing U.S. residents into the country at a time when COVID-19 was running rampant in that country, has begun to shift, said Kathryn Bryk Friedman, a border expert and professor of law and planning at the University at Buffalo.

“I believe that the federal election in Canada is playing a strong role in the calculus of whether to lift border restrictions,” Friedman said.

“If Canadian public opinion is shifting, then the government will, in my opinion, follow suit.”

Whatever happens, it needs to unfold in a mutual, bilateral fashion, said David Jacobson, a U.S. ambassador to Canada under former president Barack Obama who now serves as vice-chair with BMO Financial Group. It would be “suboptimal” if the U.S. decided to go it alone, he said in an interview.

“People move back and forth, sometimes within a matter of hours; well, if one side is open, and the other side requires 14 days of suffering, that’s not going to work,” Jacobson said.

As for any long-term effect on Canada-U.S. relations, it’s possible it ends up being for the better, he added.

“If this relationship can withstand Donald Trump for four years, it can withstand whatever’s going on now — there is too firm a foundation,” Jacobson said. “Maybe it’s one of those many things where we demonstrate that unlike a lot of neighbours, we’re able to work together and we’re able to solve problems together.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 14, 2021.

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IRCC: Canada welcomed over 35,000 new immigrants in June – Canada Immigration News



Published on July 28th, 2021 at 05:00am EDT Updated on July 28th, 2021 at 07:14am EDT

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Canada recorded its strongest month for new permanent resident arrivals during the pandemic in June 2021, according to the office of Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

In a recent Globe and Mail article, the minister says “We are going to make good on our commitment to land 401,000 new permanent residents.”

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Under its Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023, the Canadian government is seeking to welcome at least 401,000 new immigrants annually, beginning this year. Prior to the pandemic, this target was set at 341,000 newcomers.

The plan is the most ambitious in Canada’s history. Only once has Canada welcomed over 400,000 immigrants in a year. This took place in 1913, but Canadian immigration plummeted immediately after due to the onset of the First World War.

The minister’s office estimates that Canada welcomed over 35,000 new permanent residents in June. In follow up email correspondence with CIC News, the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said its preliminary figures show Canada welcomed 35,700 immigrants last month. This figure is significantly higher than Canada’s totals in recent months.

Canada got off to a strong start to the year. It welcomed 24,680 new immigrants in January but lost momentum in the months to follow. The country then welcomed 23,395 in February, 22,425 in March, and 21,155 in April, and 17,100 in May.

Altogether Canada has welcomed some 143,000 new permanent residents through the first six months of 2021 which remains well short of the pace it needs to welcome 401,000 newcomers by the end of this year.

In order to achieve this newcomer target, Canada needs to land another 258,000 immigrants — an average of 43,000 per month — over the rest of the year.

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Welcoming this volume of immigration over the remaining six months will be difficult but there is an outside chance it can be achieved.

Prior to the pandemic Canada welcomed an average of 25,000 to 35,000 newcomers per month. Immigration levels tend to be higher in the warmer months as more newcomers arrive during favourable weather conditions and leading up to the start of the academic and business calendar in September.

In 2019, levels were stronger in the second half of the year compared to the first as Canada welcomed 180,000 newcomers between July and December.

Assuming Canada welcomes that same level in the second half of 2021, it will conclude the year at just over 320,000 new permanent residents which is still below its target.

However there are several tailwinds remaining that could propel Canada closer to its newcomer goal.

Some 23,000 additional Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) holders are now eligible to move to Canada after restrictions on them were eased on June 21st.

Anyone else newly approved for permanent residence can also immediately move to Canada as a result of this easing.

IRCC also introduced six new permanent residency streams that will enable some 90,000 international student graduates and essential workers to remain in Canada. The department’s goal is to process some 40,000 of these applications by the end of this year.

The third tailwind is also from the domestic pool of permanent residence candidates. IRCC has been breaking various Express Entry records throughout the year as it prioritizes Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates.

Draw sizes are larger than ever while cut-off scores are at record lows. According to IRCC, some 90 per cent of CEC candidates currently reside in Canada so it is easier for the department to transition them to permanent residence amid the pandemic than candidates abroad. IRCC has already issued nearly 100,000 Express Entry invitations this year which is almost double the invitations it issued at the same point in 2020. A significant portion of those invited during the pandemic should complete their permanent residence landing by the end of 2021.

The minister’s office told the Globe that the 45,100 permanent residence applications IRCC processed in June were the highest ever, which suggests that IRCC has the capacity to process and finalize the necessary number of applications to achieve its levels goal.

There are risks along the way that could disrupt IRCC’s plans. The global coronavirus situation remains volatile and things such as increased case levels and travel restrictions could get in the way. For example, Canada continues to restrict flights from its main newcomer source country, India.

A prolonging of this restriction could get in the way of IRCC’s goal. Further delays to COPR holder arrivals is another risk. IRCC is currently seeking to correspond with thousands of expired COPR holders to arrange their landing in Canada. This is a time-consuming process as IRCC needs to individually contact each COPR holder to ensure they have all the necessary documents to complete the immigration process.

Nonetheless, the coming months should see immigration levels remain high. There also remains a strong chance that monthly immigration totals will hit record highs by the end of the year due to the combination of more overseas arrivals and in-Canada applicants completing their landings.

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

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Sask. softball gets boost with Team Canada's bronze finish – CTV News Saskatoon



Members of the Saskatchewan softball community say Team Canada’s bronze medal win will help the future of the sport.

“Watching the Olympics, seeing Team Canada, seeing players that they recognize and names they recognize. It sets a drive for them to compete at the sport, and train hard, and have a goal and a dream of playing in the Olympics,” said Bryan Kosteroski, president of the Saskatoon Amateur Softball Association.

One of the names on Team Canada’s roster that stood out for Kosteroski was Jennifer Gilbert, who was born in Saskatoon.

“Now you look at Jennifer Gilbert, she was born in Saskatoon and has that Saskatchewan connection, they’re going to look at that and they’re going to say to themselves ‘you know what? I’m going to train, and I’m going to train hard. I want to be at the Olympic games in the future,” Kosteroski said.

“That’s the goal with all of these young ladies, that’s why they’re playing the sport, and that’s their drive, to play in the Olympics.”

Guy Jacobson, executive director for Softball Saskatchewan, said exposure coming to the sport of softball is always a good thing, and Team Canada’s win should have a big impact.

“It gives young players, especially young female players aspiring to maybe go further in the sport, an opportunity to think that there’s some great things down the path for them,” Jacobson told CTV News.

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Disney to close almost all of its stores in Canada by next month –



Disney is planning on closing down almost all of its retail stores in Canada by next month.

The iconic chain announced in March that it planned to close 60 locations across North America this year, but had no specific comment on its Canadian locations, which at the time numbered 18.

“While consumer behaviour has shifted toward online shopping, the global pandemic has changed what consumers expect from a retailer,” the company’s statement at the time said. “Disney will remain flexible in its approach and continue to evolve its retail strategy to best meet the needs of consumers when and where they want.”

Since then, two stores in B.C. and one in Ontario have closed. It now appears as though almost all the remaining stores are slated to close down within weeks.

The chain currently has three locations in Vancouver, two in Calgary, two in Edmonton, one in Winnipeg, one in Ottawa five in the Greater Toronto Area and two elsewhere in Ontario. According to the store locator map on the company’s Canadian website, all but two of the GTA stores say they will be closed as of Aug. 18.

A spokesperson for Disney did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the fate of the two GTA stores not apparently slated for closure according to the chain’s website: one in the Eaton Centre downtown, and one in Scarborough in the eastern end of the city.

Shift to online

Retail analyst Bruce Winder says Disney has likely found more efficient ways to drive its brand and merchandise.

He says he expects the company will eventually connect its e-commerce platform shopDisney to its subscription streaming service Disney+.

The closure of Disney stores in Canada is part of sweeping changes hitting the retail industry and malls, Winder says.

“Malls are going to change considerably in terms of what they do and how they operate and what kind of stores are in there,” he says.

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