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Supreme Court of Canada reserves decision on constitutionality of refugee pact

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OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada will take time to weigh arguments about the constitutionality of a refugee agreement between Ottawa and Washington after hearing a challenge from claimants and human-rights advocates.

Opponents of the Safe Third Country Agreement argue it “contracts out” Canada’s international obligations to refugee claimants to the United States, without proper followup to ensure Washington is doing the job.

They want the top court to declare the legislation underpinning the pact in violation of the Section 7 Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees of life, liberty and security of the person.

The federal government has consistently defended the constitutionality of the agreement, under which Canada and the United States recognize each other as havens to seek protection.

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Supreme Court judges peppered both sides with questions Thursday about their legal arguments before reserving a decision in the case until a later date.

The binational agreement allows Canada to turn back prospective refugees who show up at land ports of entry along the Canada-U.S. border on the basis they must pursue their claims in the U.S., the country where they first arrived.

“We are not dealing with people who are fleeing from their home countries,” federal lawyer Marianne Zoric told the Supreme Court hearing. “They are people that are coming to Canada from a safe third country.”

In a written submission to the court, the government argues that returnees have access to fair asylum and detention processes south of the border. “It is not unreasonable to remove claimants to the United States so that they can claim protection in that country.”

Canadian refugee advocates have long battled the asylum agreement, contending the U.S. is not always a safe country for people fleeing persecution.

Several refugee claimants took the case to Federal Court along with the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Council of Churches and Amnesty International, which participated in the proceedings as public interest parties.

In each case, the applicants, who are citizens of El Salvador, Ethiopia and Syria, arrived at an official Canadian entry point from the U.S. and sought refugee protection.

They argued in court that by returning ineligible refugee claimants to the U.S., Canada exposes them to risks in the form of detention and other rights violations.

In her 2020 decision, Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald concluded the Safe Third Country Agreement results in ineligible claimants being imprisoned by U.S. authorities.

Detention and the consequences flowing from it are “inconsistent with the spirit and objective” of the refugee agreement and amount to a violation of the rights guaranteed by Section 7 of the Charter, she wrote.

“The evidence clearly demonstrates that those returned to the U.S. by Canadian officials are detained as a penalty.”

McDonald also found evidence of barriers in accessing legal advice and acquiring the necessary documents to establish an asylum claim in the U.S., heightening the risk of people being returned to dangers in their home country.

However, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the decision last year.

“The alleged constitutional defect in this case stems from how administrators and officials are operating the legislative scheme, not the legislative scheme itself,” the Appeal Court said.

“But because the claimants chose not to attack any administrative conduct, we have neither the ability nor the evidence before us to assess it.”

The Court of Appeal also found the legislative regime consistent with the Charter unless the treatment experienced by those sent back to the U.S. could be shown to “shock the conscience.”

In their written submission to the Supreme Court, the claimants and advocates say the Appeal Court “declined to engage with the substantive merits of the case” and adopted a “highly restrictive approach to Charter review.”

They argue the U.S. immigration detention system has been “widely condemned for its serious violations of international minimum standards” for holding asylum seekers.

“This legislative scheme effectively contracts out Canada’s international obligations to refugee claimants based on the premise that the U.S. will fulfil those obligations for us,” the submission says.

While Canada is required by law to ensure this premise remains valid through ongoing monitoring of U.S. asylum policies and practices, “it has failed to do so,” they argue.

On the contrary, the government says, at the time of the Federal Court hearing, Canadian review of the binational agreement was “efficient, effective and thorough,” and the information gathered did not reveal significant problems.

Justice Malcolm Rowe suggested to Andrew Brouwer, a lawyer for the public interest parties, that they were arguing any failure within the U.S. immigration system means Canada can never turn anyone back at the border because it will be contrary to the Charter.

“Isn’t that what you’re saying to us?”

Brouwer indicated there is evidence that Canada sends refugees into circumstances where they face detention and the risk of persecution.

“What we’re saying is that if Canada wants to rely on the United States as a partner for refugee protection, then at a minimum, Canada needs to be able to rely on the U.S. upholding its obligations to ensure effective protection to those that we hand over to the U.S.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 6, 2022.

 

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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Bank of Canada raises key interest rate to 4.25 per cent, its highest since 2008 – CTV News

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The Bank of Canada has raised its overnight rate by 50 basis points to 4.25 per cent, marking its seventh rate hike in nine months. The last time the bank’s policy rate was this high was in January 2008.

The inflation rate remained high at 6.9 per cent in October, well above the bank’s 2 per cent target. Higher gas prices put upward pressure on the cost of most goods and services, according to the Consumer Price Index released by Statistics Canada last month.

The bank says the economy continued to operate in excess demand during the third quarter and the labour market in Canada remained tight. With unemployment remaining at historic lows, Statistics Canada reported average hourly wages rose by 5.6 per cent year-over-year in October.

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The bank says tighter monetary policy is affecting domestic demand in the Canadian economy, with declines in the housing market and consumption moderating during the third quarter. Since its monetary report in October, the bank continues to expect economic growth to stall through the end of this year and into the first half of 2023.

“The November GDP data showed us that economic activity in Canada had already started to shrink,” said Sheila Block, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “Given that slowdown, any hopes for a soft landing have been crushed by today’s rate hikes.”

During a press conference following the bank’s last rate announcement on Oct. 27, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem signalled “the tightening phase will draw to a close, we are getting closer, but we aren’t there yet.”

On Wednesday, the bank did not rule out further rate increases to tackle inflation.

“Looking ahead, Governing Council will be considering whether the policy interest rate needs to rise further to bring supply and demand back into balance and return inflation to target,” reads the release.

However, experts think it will be difficult for the bank to raise rates during a period of low growth.

“It will be very hard for a central bank to raise interest rates when the economy is in a recession,” said Kevin Page, Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy President and CEO. “I think it is highly probable that the central bank will not need to raise interest rates in the short term (next three to six months).”

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre blamed the cost of living crisis on the federal government’s increased spending during the pandemic.

“It’s another uppercut for Canadians,” said Poilievre. “It’s all because of the inflationary deficits and spending of Justin Trudeau.”

Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called for other measures to help combat inflation.

“The federal government has to do more to look at the solutions around inflation,” said Singh during a press conference in Ottawa. “Some of those solutions include acknowledging that high profits in the corporate sector — corporate greed — is contributing to the cost of living going up.”

In the House of Commons, Associate Minister of Finance Randy Boissonnault defended his government’s policies to address the increased cost of living.

“The bank is doing their job. We’re doing our job by making sure we have the fiscal fire power to face what’s going to come,” he said during Question Period. “We’re helping Canadians to buy a new home, we’re advancing the payments for worker benefits and we’re also making sure student loan interest gets removed forever.”

The next policy rate announcement is expected on Jan. 25, 2023.

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Media shunning transparency law due to worsening delays, journalist says

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Veteran journalist Dean Beeby says reporters are abandoning the federal Access to Information Act as a research tool because turnaround times are terrible and getting worse.

The access law allows journalists and others who pay a $5 fee to request documents — from internal emails and expense claims to briefing memos and studies — but it has long been criticized as antiquated and poorly administered.

Federal agencies are supposed to respond within 30 days or provide valid reasons why they need more time to process a request.

The law has not been significantly updated since its introduction almost 40 years ago, and many users complain of lengthy delays as well as heavily blacked-out documents or full denials in response to their applications.

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Beeby, an independent journalist who spent much of his career at The Canadian Press, says bureaucrats now realize they face a much bigger blowback from releasing information than from withholding it — and the law provides a rich menu of excuses to keep things buried.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

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Google releases Canada’s top searches of 2022

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From serious news stories to fun diversions, Canadians have done a lot of Google searches this year.

The internet search engine released its list of the most viral web searches in Canada for 2022.

Here are the Top Search Trends this year: 

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  1. Wordle
  2. Ukraine
  3. World Cup
  4. Queen Elizabeth
  5. Betty White
  6. Bob Saget
  7. Anne Heche
  8. Canuckle
  9. Johnny Depp
  10. Will Smith

“Over the last couple of years, Canadians were facing a lot of uncertainty. This year was all about supporting each other and embracing the new normals,” said Google trends expert Habiq Ali.

“Wordle was the number one top trending search term in Canada. But it was also the number one top trending search term around the world, so this web-based word game has really taken the world by storm.”

Top Canadian News Search Trends:

  1. Ukraine
  2. Rogers outage
  3. Monkeypox
  4. Lisa LaFlamme
  5. CNE
  6. U.S. Midterm Elections
  7. Saskatchewan stabbings
  8. World Cup 2022
  9. Oscars 2022
  10. Freedom Convoy 2022
 

Canadians weren’t just Googling games and current news events, they were also asking ‘Why?’

Why…

  1. Why is Russia attacking Ukraine?
  2. Why is Rogers down?
  3. Why did Will slap Chris?
  4. Why is Ukraine not in NATO?
  5. Why is there a formula shortage?
  6. Why is gas so expensive right now?
  7. Why are truckers protesting?
  8. Why is there a Tylenol shortage?
  9. Why is cryptocurrency going down?
  10. Why did Liz Truss resign?

Another question they asked was ‘how:’

How to…

  1. How to watch the World Cup
  2. How to do a rapid COVID test?
  3. How to help Ukraine?
  4. How to get a vaccine QR code?
  5. How to create an NFT?
  6. How to pronounce Kyiv?
  7. How to evolve Charcadet?
  8. How to “respec” in Elden Ring?
  9. How to evolve Cosmog in Pokémon Go?
  10. How to pronounce Qatar?

Canadians were also heavily plugged into pop culture and entertainment. From the infamous Will Smith Oscars slap to the Johnny Depp defamation trial, here were the top celebrities, movies and shows of the year:

Top Celebrities

  1. Johnny Depp
  2. Will Smith
  3. Amber Heard
  4. Chris Rock
  5. Adam Levine
  6. King Charles
  7. Jada Pinkett Smith
  8. Julia Fox
  9. Bruce Willis
  10. Mary J. Blige

Top Movies

  1. Encanto
  2. Top Gun
  3. The Batman
  4. Thor: Love and Thunder
  5. Turning Red
  6. Black Adam
  7. Everything Everywhere All at Once
  8. Morbius
  9. Uncharted
  10. Don’t Worry Darling
 

Top TV Series

  1. Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story
  2. Euphoria
  3. Stranger Things
  4. Inventing Anna
  5. The Watcher
  6. House of the Dragon
  7. Moon Knight
  8. Yellowstone
  9. The Boys
  10. The Summer I Turned Pretty

It was also a very busy year for sports fans with the Winter Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.

Top Sports Searches

  1. World Cup
  2. Olympic medal count
  3. Calgary Flames
  4. Olympics
  5. CFL scores
  6. T20 World Cup 2022
  7. Asia Cup 2022
  8. Canada Soccer
  9. Golden State Warriors
  10. Indian Wells tennis

Top Athletes

  1. Guy Lafleur
  2. Novak Djokovic
  3. Antonio Brown
  4. Serena Williams
  5. Eileen Gu
  6. Kamila Valieva
  7. Felix Auger Aliassime
  8. Mitchell Miller
  9. Johnny Gaudreau
  10. Kirby Dach

“It’s a really interesting way for us to look back at the year and see what inspired us and what intrigued us,” Ali told Global News.

“From a social perspective and from a political perspective, it kind of just shows us what’s top of mind for Canadians this year.”

&copy 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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