Trans people can claim asylum in Canada, despite e-petition
More than 130,000 people have signed an e-petition calling on Canada to give transgender and non-binary people fleeing harmful laws in their home countries the right to claim asylum, but that’s already possible in this country.
The online petition asking the federal government to take action launched in January has been recently gaining traction on social media, seeing tens of thousands of Canadians, as well as celebrities, sharing the petition and calls to go sign it.
“We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to extend to transgender and nonbinary people the right to claim asylum in Canada by reason of eliminationist laws in their home countries, whatever country that may be,” reads the e-petition.
Despite the e-petition asking for Canada to allow asylum claims on grounds that are already established, it’s currently garnered the most signatures by far of any current petitions on the House of Commons’ site, from all provinces and territories.
It was initiated by Ontario woman and trans advocate Caitlin Glasson. In an interview with CTV News Kitchener in February, she said she picked an e-petition “as a means of directly approaching the government with something I feel is urgent and important.”
The e-petition points to recent laws and proposed policy changes in the United States and United Kingdom seeking to weaken protections for trans and non-binary people, in making the case for allowing asylum claims from countries that have historically been considered “safe.”
An immigration lawyer with expertise in LGBTQ2S+ cases told CTVNews.ca however, that LGBTQ2S+ people already are able to qualify as refugees by citing a risk of persecution—including in relation to discriminatory laws in their home country—based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“This petition is aimed at getting legal protection that we actually already have in Canadian law. We represent many trans and non-binary people in our practice, and they’re very successful in front of the Refugee Board,” said Michael Battista in an interview. “It’s not like only certain countries can claim on the basis of certain grounds.”
According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the federal department responsible for Canada’s asylum policies, Canada has a “proud history of protecting and helping resettle the world’s most vulnerable groups,” and that includes allowing LGBTQ2S+ people to claim asylum over concerns of persecution.
Through the streams currently available, the degree of vulnerability for both resettled refugees and asylum claimants’ cases are considered.
Senior departmental spokesperson for IRCC Remi Lariviere said Canada works with agencies such as the United Nations Refugee Agency and Rainbow Refugee Society to resettle government-assisted refugees, while all eligible asylum claimants are assessed on the individual merits of their situation by an independent tribunal known as the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB).
“In making its decisions, the IRB takes into account whether an individual has a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group, including 2SLGBTQI+,” Lariviere said in a statement to CTVNews.ca.
The online petition is being supported by Green Party MP for Kitchener Centre, Ont. Mike Morrice, who called the legal changes in the U.S. and the U.K. “disconcerting,” and pointed to the popularity of the proposal as a strong sign that Canadians want the government to affirm this country’s welcoming reputation.
“I think it’s so important to be mindful of what Canadians are pointing legislators towards in terms of concerns of theirs. And given the number of signatories here, I think that gives us pretty good evidence of that,” he said.
He told CTVNews.ca he was not aware that the current asylum regime was available to claimants from countries considered safe, pointing to the Safe Third Country Agreement.
However, that cross-border agreement blocks refugee claims from non-U.S. citizens who travel through the U.S. to make a refugee claim in Canada, noted Battista. It does not apply to U.S. citizens.
In a follow up, his office told CTVNews.ca that: “While it may be technically possible… practically we’re not aware of any cases someone was successful.”
It is true that while citizens in any country—including the U.S. and U.K.— can make a claim for refugee status, the issue becomes more complicated when going the step further of considering, beyond having the right to claim, the actual rate of success of these claims from applicants coming from certain countries.
Due to a concept known as “internal flight alternative,” part of the considerations in determining whether someone is at risk of persecution is whether that person could safely relocate to another part of their home country.
“So I think if somebody was coming from the United States, there would be that question of could they go to another part of the country and live safely?” said Battista.
For example, the IRB may look at whether it would be reasonable for an American asylum claimant to move to a state such as Minnesota, where the governor recently signed a “trans refuge” order to protect access to gender-affirming care.
According to Kimahli Powell, the CEO of Rainbow Railroad, an organization that helps resettle LGBTQ2S+ refugees in Canada, of the thousands of requests for help received in 2022, 300 requests came from inside the United States, including from American citizens.
“As anti-trans laws rose, and Roe V. Wade was rolled back, these requests spiked,” he tweeted late last year.
Based on 2022 federal statistics released by the IRB, a total of 293 claims alleging prosecution in the U.S. were processed, and the majority were either rejected or withdrawn. It appears fewer than 20 claims were made from citizens alleging persecution in the U.K.
Some supporting the petition have also pointed to current shortcomings when it comes to existing supports for trans individuals in Canada.
“It’s hard to get people to care about improving trans lives here in Canada when things are so much worse in many U.S. states,” tweeted Metropolitan Church of Toronto associate pastor Rev. Junia Joplin.
“I’m not saying don’t sign the petition. I did, in fact. But I’ve lived as an American in Canada long enough to recognize how folks in both countries have a rosier view of Canada than it deserves.”
While the e-petition is “talking about something that’s already established in Canadian law,” Battista said, he thinks there’s still value in it, for drawing attention to the issue and giving the government a chance to make it clear that this is a valid basis for seeking protection.
“Because most people who face persecution based on their sexual orientation, their trans status, or their non-binary status, don’t realize that they can actually seek safety in another country under international law on that basis… don’t realize that it can be the basis of seeking safety in Canada,” he said.
The e-petition will remain open for signatures until May 26. Shortly after that, Morrice can present it in the House of Commons, a routine move that happens to any petition that garners more than 500 signatures. The government is not bound to act based on the calls in e-petitions, but it will have to respond within 45 days.
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser’s office is aware of the e-petition, pointing CTVNews.ca to the current rules.
Asked whether she was concerned that the government’s response will do little more than point back to the existing protections, the e-petition sponsor said no.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Glasson said.
Canada: Fatal stabbing in Vancouver leaves city shaken – Hindustan Times
An Indo-Canadian has been arrested and has been charged with second-degree murder. The victim has been identified by the Vancouver Police Department as 37-year-old Paul Stanley Schmidt
Toronto: The city of Vancouver in British Colombia was left shaken after a person at Starbucks cafe was fatally stabbed, with an Indo-Canadian arrested for that alleged murder.
The incident occurred on Sunday, around 5.40pm and followed a brief altercation outside the outlet between two men.
The victim was identified by the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) on Monday as 37-year-old Paul Stanley Schmidt. Meanwhile, Inderdeep Singh Gosal, 32, has been charged with second-degree murder.
Police continue to seek additional witnesses to the crime. “We believe this homicide was witnessed by dozens of bystanders, and there may be people with information who have not yet come forward,” VPD Sergeant Steve Addison said, in a release.
“We particularly want to hear from anyone who was present in the moments before the stabbing, or anyone who has cell-phone video of the incident.”
Investigators don’t believe the victim and suspect knew each other. The release added that the “the circumstances that led up to the fatal stabbing remain under investigation”.
A police constable patrolling the area was flagged down “moments after” the stabbing occurred. The suspect was arrested at the crime scene. Officers attempted to save the victim’s life but he did not survive and succumbed to the injuries sustained after being rushed to hospital.
Raw footage of the incident posted online have gone viral throughout Canada, as they show the victim lying outside the Starbucks, surrounded by his own blood, and also the alleged murderer, walking in and out of the glass doors to the establishment. Another video shows Gosal being arrested and taken into custody by police.
Schmidt was the city’s sixth homicide victim of this year.
The apparent random act of violence attracted criticism of the law and order situation in Vancouver, among the major cities in Canada. Filmmaker Aaron Gunn tweeted, “Things are not getting better. They are still getting worse.”
Is femicide in Canada's Criminal Code? – CTV News
Advocates are pushing for the term femicide to be added to Canada’s Criminal Code, saying it would help raise awareness on the issue.
In 2020, a report by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability found that one woman or girl is killed every two and a half days in Canada. Femicide refers to homicides that target women and girls because of their gender.
Understanding the violence females face specifically, advocates are hoping for more awareness of femicide at the federal level.
“It’s really important that we name femicide,” Jennifer Hutton, CEO of Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region, Ont, told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday. “There are some unique traits about femicide. It’s really about men’s violence against women.”
Hutton believes femicide should be in the Criminal Code to prevent tragedies through better understanding.
“Until we name it, then how can we change it?” she said.”When it’s a separate part of the Criminal Code, then we have better data to track it, so we know just how prevalent it really is.”
Femicide can include instances when a woman or girl is killed by an intimate partner, a non-intimate partner, or in an armed conflict. The term can also include women who are not the intended victim, but are killed in the femicide of another woman, too.
For Indigenous women and girls, Hutton says they are killed at six times the rate of non-Indigenous women and girls.
Hutton is partnering with Jenna Mayne, who hosts the podcast “She is Your Neighbour” focusing on femicide in Canada.
“We hear from survivors, we hear from family members who have lost women to femicide, and we hear from experts,” Mayne said. “I think these stories are difficult to hear, but they’re so important to hear too.”
To listen to the full interview click the video at the top of this article.
Grocery rebate coming in federal budget 2023
The 2023 federal budget will include a one-time “grocery rebate” for Canadians with lower incomes who may be struggling with the rising cost of food, CTV News has confirmed.
According to sources, the new measure will be unveiled in Tuesday’s federal budget and will help nearly 11 million lower-income Canadians.
The new measure would see eligible couples with two children receive a payment of up to $467, a senior would receive $225, while a single person would receive $234 dollars.
The benefit will be rolled out through the GST rebate system, once a bill implementing it passes in the House of Commons, according to sources. This move is essentially re-upping and re-branding the recent GST rebate boost.
The amounts expected to be offered are exactly what the Liberals offered through last fall’s doubling of the GST credit, a boost that was estimated to cost $2.5 billion and got all-party backing. It’s not expected that there will be a requirement to spend the rebate on groceries.
According to Statistics Canada’s latest inflation report, food prices rose 11.4 per cent year-over-year in January, nearly double the rate of inflation of 5.9 per cent and up from 11 per cent the previous month.
The increased cost of food has been the focus of a parliamentary study that’s seen grocery CEOs, including Loblaw chairman and president Galen Weston, grilled over grocery profits.
“I’ve been talking with Canadians from coast, to coast, to coast over the past many months hearing directly concerns around affordability, around the high cost of food, of rent, of so many different things. That’s why a big part of the budget will be focused on measures to help Canadians in targeted ways,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Parliament Hill on Monday.
“Groceries will certainly be part of it but, there’s other things as well that we’re going to continue to do to be there for Canadians…I look forward to a great budget tomorrow.”
The NDP had been calling for the Liberals to double the GST tax credit. Reacting to the news, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said this measure “looks very much like… what we’ve been asking for, for a long time.”
Both Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland have been hinting for weeks that the 2023 budget would include targeted affordability measures to directly help those feeling the pinch of inflation the most.
“This support will be narrowly focused and fiscally responsible. The truth is, we can’t fully compensate every single Canadian for all of the effects of inflation or for elevated interest rates,” Freeland said last week in a pre-budget speech signalling her priorities. “To do so would only make inflation worse and force rates higher, for longer.”
On Monday afternoon, the finance minister took part in a long-standing tradition of picking out a new pair of shoes to wear on budget day.
This year, Freeland opted for a pair of black heels that were on sale at Canadian retailer Simons, from the store’s in-house brand. She placed them in a reusable tote bag after purchase.
WHAT ELSE TO EXPECT IN BUDGET 2023?
With the economy expected to continue slowing in the months ahead, potentially leading to a recession, Freeland is facing calls for the massive fiscal document to include a plan to promote economic growth.
Amid Bank of Canada’s interest rate hikes, inflation cooled to 5.2 per cent in February. That’s down from 5.9 per cent in January, after 40-year record highs over the summer, reaching 8.1 per cent in June.
“What Canadians want right now is for inflation to come down and for interest rates to fall. And that is one of our primary goals in this year’s budget: not to pour fuel on the fire of inflation,” Freeland said in her pre-budget positioning speech.
At the same time, she signalled the 2023 federal budget will still be prioritizing “two significant and necessary investments”: the $46.2 billion in new funding included in the $196 billion federal-provincial health-care funding deals, and new measures to boost Canada’s clean industrial economy.
It’s the latter that government officials have signalled will get some attention in tomorrow’s budget, with several news outlets reporting there will be sizable—30 per cent, according to Reuters— new clean technology-focused tax credits to generate growth in the electrical vehicle supply chain and in critical mineral extraction and processing.
The November 2022 fall economic update had telegraphed that these kinds of credits and investments were ahead.
“Tomorrow…we’re bringing forward a budget that is focused on affordability and supporting Canadians… and creating great jobs for the middle class in a clean and growing economy. Those are the focuses that we’ve been laser focused on over the past many years,” Trudeau said in the House of Commons on Monday, fresh off of U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit, where the green economy was a central piece of discussion.
Canada’s clear focus on the clean transition comes in part out of a need for these sectors to remain competitive in the face of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, which offers billions of dollars in energy incentives south of the border.
The Canadian Press has also reported that Tuesday’s budget will include an increase to the withdrawal limit for a registered education savings plan (RESP) from $5,000 to $8,000; and a plan to go after hidden or unexpected consumer fees known as “junk fees” that inflate the overall cost of a product or service.
Finance Canada officials, who for some time have been parsing the stacks of pre-budget submissions from various industries and sectors, will also have to factor in the Liberals’ commitments to the New Democrats, with key planks of the two-party confidence deal due to come to fruition this year.
“We still want to see confirmation of the dental care expansion to include seniors, people living with disabilities and kids 18 and under. We really want this budget to save money for people, and that’s something really important for us,” Singh said.
With this budget, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has called on the federal government to lower taxes, end “inflationary” spending, match new spending with savings, and improve housing affordability.
“He wants to take away everybody’s money, centralize it in his own hands, and promise that it will trickle down through his mighty bureaucracy… And there will maybe be a few little drops that get down to the people who actually earned it in the first place,” Poilievre levelled at the prime minister during Monday’s question period. “Will he cap government spending and put an end to the inflationary deficits, tomorrow?”
The fall economic statement issued in November 2022 projected the federal deficit at $36.4 billion in 2022-23, down from the $52.8 billion forecast in the April 2022 federal budget. Freeland also forecasted that federal coffers could be back to balance by 2027-28.
The 2023 federal budget is coming just ahead of a two-week break in the House of Commons, allowing Liberal MPs to then descend on their ridings to promote it to their constituents before coming back to the capital to work on getting the budget implementation legislation passed through the minority Parliament.
With files from CTV News’ Chief Political Correspondent Vassy Kapelos, and CTVNews.ca’s Michael Lee and Spencer Van Dyk
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