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U.S. delivers reality check: New border deal with Canada not top priority

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The premier of Quebec wants a new migration deal with the U.S. He wants it urgently. He wants the prime minister of Canada to negotiate it. The prime minister? He wants it too.

It’s become a pressing political priority and major federal-provincial irritant, with Canada eager to slow the flow of migrants entering on foot from the U.S. at unofficial points of entry, such as the contentious one at Roxham Road, south of Montreal.

There’s one small problem. The Americans get a say here.

For years, the U.S. has been conspicuously tight-lipped on the topic, and this week offered new — and rare — public insight into the American perspective.

Newsflash: A country dealing with millions of migrants per year is not in a major rush to reclaim Canada’s thousands.

U.S. Ambassador David Cohen told CBC News irregular crossings into Quebec are a symptom of a broad global migration challenge; and he’d rather address problems, not symptoms.

He wouldn’t even acknowledge the countries are talking about Canada’s desire to extend the 2002 Safe Third County Agreement to make it easier to expel migrants who cross between regular checkpoints.

Conversations with officials in both countries make clear no agreement is imminent. Whether President Joe Biden’s trip to Canada next month changes anything is an open question.

Two sources say that, to date, there have been constructive talks with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, but the issue is far from settled.

Here’s an assessment in blunter language from an immigration expert in Washington, who also happens to know Canada very well.

“There is zero incentive for the United States to reopen Safe Third Country right now. Zero,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, senior adviser on immigration at Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Centre, who once led Homeland Security operations at the U.S. embassy in Ottawa.

 

 

The federal government is facing significant pressure to close the Roxham Road irregular border crossing in Quebec that’s being used by an increasing number of migrants to get into Canada from the United States.

‘Our house is burning right now’

In its current form, the Safe Third Country Agreement says asylum seekers who enter the U.S. or Canada must make their claims in the first country they arrive in, but it only covers official points of entry.

Canada wants the agreement extended across the entire frontier, so it applies to migrants who use irregular entry points like the now-famous Roxham Road.

To Canadians wondering why it’s taken years for the U.S. to prioritize these negotiations, Brown said: “Because our house is burning right now on the other border.… Sorry.”

Just look at two parallel events that unfolded this week, in Canada and the U.S. They might as well have been happening in parallel universes.

Quebec Premier François Legault got lots of attention back home for a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and an op-ed in the Globe and Mail.

 

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Trudeau’s Liberals need their Quebec seats to keep power. And they’re coming under major political fire on this issue from the popular premier of the province, François Legault. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

He said Quebec received 39,000 irregular crossers last year, and could not handle more, saying it was straining housing, hospital services, and language training.

He requested money from Ottawa, said all future migrants should be sent to other provinces, and he demanded a new Safe Third Country deal with the U.S.

While the northern neighbour was asking the U.S. to accept more migrants, the Biden administration released plans to accept fewer, with a draft executive order.

The proposed rule would make it easier to instantly deport asylum claimants who try entering the U.S. without first scheduling an appointment in a mobile app, and first requesting asylum in Mexico.

That hardening attitude would come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to developments in the U.S.

Amid a historic worldwide surge in human displacement, migration has become perhaps the most explosive issue in American politics.

U.S. border agents could encounter more than three million migrants this year, higher even than the record-smashing total in 2022.

It’s causing strain in border communities like Yuma, Ariz., where agents met 300,000 migrants last year — that’s triple the local population.

Arizona official on northern complaints: ‘A joke to me’

The head of a regional hospital in Yuma said his staff have been caring for migrants and it’s cost the organization $20 million.

He said he laughs when he hears northern states complain about migration: Denver and New York, for example, have expressed a welcoming attitude then later declared they were overwhelmed.

“It’s pretty funny,”  said Dr. Bob Trenschel.

“They all seem to have a conniption when they get two buses of migrants.… The mayor of New York is squawking when he gets two busloads? That’s a joke to me.”

A line of officials at computers sit to the right of a bank of computers, while on the left migrants wait for help at the local food bank.
Over 300,000 migrants were registered last year in the sector around Yuma, Ariz. That’s triple the population of the city of Yuma and local officials, at the area hospital and at the food bank seen here, say it’s depleted local resources. (Jason Burles/CBC)

Now the mayor of New York is, in fact, paying for buses to carry migrants upstate, including to northern border communities where they enter Canada on foot.

After Canada averaged about 10,000 refugee claims per year since 2017, this northward surge has added tens of thousands of new border-crossers.

For comparison’s sake, the U.S. could expect more asylum claimants from Russia alone; if the recent rate holds, more than 60,000 Russians could seek asylum in the U.S. this year.

Other countries have even bigger challenges. Take Colombia: it’s currently home to nearly 10 per cent of the population of Venezuela, more than 2 million people who’ve fled.

An asylum-policy analyst in Washington said Canada’s migration issues don’t come up often in the policy conversation there.

“It’s certainly not something that is frequently raised,” said Susan Fratzke, a former State Department official and now senior analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.

“When it does come up, it’s always in reference to knowing that it’s a Canadian priority.”

She said it’s possible there could be a deal, probably as part of a broader migration agreement and probably not soon.

A man with white hair and aviator sunglasses wearing a dark suit, collar button open (Joe Biden) walks with what appear to be soldiers in green uniforms near a tall fence.
Biden, facing his own political pressure, was criticized for taking two years, despite a historic migration surge, before visiting the southern border, in a visit to El Paso, Tex., seen here on Jan. 8. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Watching Biden visit for development

One American analyst of Canada-U.S. relations is more optimistic.

He said Biden has a demonstrated desire to maintain good relations with Canada, as evidenced by his resolving irritants around electric-vehicle incentives and the Nexus trusted-traveller program.

For that reason, said Chris Sands, he wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some sort of development next month when Biden visits Canada.

“It would be a wonderful announceable at an event like that,” said Sands, director of the Canada Institute at Washington’s WIlson Center. “This is eminently doable if there’s will on both sides.”

On Thursday, Trudeau said he has spoken directly to Biden about this and suggested it will be on the agenda of Biden’s upcoming Canadian visit.

One person familiar with the binational discussions said there’s a shared desire to get a deal, but working out the details is more complicated.

Sands concurred.

He said goodwill isn’t the issue. The problem, he said, is working through budgeting and logistics, like sorting out who handles what responsibilities among the handful of law-enforcement and border agencies in both countries.

“Whatever you do to the Safe Third Country Agreement is … going to do very little about irregular migration,” said U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Cohen. “If you’re serious about trying to deal with irregular migration, you have to deal with the underlying causes.”

Potential deal: Something bigger

So what would it take to get a deal?

To get Americans’ interest, Brown said Canada would probably have to offer something unrelated, or related tangentially.

Maybe something like a major Canadian stabilization role in Haiti, she said, or a clampdown on the flow of Mexicans through Canada into Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York, which U.S. officials say is an emerging trend.

She suggested one surprising way the premier of Quebec might get Washington’s attention: accept more U.S. dairy imports, adding, “I’m only partially joking.”

The U.S. ambassador was clear in the CBC interview: his objective is a broader plan for international migration.

Canada has, in fact, signed a hemispheric agreement where it promised to take a lead role on some initiatives, one being resettling more French-speaking migrants, especially from Haiti.

Connecting the dots, Fratzke said any agreement on this issue will probably be bigger, not just a one-issue deal on Safe Third Country.

Two suggestions she offered: Canada could help build the capacity of other countries’ asylum systems, and could expand legal opportunities for economic migration.

The latter is what Brown wants for the U.S. too.

She said any solution must include opportunities for people to apply legally, so that they have hope the official pathways might work, for both humanitarian and economic visas.

The U.S., for example, is resettling only a few hundred refugees per year lately from Latin America: “That’s crazy,” Brown said.

And for all the millions of migrants it’s received, the percentage of people on U.S. soil born abroad is not actually that high, about average among industrialized countries.

Two men in suits walk together. The older one, with white hair and a blue tie (Joe Biden) looks mid-sentence. The younger one, with touselled brown hair and a red tie (Justin Trudeau) raises his eyebrows.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s told U.S. President Joe Biden it’s a priority for him and will raise it when Biden visits Canada next month. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

She said the other part of a solution is more orderly enforcement. The asylum backlog is massive, and it takes an average of over four years to decide cases.

Brown said applications should be processed swiftly, decided near the border.

In the meantime, she said, when richer northern countries, like Canada, and the U.S., talk about restricting migration, they’re essentially pushing the burden south, to poorer countries, to places like Colombia, Central America and Mexico.

“That’s what we’re talking about,” she said.

 

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Trump, in highly personal speech, will accept GOP nomination again days after assassination attempt

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Just five days after surviving an assassination attempt, a bandaged Donald Trump is set to address the Republican National Convention on Thursday to accept his party’s presidential nomination in a speech designed to unify his party — and the nation — behind his third consecutive White House bid.

The 78-year-old former president, known for his willingness to criticize his political foes in both parties, has promised to offer a softer and more personal message of unity following his brush with death.

Trump’s speech marked the climax and conclusion of a massive four-day Republican pep rally that drew thousands of conservative activists and elected officials to swing-state Wisconsin as voters weigh an election that currently features two deeply unpopular candidates. But with less than four months to go in the contest, major changes in the race are possible, if not likely.

Trump’s appearance comes as 81-year-old Democratic President Joe Biden clings to his party’s nomination in the face of unrelenting pressure from key congressional allies, donors and even former President Barack Obama, who fear he may be unable to win reelection after his disastrous debate.

Long pressed by allies to campaign more vigorously, Biden is instead in isolation at his beach home in Delaware after having been diagnosed with COVID-19.

While the often bombastic Trump was seeking to project a more gentle tone on Thursday night, the speaking program of the convention’s final day was also designed to project strength in an implicit rebuke of Biden. The program was decidedly more masculine than it has been for much of the week.

The most prominent speakers included wrestling icon Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White, and former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Kid Rock was also set to perform.

Like many speakers during the convention, Carlson suggested that recent events were divinely inspired and that he wondered “if something bigger is going on.”

“I think it changed him,” Carlson said of the shooting, praising Trump for not lashing out in anger afterward.

“He did his best to bring the country together,” Carlson added. “This is the most responsible, unifying behavior from a leader I’ve ever seen.”

Former first lady Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump, the president’s elder daughter and former senior adviser, were expected to be inside the convention hall for the first time all week, but neither was scheduled to speak.

Attorney Alina Habba, who represented Trump in some of the legal cases against him, also addressed the convention.

Trump was convicted in May of 34 felony counts related to a criminal hush money scheme in New York. But his allies largely avoided his legal baggage this week, which was focused instead on Trump’s near-assassination.

Trump entered the hall about two hours before he was scheduled to speak, wearing a large white bandage on his right ear, as he has all week, to cover a wound he sustained in the Saturday shooting. Some of his supporters were sporting American flag-themed bandages on the convention floor Thursday.

Speakers and delegates, gathered in Wisconsin from every state in the nation, have repeatedly chanted “Fight, fight, fight!” in homage to Trump’s words in the moments after the shooting when he rose and pumped his fist after Secret Service agents killed the gunman.

While Republicans were set to emerge from their convention more united than in recent memory, Democrats are bitterly divided about whether Biden should continue to lead the ticket. Biden, following his disastrous debate performance against Trump last month, has resisted increasing pressure to drop out, with Democrats’ own party convention scheduled for next month in Chicago.

Hours before the balloons were scheduled to rain down on Trump and his family inside the convention hall, Biden deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks appeared nearby in Milwaukee and insisted over and over that Biden would not step aside.

“I do not want to be rude, but I don’t know how many more times I can answer that,” Fulks told reporters. “There are no plans being made to replace Biden on the ballot.”

Nearly two-thirds of Democrats nationally say Biden should step aside and let his party nominate a different candidate, according to an AP-NORC poll released Wednesday.

The convention has showcased a Republican Party reshaped by Trump since he shocked the GOP establishment and won over the party’s grassroots on his way to the party’s 2016 nomination. Rivals Trump has vanquished — including Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — put aside their past criticisms and gave him their unqualified support.

Even his vice presidential pick, Ohio Sen. JD Vance, Trump’s choice to carry his movement into the next generation, was once a fierce critic who suggested in a private message since made public that Trump could be “America’s Hitler.”

Security was a major focus in Milwaukee in the wake of Trump’s near-assassination. But after nearly four full days, there were no serious incidents inside the convention hall or the large security perimeter that surrounded it.

The Secret Service, backed by hundreds of law enforcement officers from across the nation, had a large and visible presence. And during Trump’s appearances each night, he was surrounded by a wall of protective agents wherever he went.

Meanwhile, Trump and his campaign have not released information about his injury or the treatment he received.

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Associated Press reporters Michelle L. Price in Milwaukee and Emily Swanson in Washington contributed to this report.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.



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‘Instant action plan’: More than 100 evacuated from nursing home amid flood

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As floodwaters poured into a Mississauga long-term care home –submerging much of the ground floor – rescue crews worked to rapidly get residents into inflatable rafts to evacuate the property while others worked on stopping the water from rising further.

The operation that unfolded over the course of 12 hours on Tuesday following torrential rains eventually saw more than 100 residents safely moved out of the nursing home, some by raft and others on foot once the water receded.

Mississauga Fire Captain Dan Herd said the evacuation of the Tyndall Seniors Village, which saw multiple emergency services from across the Greater Toronto Area come together, was on a scale he hadn’t seen before.

“There was water inside the building, the first floor – in between probably three to four feet high on the walls – and some windows were broken, damaged,” Herd said, adding that the parking lot was inundated by water at one point.

“We set up an instant action plan, and we started to move thousands of litres of water at a time … the water rescue team was using their rescue boats to assist the removal of ambulatory patients and occupants.”

The flooding began after incredibly heavy rains on Tuesday caused the nearby Etobicoke Creek to overflow, Herd said.

Once enough floodwater had been pumped out of the home, some residents were able to walk out of the building, he said. Those who were unable to walk were carried down stairs and out of the building by first responders using lifting equipment, Herd said.

“This is my first personal experience of something to this size,” he said of the operation.

None of the residents were injured, said Tom Kukolic, acting deputy chief for Peel Region’s paramedics service.

Once first responders determined that none of the 116 residents needed emergency care, efforts then shifted to a “safe extrication and relocation” operation, Kukolic said, with residents eventually taken to two long-term care homes and two hotels.

“Once the paramedics and firefighters were able to bring the residents out of the home and move them to the triage area, we then had assistance from Peel Wheel-Trans, Toronto TTC Wheel-Trans, and Mississauga Transit,” Kukolic said.

The relocation effort was “a seamless transition” thanks to the collaboration of several emergency response teams, including York Region and Toronto paramedics, he said.

“Extricating people, it’s very difficult. It is very laborious work … however, what we do from a paramedic practice perspective, is ensure that we have enough people to safely move residents,” Kukolic said.

Tuesday’s massive downpour caused chaos across Toronto and its surrounding communities, with flooding shutting down several major routes and terminals and knocking out power to thousands.

Mississauga Fire Chief Deryn Rizzi called the response at the nursing home “a great example” of how multiple agencies across the Greater Toronto Area can work together.

“We are there to work collaboratively together, to address the incident to achieve a common goal, which in this case, it was to evacuate the residents safely,” he said.

For Kukolic, the full-day operation showed how preparation can help first responders deal with large-scale responses triggered by sudden events such as Tuesday’s flooding.

“I was proud to be a member of paramedic services and a first responder,” he said.

“It was really great to see how everybody came together to ensure that our most vulnerable were taken care of.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Alberta law society clears former cabinet minister Tyler Shandro of misconduct

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EDMONTON – The Law Society of Alberta has cleared Tyler Shandro of professional misconduct after he confronted a physician at the edge of his driveway four years ago over a social media post, when Shandro was the province’s health minister.

In a decision released Thursday, the law society panel found Shandro not guilty on three citations surrounding his conduct.

Regarding the citation over the driveway dispute, two of the three society panel members said Shandro’s actions that day were as a family man and did not reflect his role as a lawyer. Shandro was not practising law at the time.

“It is clear that Mr. Shandro attended at the home of (Dr. Mukarram Zaidi) as a father and husband, and not principally as the minister of health,” wrote committee members Bud Melnyk and Grant Vogeli.

On that committee member Edith Kloberdanz dissented.

In the report, she said she would find Shandro guilty for his behaviour during the confrontation, saying he didn’t need to visit the doctor’s home uninvited in an emotional state to resolve his concerns.

“The public’s trust and confidence in lawyers is based on the ability of lawyers to manage their behaviour in highly stressful situations and circumstances,” she wrote.

Kloberdanz said the impact on Zaidi and his family “was not given sufficient weight” by the majority, and that she was troubled Zaidi’s children were present for at least some of the incident.

The incident dates back to March 21, 2020. It was a turbulent time. The province had just invalidated its master working agreement with physicians, and COVID-19 was taking hold around the world.

Shandro told the committee that he and his family had been facing serious threats.

The incident began after Zaidi posted on social media a message critical of Shandro while referencing his wife’s company.

That day, Shandro, a Calgary legislature member at the time, went to the Calgary home of Zaidi, asking two boys playing basketball on the driveway to get their father.

Zaidi told the committee that Shandro was crying and “emotionally charged” during a conversation that lasted less than two minutes.

“(It) was a very intimidating experience, seeing the Crown’s representative and a lawyer attending at my house to tell me to delete a post,” Zaidi said, describing Shandro as “his ultimate boss.”

Shandro remembered the incident differently.

The social media post was personal, since it referenced his wife’s business, and the conversation came out of a concern for the safety of his wife, Shandro said, adding he was not yelling or crying.

Shandro testified that Zaidi looked “embarrassed” and asked, “What do I do? Delete the post?”

Shandro said he replied: “You have to decide that for yourself.”

Then-premier Jason Kenney defended his minister at the time, saying it’s understandable that a husband or wife will get passionate when their spouse is being attacked, threatened or defamed.

The committee also looked into Shandro’s decision around that time to phone two other doctors who had been critical of government policy, and to use his government email to respond to a member of the public who had sent his wife’s company a complaint email.

Law society lawyers argued the incidents were examples of inappropriate and intimidating behaviour by Shandro meant to muzzle public dissent.

On those two counts the panel unanimously ruled that while Shandro’s behaviour was at times inappropriate, it did not rise to the level of sanction.

Shandro lost his seat in the legislature in last year’s general election and has returned to practising law. He has been a law society member since 2005.

In January, he was appointed to the board of directors of Covenant Health, a publicly funded provincial health provider.

In an emailed statement to The Canadian Press, Shandro said he was pleased to be exonerated.

“These complaints were the culmination of years of politically fuelled personal attacks on me and my family,” he wrote.

“These complaints were also based on false allegations, and I have maintained the allegations were baseless and frivolous.

“I look forward to continuing to serve my community.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2024.



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