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Why millions in undeclared cash flows across the Canadian border each year – CBC.ca

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Every year, millions of dollars in cash enters and exits Canada stuffed inside envelopes, shirt pockets and bags.

But only a tiny fraction is moved by criminals. The rest is transported by average Canadians and visitors who are taking $10,000 or more into or out of the country.

Since 2017, $91,673,189 in currency has been seized by the Canada Border Services Agency, while only $9,168,022 confiscated during that time is suspected to be the proceeds of crime.  

Many people are moving the money to support their family members who have just immigrated to Canada. The cash is often destined to be used for a down payment on a house or car.

Sometimes the money is being transported out of the country to assist family members in other parts of the world. 

“Individuals are taking currency to family members overseas, often in a Middle Eastern country where there is less comfort with banks,” said Cyndee Todgham Cherniak, a lawyer who founded LexSage, which deals with international trade and tax law.

“So, they don’t want to wire transfer the money overseas. They bring the currency with them.”

She said Canadians need to understand that carrying large amounts of cash doesn’t mean someone is up to anything illegal. Cash can be viewed as the safest way to move money in some parts of the world.

Toronto lawyer Cyndee Todgham Cherniak founded the law firm LexSage, which deals with international trade and tax law. (CBC)

Every year, Todgham Cherniak gets up to 40 calls from people who have had their money seized by CBSA and are trying to get it back.

It’s not illegal to move $10,000 or more across the border, however, people have to declare that money before they cross. If they don’t, it can be taken.

“The most common scenario is someone has not converted US dollars into Canadian dollars properly, said Todgham Cherniak. “So a person may have less than $10,000 US, but when converted into Canadian dollars it is more than $10,000 Canadian.

“We’ve had clients where they are off by $9.32 and the currency gets seized.”

Most of the time, after a fine ranging from $250 to $5,000 is paid, the money is promptly returned, according to the CBSA. 

But in some cases it can take months, even years, for people to get their money back, said Todgham Cherniak. 

If the CBSA suspects the money could be used to fund terrorism or is the proceeds of crime, it may never be returned.  

CBSA officers have confiscated $9,168,022 suspected to be the proceeds of crime in the last three years. (CBC)

“In some cases it is the individual’s life savings that they’re bringing into the country or they’re taking to their family,” said Todgham Cherniak. “And sometimes they’re left with not even enough money to pay for a taxi cab home.”

Bashir Zummeit, Todgham Cherniak’s client, is facing that hardship now. 

Two years ago, the Toronto barbershop owner and father of six planned to travel to his homeland of Libya to visit his mother. He saved $5,000 over a period of years to take to his extended family. 

Friends asked him to deliver money to their families as well. In the end, Zummeit had $19,000 US in cash to transport.

Zummeit said he didn’t think he could safely transfer the money electronically because Libya’s banking system has been in crisis for several years.

“There’s no business, no money, and people fighting,” he said. “And those families, they’re lucky to have someone working outside who will send money to them so they can eat.

“They are suffering, they are desperate for money.”

Bashir Zummeit owns a barbershop in Toronto. When he tried to fly to Libya with $19,000 US in cash it was seized by the CBSA. (Submitted by Bashir Zummeit)

On March 31, 2018, he packed the money into envelopes, stuffed them into his jacket pocket and his bag, and went to board a plane to Libya. He didn’t declare the money.

Todgham Cherniak said the process for reporting cash exports isn’t easy.

People have to go to a CBSA office and fill out a form stating that they’re going to be transporting more than $10,000. She said some of her clients haven’t even been able to locate the CBSA office to do that. 

“The process is really obscure and a lot of people don’t understand that they have to report exports of currency, but they also don’t know where to look for the CBSA office,” she said. 

Zummeit spotted a CBSA officer just before he got on the plane and told her he was carrying more than $10,000 US. The CBSA officer seized the cash.

The officer said the money wouldn’t be returned until it was determined the cash wasn’t going to be used for anything illegal. 

CBSA officials seized $26,588 in suspected proceeds of a crime at the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel in 2017. (CBSA)

Zummeit said he felt shame and embarrassment that he had let his family and friends down.  

He hired Todgham Cherniak. They collected paperwork from Zummeit’s friends to prove that the money came from legitimate sources. 

They appealed the seizure, but the money still hasn’t been returned.   

Zummeit could use the funds. His barbershop has been closed for months because of COVID-19.

“Please have a heart especially after this circumstance, give me my money back,” said Zummeit, “That I can use it for my family when I have six kids and I haven’t been working.”

The delays in getting the money back don’t surprise criminology professor Stephen Schneider. He’s been studying money laundering since the 1980s. 

The Saint Mary’s University professor said it can be difficult to separate money earned legitimately from money made from illegal activity. 

“It takes a long time to conduct the kind of investigative background checks on individuals to determine if … the funds are linked to illegal activity,” said Schneider.

“There’s certainly not enough resources within the [CBSA] or the RCMP to do that kind of background check.”

Stephen Schneider is a criminology professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. (Submitted by Stephen Schneider)

Schneider said most money travelling across the border is for legitimate reasons and he believes the majority of money the CBSA seizes comes from China. 

The Chinese government has a $50,000 limit on the amount of money it lets its people remove from the country, said Schneider. But people sometimes take more than that.

Schneider said that is not a criminal offence in Canada, so it’s not considered the proceeds of crime or money laundering.  

“In my opinion, without a doubt, the largest source of cash that comes across the Canadian border, undocumented cash, unreported cash, would be capital flight from China,” said Schneider. 

Capital flight refers to the rapid movement of large sums of money or assets out of a country.

Schneider said the majority of that money goes to help Chinese immigrants, usually in B.C.

The CBSA would only say there are many reasons why a traveller would bring large sums of currency into the country, agreeing that most of the time it’s for legitimate purposes.  
 

It can be difficult to separate legitimately earned cash from money made from illegal activity, said Schneider. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Todgham Cherniak said the CBSA needs to change its ways.

She said it should give officers greater latitude to levy fines as opposed to seizing money. It should also speed up the appeals process, she said.

The CBSA said its officers are trained to detect deceit and other signs of criminality, and there are no plans to amend the current appeals process. 

The agency has also started a new Trade Fraud and Trade Based Money Laundering Centre of Expertise. The centre will “identify, interdict, investigate and prosecute trade fraud,” said a CBSA spokesperson in an email.

Zummeit only wants one change with the CBSA. He said it should make an exception for people trying to transport cash to help their families overseas. 

“Our circumstances [are] completely different from anybody else,” he said. “We took that money for our family. Nobody else. We have hearts and we have to help.”

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A third of Canada's foodservice workforce is still unemployed: survey – CTV News

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TORONTO —
New data from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey revealed that 164,000 foodservice and accommodation jobs were recovered in June. Despite these gains, at least 400,000 people who were previously employed in the foodservice sector are still out of work.

Restaurants Canada, a national non-profit association representing Canada’s diverse foodservice industry is calling on the federal government to make changes to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program (CEWS) to aid businesses in their effort to rehire workers as they continue to recover.

The program was implemented at the height of the pandemic to help businesses subsidize their employee’s wages for up to 12 weeks, initially. Restaurants Canada is urging the government to keep the subsidy available for as long as pandemic restrictions are in place and to gradually reduce the subsidy as businesses achieve manageable levels of revenue.

To qualify, businesses must have experienced a 30-per-cent decline in revenue. The association is asking the government to scale the 30-per-cent threshold to support restaurants in their recovery.

“Reforms to the federal wage subsidy are urgently needed to help foodservice businesses bring more Canadians back to work amid ongoing restrictions,” said David Lefebvre, Restaurants Canada Vice President, Federal and Quebec in a press release. “Forty-four per cent of restaurant operators who responded to our latest survey said they did not apply for the subsidy for at least one of their establishments because it would not meet the requirements.”

In May, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that the federal government would extend the CEWS by an additional 12 weeks until the end of August. 

When asked about any future changes, the minister’s office pointed to the Economic and Fiscal Snapshot released on Wednesday, which states: “As economies reopen and business activity resumes, the government will soon announces changes to the CEWS to stimulate rehiring, provide support to businesses during reopening and help them adapt to the new normal. In anticipation of this forthcoming announcement, the government has set aside additional funding as part of the 2020 Economic and Fiscal Snapshot.”

The minister’s office declined to share specific details about future changes to the program, but advocates remain hopeful as more businesses begin to reopen. 

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COMMENTARY: Canada and the U.S. are neighbours but miles apart when it comes to COVID-19 – Globalnews.ca

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The COVID19 pandemic has shone a light on the core strengths of Canada’s health-care system while at the same time laying bare the serious shortcomings of the American system.

In this country, we have started to flatten the curve. Ontario and Quebec are not quite as far along as other provinces, but their spread rate of the virus has slowed considerably.

If we stick to adhering to public health protocols – keeping our physical distance, wearing a mask in many situations, not congregating in large crowds – there is every reason to think the curve will continue to flatten while the pandemic continues.

Read more:
B.C. reports 25 COVID-19 cases, most since May 8

Not so on the other side of the border.

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The COVID-19 situation in the United States is almost out of control in many places. States like California, Arizona, Texas and Florida are getting steamrolled by the deadly virus that is rampaging through them.

Even neighboring Washington, which thought it had the virus almost under control mere weeks ago, has seen a resurgence in case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths.

There seem to be many reasons for the stark differences between the two countries’ experience in fighting off the virus.

Perhaps the most important difference is that Canada’s response to COVID-19 is being driven and determined by public health officials, and not by politicians.

Read more:
President Donald Trump playing politics with the pandemic: experts

People like B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and federal Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam have been in charge for the most part and they are being guided by science rather than politics.

Canadian political leaders, meanwhile, have primarily been responsible for devising financial aid packages for the millions of people hit hardest by the virus and have stayed out of the health side of the response.

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Contrast that to the United States where, in some cases, elected officials (notably President Donald Trump) publicly clash with public health experts and ignore or override their advice.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the respected U.S. infectious disease expert, has almost disappeared from public view. Evidently, that is because the Trump administration does not want him offering the country expert advice.

Can you imagine if the B.C. government tried to muzzle Henry? A pitchfork-waving mob would instantly materialize in the streets.

Read more:
British Columbians snapping up Dr. Bonnie Henry merchandise

Another key difference is that Canadians tend to follow rules created for the benefit of the larger community. We don’t chafe under state controls and when someone like Dr. Henry says, for example, that there will be no mass gatherings of people there generally is not (the public protests against racism are notable exceptions).

Americans, on the other hand, love to boast about their constitutionally protected personal rights and have been thumbing their noses at things like crowd limits since the pandemic began. In fact, the current surge in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. can be traced back to the Memorial Day long weekend in late May, when huge crowds gathered to celebrate.

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Finally, it cannot be a coincidence that a country with a public health-care system is doing so much better fighting COVID-19. It allows us to take a centralized approach to taking on the virus.

The U.S., on the other hand, has a private system that has led to a decentralized approach. The result is a hodge-podge of results (within states, some neighboring counties have differing “lockdown” rules; some hospitals do not even report case numbers or deaths).

Two countries side-by-side, yet we could not be further apart in this pandemic.

Keith Baldrey is the legaslative bureau chief for Global BC, based at the Legislature in Victoria, B.C.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canada's UNESCO natural wonders – CBC.ca

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A wild horse grazes at Dungeon Provincial Park in Newfoundland and Labrador’s Bonavista Peninsula, part of Discovery Geopark, which has just been named a UNESCO Global Geopark. (EB Adventure Photography/Shutterstock)

Nova Scotia’s Cliffs of Fundy and the Discovery Global Geopark in Newfoundland and Labrador received official status Friday as UNESCO Geoparks — a designation that recognizes sites and landscapes of international geological significance. They join three other Canadian UNESCO Geoparks and a collection of other UNESCO-designated Canadian sites. Here’s a look at some of Canada’s impressive natural wonders recognized by the UN agency. 

Cliffs of Fundy, N.S.

The Cliffs of Fundy Global Geopark in Nova Scotia stretches along a roughly 165-kilometre drive, with about 40 designated sites from Debert to the Three Sisters cliffs, past Eatonville, out to Isle Haute. The area is the only place on Earth where geologists can see both the assembly of supercontinent Pangea 300 million years ago and its breakup 100 million years later.

(Kayla Hounsell/CBC)

Discovery Global Geopark, N.L.

The Discovery Global Geopark in Newfoundland and Labrador’s Bonavista Peninsula, a rugged coastline that overlooks views of caves, arches and sea stacks.

(Shutterstock)

Stonehammer Geopark, N.B.

Stonehammer Geopark covers 2,500 square kilometres across southern New Brunswick, stretching from Lepreau Falls to Norton, Saint John and Grand Bay-Westfield to St. Martins. It became Canada’s first UNESCO Geopark in 2010. This couple walks on the ocean floor at low tide to view caves carved into the red sandstone by the Bay of Fundy.

(Kevin Bissett/The Canadian Press)

Tumbler Ridge Geopark, B.C.

The Tumbler Ridge Geopark includes part of the eastern Hart Ranges of the northern Rocky Mountains in British Columbia. The area is notable for fossils, including the northernmost prints of brontosaurus, the most complete dinosaur skeleton ever found in the province and, below, ankylosaurus footprints preserved in rock.

(Pecold/Shuttestock)

Percé, Que.

The most noticeable landmark at Percé Geopark is the Percé Rock, a massive limestone stack 433 metres long, 90 metres wide and 88 metres at its highest point, rising from the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Quebec near the village of Percé.

(Marika Wheeler/CBC)

Nahanni National Park, N.W.T.

Canada’s first entry on the UNESCO list, in 1978, this preserve protects a portion of the Mackenzie Mountains Natural Region, including massive canyons, sulphur hot springs, alpine tundra and the spectacular rapids of the South Nahanni River.

(GeGiGoggle/Shutterstock)

Pimachiowin Aki 

An expanse of boreal shield became Canada’s first mixed cultural and natural World Heritage Site in 2018. Pimachiowin Aki is nearly 30,000 square kilometres of boreal land straddling the Ontario-Manitoba border, where Anishinaabe peoples have lived for thousands of years.

(Matt Medler/International Boreal Conservation Campaign/The Associated Press)

Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alta.

A World Heritage Site 75 million years in the making, this spot in the heart of Alberta’s badlands has been a destination for paleontologists since dinosaur fossils were first discovered here in 1884. UNESCO also recognized the provincial park’s “particularly beautiful scenery” when adding it to the World Heritage list in 1979.

(Elena Elisseeva/Shutterstock)

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, Alta.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, also known by its Blackfoot name Áísínai’pi, became Alberta’s sixth World Heritage Site in 2019. According to the provincial government, the park is home to the most significant concentration of rock carvings and paintings on the North American prairies, some of which date back 2,000 years. 

(Paul Karchut/CBC)

Joggins Fossil Cliffs, N.S. 

Nova Scotia’s Joggins Fossil Cliffs, regarded as the best record of life in the Coal Age 300 million years ago, was added to the exclusive ranks of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2008. The fossil cliffs are home to enormous fossilized trees and what’s believed to be the remains of the world’s oldest reptile. 

(Joggins Fossil Institute)

Kluane/Wrangell-St.Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek

The first binational entry on UNESCO’s list, named in 1979, the agency describes this 97,000-square-kilometre site as “an impressive complex of glaciers and high peaks on both sides of the border between Canada (Yukon Territory and British Columbia) and the United States (Alaska). It  includes the 5,959-metre-high Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak.

This massive reserve is home to some of the world’s fastest-moving glaciers and the largest non-polar icefield on the planet.

(Chuck Stoody/The Canadian Press)

Mistaken Point, N.L. 

Mistaken Point, on the southeastern point of the Avalon Peninsula, is home to the oldest-known evidence of Earth’s first large, complex, multicellular life forms — a 565-million-year-old sea floor that holds a collection of fossils known as the Ediacaran biota.

Mistaken Point became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016. 

(UNESCO)

Wood Buffalo National Park

Wood Buffalo, which straddles the Alberta-Northwest Territories border, is one of the world’s largest freshwater deltas and a breeding ground for millions of migratory birds from four continental flyways.

But it has been deteriorating for decades. In 2014, the Mikisew Cree asked UNESCO to examine the park and see if it still merited designation as a World Heritage Site.

UNESCO is considering the park’s status, while Parks Canada considers a $27.5-million plan to rescue it.

(Lennard Plantz/CBC)

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