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Canada-US border the final frontier for refugee-seekers

SAINT-BERNARD-DE-LACOLLE, QUE. Security officials scrambled on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border Monday morning when two men, a young woman and an infant made their way to the busiest hole in the frontier.

On the American side, the group was flagged to the U.S. Border Patrol. Agents intervened and brought them in for questioning and verifications to ensure that they were legally in the country, said Norman Lague, an officer with the agency.

When they passed the inspection, the group loaded their three backpacks, the baby s diaper bag, a stroller and car seat into a silver taxi van and continued along Roxham Road, a dusty dead-end street, on their way to Canada.

It is a version of the scenario that happens now several times a day every day here near the Quebec town of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle a taxi arrives, a family emerges, luggage is hauled across a border that is nothing more than a ditch, the RCMP arrests the asylum seekers, and takes them to be processed into an already overloaded system.

Read more:

Montreal becomes third Canadian sanctuary city for non-status refugees[1]

Toronto not truly a Sanctuary City, report says[2]

How Canada should react to Trump and refugee crisis: Opinion[3]

But despite the heartwarming photos of police officers helping with young children, or offering an arm to negotiate the slippery snowbanks, it appears that the status quo is starting to stress Canada s border protection and refugee-intake system.

From corporals to a staff sergeant to an inspector, the Mounties who spoke to reporters during a media tour Monday were too stoic to admit such a thing. But Brad Cutris, an acting division chief with the U.S. Border Patrol said it loud and clear from the American side of the border in response to questions lobbed at him a few feet away in Canada.

A solution would be great, he said.

Like what? a Radio-Canada journalist asked, while teetering on the snowy bank of a creek running between the two countries.

I wish I knew, ma am. I m not a policy-maker.

Monday s group of stunned and likely frightened border crossers was greeted in Canada by many of the nation s media outlets, plus a few American journalists who were visiting to better understand that the U.S. is not alone in having people streaming across its borders.

The tour for reporters began at the RCMP s emergency operations centre in downtown Montreal, where the force showed off its remote surveillance capabilities, including high-resolution cameras and regular helicopter patrols.

Cpl. Fran ois Gagnon, a media spokesperson with the force, told reporters that the increase in illegal border crossings into Canada has been the greatest in Quebec. It has meant more work for patrol officers but not more than the force can handle, he emphasized.

But when the tour moved on to Roxham Road a once-unknown country street that has become Canada s version of Ellis Island for some migrants Gagnon was among the dozen RCMP officers thrust into action when unexpected border-crossers arrived.

The 13 dramatic minutes from the time that the migrants taxi pulled up to the border in the U.S. to the time they were driven away in Canada was captured by frenzied photographers and television cameras.

Unlike other asylum seekers who obtain tourist visas to travel to the U.S. and make their way directly to Canada upon arrival, this group appears to have been living south of the border for some time.

One of the men who had pulled his black toque down to hide his face told Cpl. Gagnon that he was from Eritrea and had been living in the U.S. since 2013. Another RCMP officer who seized the border-crossers passports held a Minnesota drivers licence and what appeared to be a Sudanese passport in his hands.

At Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec s largest border crossing, Canada s newest refugee claimants would have been taken to the basement of a decommissioned building that has been set up with couches, offices, computers and vending machines to process the elevated number of refugee claimants.

Normally, the Canada Border Services Agency sees between 10 and 20 claims per day, said Dominique Fillion, an enforcement officer with the agency. Last month there were 452 asylum seekers who made claims at that particular border crossing. The agency will not say how many of those people crossed into Canada illegally.

Fillion said the CBSA has been redeploying agents from others posts and duties to help fingerprint, photograph and process the increased number of refugee claimants.

Every day we get more officers coming in, she said.

Like the RCMP, Fillion would not, or could not say if the agency is looking at any long-term solutions to ease the demands on the system.

Refugee advocates in Canada and the U.S. have urged the federal government to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement, which forces refugees to make their claim in whichever country they first reach. That would remove the need for asylum seekers to sneak into Canada in order to exploit a loophole in the deal.

Ottawa has so far rejected such calls, but there is increasing pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau s Liberals to develop a plan that will reduce the illegal and sometimes dangerous crossings.

Illegal crossings are unsafe and a burden on local communities, MP Tony Clement, the Conservative party s public safety critic, wrote on Twitter over the weekend. Our laws should be enforced.

References

  1. ^ Montreal becomes third Canadian sanctuary city for non-status refugees (www.thestar.com)
  2. ^ Toronto not truly a Sanctuary City, report says (www.thestar.com)
  3. ^ How Canada should react to Trump and refugee crisis: Opinion (www.thestar.com)

Trump names outspoken general as security adviser to replace Flynn

Nation/World[1]

  • Author: Jeff Mason, Patricia Zengerle, Reuters
  • Updated: 3 hours ago
  • Published 4 hours ago

Newly named National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster listens as President Donald Trump makes the announcement at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON President Donald Trump said on Monday that Lt. Gen. Herbert Raymond McMaster would be his new national security adviser, again turning to the U.S. military to play a central role on his foreign policy team. Trump also named Keith Kellogg, a retired U.S. Army General who has been serving as the acting national security adviser, as chief of staff to the National Security Council. Speaking to reporters in West Palm Beach where he spent the weekend, Trump said John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, would serve the administration in another capacity. McMaster is a highly regarded military tactician and strategic thinker, but his selection surprised some observers who wondered how McMaster, who is known for questioning authority, would deal with a White House that has not welcomed criticism.

He replaces a Trump loyalist. Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was fired as national security adviser on Feb. 13 after reports emerged that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about speaking to Russia’s ambassador about U.S. sanctions before Trump’s inauguration. The ouster, coming so early in Trump’s administration, was another upset for a White House that has been hit by miscues, including the controversial rollout of a travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries, since the Republican president took office on Jan. 20. Trump spent the weekend considering his options for replacing Flynn. His first choice, retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward, turned down the job last week.

The national security adviser is an independent aide to the president and does not require confirmation by the U.S. Senate. The role has varied from administration to administration, but the adviser attends National Security Council meetings along with the heads of the State Department, the Department of Defense and key security agencies. McMaster, 54, is a West Point graduate known as “H.R.,” with a doctorate in U.S. history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was listed as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2014, partly because of his willingness to buck the system. A combat veteran, he gained renown in the first Gulf War and was awarded a Silver Star after he commanded a small troop of the U.S. 2nd Army Cavalry Regiment that destroyed a much larger Iraqi Republican Guard force in 1991 in a place called 73 Easting, for its map coordinates, in what many consider the biggest tank battle since World War II.

As one fellow officer put it, referring to Trump’s inner circle of aides and speaking on condition of anonymity, the Trump White House “has its own Republican Guard, which may be harder for him to deal with than the Iraqis were.” The Iraqi Republican Guard was ousted dictator Saddam Hussein’s elite military force.

McMaster’s fame grew after his 1997 book “Dereliction of Duty” criticized the country’s military and political leadership for poor leadership during the Vietnam War.

References

  1. ^ Nation/World (www.adn.com)

Newly-opened Trump tower a beacon of controversy in Vancouver

VANCOUVER — When developer Joo Kim Tiah announced in 2013 that his spiralling skyscraper project in Vancouver would bear Donald Trump’s name, the main controversy was whether the glitzy luxury hotel was at odds with the city’s reputation as a home of casual yoga-pants-wearing types. A lot has changed since then. Vancouver’s Trump International Hotel and Tower has transformed into a potent symbol of Trump’s candidacy and presidency, observers say. Protests over U.S. policy inevitably end up on its doorstep and provincial and city politicians have said the Trump name doesn’t represent Vancouver.

“It’s more than a beacon of racism,” said Coun. Kerry Jang, who has urged the developer to drop the Trump brand. “It’s a beacon of intolerance. It’s a beacon of sexism and bullying. That’s just not Vancouver.”

The $360-million hotel and condominium development, with a unique twisting design by late architect Arthur Erickson, had a soft launch last month. Protests are being planned on social media to greet Trump’s sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, at the grand opening Feb. 28. Tiah, the president and CEO of Holborn Group, is the son of one of Malaysia’s wealthiest businessmen. The Trump Organization does not own the tower, but licensed its name for branding and marketing, while the Trump Hotel Collection operates the 147-room hotel. The building’s more than 200 condominium units sold out last year, the National Post reported. Tiah told the newspaper in November that the media had a “vendetta” against the U.S. president and rejected suggestions that the Trump brand had taken a hit.

But in Vancouver, known for its multiculturalism and progressive politics, Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has given the tower an uneasy place in the city’s skyline. After Trump’s call in 2015 for a “complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S., a petition urging Holborn Group to dump the Trump name attracted 56,000 signatures. Mayor Gregor Robertson joined the chorus of residents in a passionate letter to Tiah in December 2015.

“Trump’s name and brand have no more place on Vancouver’s skyline than his ignorant ideas have in the modern world,” Robertson wrote. Also in December 2015, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said it was up to the city and the developer to decide whether to drop the brand, but she agreed the name doesn’t represent Vancouver, adding she didn’t think Trump would be “good business” in Canada for much longer.

Tiah was unavailable for an interview, but told the Post that removing the Trump name would have led to “enormous financial and legal ramifications.” Talk Shop Media, which handles media relations for the opening of the tower, did not return requests for comment. Lindsay Meredith, a marketing professor at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business, said the hotel is aimed at high-income business people, who tend to be well-educated and more likely to be offended by Trump’s comments and policies.

“It doesn’t take much to kick that kind of clientele into the arms of yet another high-end luxury establishment,” he said. Hundreds marched past the tower in a raucous protest after Trump’s election in November as well as during last month’s Women’s March. Someone briefly changed its name to Dump Tower on Google Maps.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Canada was also recently involved in a flap when it rented space inside the tower for an event, prompting questions about whether the business group was trying to curry favour with the new U.S. president. Chamber member Laura Ballance said the group is non-partisan and had to scramble to find space after its planned location fell through just two days before the event. It usually tries to hold meetings inside American-owned or branded spaces, she said.

“The Trump tower fell within that list and it was the first one to respond,” she said. But the incident that may have attracted the most international attention was in April 2016 when Diego Reyna, a Mexico-born Canadian citizen, flew the Mexican flag from the tower.

Reyna, a structural steel framer, said he didn’t work on the building but he knew more than a dozen Mexicans and other immigrants who did. He wore his construction gear and casually passed through security. A guard even apologized for not opening a gate quickly enough, Reyna recalled.

“That’s the beauty of Canada,” he said with an appreciative laugh.

The 31-year-old grew up in Chiapas, the southernmost Mexican state, where his father worked in a mine 16 hours a day and his mother worked three jobs just to afford one meal a day for her children. When he heard Trump criticize Mexican immigrants, he knew he had to speak out.

“He said when Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. That’s where I disagree,” Reyna said. “The most brilliant minds of my generation, the most creative and intelligent brains, have all been Mexican and they’ve all been struggling with poverty.

“The only message is be kind when you judge those who were not born with the privilege that you have,” he added. “You want to build a wall? Great. You don’t want immigrants in your country? Perfect. But don’t tell the world that we are criminals and rapists.”

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