Starbucks plans to hire 1,000 refugees in Canada

Corporate leadership:

Starbucks, the Seattle-based global coffee chain, has announced plans to hire 10,000 refugees around the world, including 1,000 in Canada over five years.

Wednesday’s announcement followed outgoing Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz’s earlier defiance and criticisms of U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel bans against Muslim-majority countries and suspension of refugee programs.

In response to the new administration’s executive orders, Schultz reaffirmed the company’s values by committing to hire refugees, “building bridges, not walls, with Mexico,” and supporting undocumented youth and former U.S. president Barack Obama’s affordable health care plan.

“We see the role Canada plays in accepting refugees. These newcomers need jobs to resettle successfully. We believe in their potential. They have tremendous skills to contribute to our company and to our country,” said Luisa Girotto, Starbucks Canada’s vice-president, public affairs.

“All they need is the first opportunity to kick-start a new life in Canada. We have thousands of jobs to fill and enough opportunity for every segment in society.”

Girotto said the company will work with Hire Immigrants — an agency out of Ryerson University that supports best practices to integrate newcomer workers — to recruit, train and retain refugee employees through its local community networks in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton.

The refugee hiring initiative will build on Starbucks’ Opportunity Youth program, which focuses on training and hiring young people as a response to high youth unemployment.

Mark Patterson, executive director of Hire Immigrants, said he was not surprised when approached by Starbucks to be a partner of the refugee employment initiative.

“Here is a company that understands the diverse population it serves. Diversity is part of its values. We hope we can get the message out to show the economic values of being diverse and inclusive, and to spur other employers to do the same,” said Patterson.

Yusra Zein-Alabdin, whose family came to Canada last July via Turkey under the Syrian refugee resettlement program, said social and professional networks are a key to securing employment.

“It is not easy to go out and ask someone if they have an available job,” said the mother of two, who has a degree in English literature and used to teach English to impoverished children back home.

“We were not welcomed in Turkey. I’m surprised and very happy that not only the Canadian government wants to help refugees, but everyone, businesses and employers also want to help us.”

Like New York-based Chobani yogurt, which was attacked on social media by Trump supporters for hiring refugees, Schultz’s refugee hiring speech also drew threats of boycotts against the coffee chain by anti-immigrant groups.

Ontario independent Senator Ratna Omidvar, who founded the Global Diversity Exchange at Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management, said the conversation in the United States on refugees is very different from Canada’s.

“When the community flourishes, the company flourishes. Here we have an enlightened employer, Starbucks, taking a positive stand, saying we need to build bridges, not walls,” said Omidvar. “The company may have to take a risk, but it is a statement that many would agree with.”

Starbucks has more than 1,300 outlets and 19,000 employees in Canada. Staff who work a minimum of 20 hours a week are eligible for medical and dental care, as well as up to $5,000 a year in mental health support and tuition reimbursements.

Source: Starbucks plans to hire 1,000 refugees in Canada | Toronto Star

Refugee board’s plea for assistance with growing backlog ignored: Assessment of Budget 2017 Immigration-related policies and programmes

As usual, the Star and Nicholas Keung provide the best coverage:

Despite a worsening backlog and surging number of land-border asylum claims via the U.S., the beleaguered Immigration and Refugee Board will not be getting any relief from the Liberal government.

Although the 2017 budget provides $62.9 million over five years — and $11.5 million per year thereafter — for legal aid services for asylum claimants, it ignored a recent plea from IRB chair Mario Dion for additional money to deal with its rising backlog of refugee claims, which is expected to hit 30,000 cases this year.

“It is discouraging,” said Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees. “We are expecting the number of claims to go up dramatically. This is going to hurt everybody.”

The number of refugees arriving in Canada went up by 48 per cent to 5,520 in the first two months of this year, including 2,145 who crossed the land border via the United States.

Instead of ensuring there is money to hire enough refugee judges to hear asylum claims, the government said it will spend $29 million in the next five years to make permanent an unpopular “reviews and interventions pilot project.”

Launched in 2012, the project assigns representatives from the Canada Border Services Agency and the Immigration Department to intervene in refugee hearings by raising concerns over the credibility of claims.

A 2015 internal evaluation of the program identified operational challenges because of causes confusion and redundancy around responsibilities between the two government departments.

“It is inefficient, wasteful intervention that causes delays. Their submissions are often poorly thought out,” Dench said.

On the immigration front, critics said little change was made to improve the temporary foreign worker program, other than a new permit exemption for short-duration work terms for intercompany exchanges, study exchanges or the entrance of temporary expertise.

The budget also proposes to eliminate the $1,000 labour market impact assessment for families seeking to hire foreign caregivers to care for people with high medical needs and for families with less than $150,000 in annual income looking for a nanny.

“The problem with the temporary foreign worker program is it’s been poorly managed. It’s not about writing stricter rules but actually investing into the system to vet and make sure the rules are followed. The government needs to step up on the expenditures for enforcement,” said Professor Jeffrey Reitz, director of ethnic, immigration and pluralism studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs.

Chris Ramsaroop of Justicia for Migrant Workers, a grassroots advocacy group, said the budget fails to address the vulnerabilities faced by foreign workers in Canada.

“The refusal to implement a policy of permanent residency on arrival for migrants send a strong message that Canada refuses to acknowledge the invaluable social and economic contributions that migrant workers provide toward our society,” he said.

Also missing are additional resources to address immigration backlogs for qualified live-in caregivers applying for permanent residency and family reunification for parents and grandparents, said MP Jenny Kwan, immigration critic for the opposition NDP.

“The processing time is taking so long that for many families, their medical, criminal and security checks have expired,” said Kwan. “Canada is contributing to breaking up families.”

Source: Refugee board’s plea for assistance with growing backlog ignored | Toronto Star

Nearly half of Canadians support deporting people who are in Canada illegally, poll finds

Not surprising, one of the factors that underlies overall Canadian support for immigration is that the public perceives this as managed and controlled. Irregular arrivals undermine that trust:

Undocumented immigrants in the United States are fleeing to Canada. But Canadians may not want them, a new survey finds.

Nearly half of Canadians support “increasing the deportation of people living in Canada illegally,” according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Monday.

The same share said they supported sending migrants that crossed from the United States right back over the border, while just 36 percent said Canada should accept them and let them apply for refugee status.

Read more:Trump, tighter air travel rules behind surge of refugees at Canada-U.S. border, experts say

The popular sentiment could pose a challenge to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who champions a pro-refugee and pro-immigration policy as a stark foil to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Trump’s anti-immigrant “build-a-wall” rhetoric helped launch him into the White House, but since getting there, he has faced significant political backlash and legal scrutiny over his policies.

The debate is spilling over into Canada, where Trudeau is taking a political hit for keeping his country’s door opento refugees and immigrants.

Forty-six percent of poll respondents disagreed with how Trudeau is handling immigration, while 37 per cent agreed.
The poll shows the national debate on immigration is heating up. Nearly a quarter of Canadians believe immigration-control is a leading national issue, compared to 19 per cent in a December poll.

Some 40 per cent thought accepting those fleeing from the United States could make Canada less safe.

Undocumented immigrants began fleeing to Canada in record numbers after Trump’s political rise.

In 2016, 1,222 fled the United States to Quebec alone, a five-fold increase.

Source: Nearly half of Canadians support deporting people who are in Canada illegally, poll finds | Toronto Star

Too soon to put Canadian price tag on Trump’s immigration overhaul: officials

Useful questioning of the Minister and officials, and reasonable responses to an evolving situation:

The Liberal government is examining whether the fallout from U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration will require more cash to be spent north of the border.

But both immigration officials and the federal minister told a House of Commons committee that right now, there’s no new money.

Departmental officials say Trump’s executive orders are too new for them to be able to estimate how much they could cost Canada and in what ways.

The Immigration and Refugee Board, however, has been saying for months that a rise in the number of asylum claims is already straining its resources and it has put in a pitch for more cash.

Board officials had been hoping to get an answer in Wednesday’s federal budget but Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen wouldn’t commit Monday to new funds.

He says the fact that claims have been rising at the IRB since 2015 is proof the problem goes beyond the so-called Trump effect.

The board did receive about $4.5-million to deal with an expected increase in claims from Mexican nationals following a government decision to lift visas for Mexicans last December.

Those numbers are already up over last year – 241 Mexicans lodged asylum claims in all of 2016 and 156 have already done so in 2017.

Many anticipate the U.S. president’s executive orders curtailing immigration from certain countries, scaling back refugee admissions and speeding up deportations could push the numbers of people seeking asylum in Canada higher.

Hussen and his officials were pressed Monday by the NDP’s immigration critic Jenny Kwan on whether any more money has been earmarked yet to deal with the potential fallout.

The executive orders are too new and the money currently being requested from Parliament deals with already identified needs, said Daniel Mills, an assistant deputy minister in the Immigration Department.

“We haven’t yet estimated the amount that we will need,” he said in French.

What might be needed next is under review at least in one area.

“The IRB is already facing a number of pressures and recent events will only give rise to further pressures,” Richard Wex, an associate deputy minister in the department, told the committee.

“This matter is under active consideration by the government.”

Hussen tried to bolster the case at committee that the so-called Trump effect isn’t to blame for the rise in claims.

Of the 143 people who’ve who crossed illegally into Manitoba to make an asylum claim in 2017, he said only about 50 had U.S. visas, 97 per cent had been the U.S. less than two months and had not filed an asylum claim there.

“It puts into context the claim made by many that this is as a result of the U.S. administration,” he said.

“In fact, the rise in asylum claims through the border . . . there’s been a small and steady increase since 2015, most of 2016. This is definitely not specific to the incoming U.S. administration.”

Another element that could complicate the IRB’s caseload is the upcoming plan to lift the visa requirement people coming from Romania and Bulgaria. Romania in particular was a large source of asylum claims in Canada prior to a visa requirement being imposed and the decision to phase-out the visa later this year is likely to lead to a renewed increase in asylum claims.

No money has been earmarked yet for the IRB to deal with that.

Source: Too soon to put Canadian price tag on Trump’s immigration overhaul: officials – The Globe and Mail

Starbucks faces backlash over CEO’s vow to hire thousands of refugees

Not necessarily surprising but not clear whether those more opposed to the hiring of refugees were regular Starbucks customers (the “latte sipping elites” as some would portray them) or the broader population:

Starbucks Corp.’s vow to hire thousands of refugees after President Donald Trump’s first executive order that temporarily banned travel from seven mostly-Muslim nations appears to be hurting customer sentiment of the coffee chain.

Trump supporters have used Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites to call for a boycott since Jan. 29, when Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz vowed to hire 10,000 refugees over five years in the countries where it does business.

Schultz in a letter to employees said the promise of the American Dream was “being called into question” and that “the civility and human rights we have all taken for granted for so long are under attack.”

YouGov BrandIndex, which tracks consumers’ sentiment toward companies and their willingness to purchase from those brands, noted that the data around this boycott is different because both measures are declining.

Starbucks’ consumer perception levels took an immediate hit as measured by YouGov BrandIndex’s Buzz score, falling by two-thirds between Jan. 29 and Feb. 13, and have not recovered.

Starbucks Buzz score fell to four from 12 during that time. Such scores can range from 100 to -100 and are compiled by subtracting negative feedback from positive. A zero score means equal positive and negative feedback.

Immediate drop

Prior to Schultz’s refugee comments, 30 per cent of consumers said they would consider buying from Starbucks the next time they made a coffee purchase, that fell to a low of 24 per cent and now stands at 26 per cent, according to a YouGov spokesman.

“Consumer perception dropped almost immediately,” said YouGov BrandIndex CEO Ted Marzilli, who added that the statistically significant drop in purchase consideration data showed that consumers became less keen to buy from Starbucks.

“That would indicate the announcement has had a negative impact on Starbucks, and might indicate a negative impact on sales in the near term,” he said.

Marzilli noted that the Starbucks holiday “red cup” controversy from November 2015 corresponded with an even larger drop in perception, but no real impact on purchase consideration scores.

Support for rival urged

Among other things, boycott supporters are urging like-minded friends to support Starbucks rival Dunkin’ Donuts . Representatives from Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts declined to comment on the surveys and the boycott’s impact on sales.

Source: Starbucks faces backlash over CEO’s vow to hire thousands of refugees – Business – CBC News

2016 Refugee Claim Data and IRB Member Recognition Rates | Canadian Council for Refugees

This is really an impressive analysis  suggesting (no surprise) that individual decision-makers are not as objective and consistent as desired (as Kahneman and others have demonstrated in different contexts). All Canadian government tribunals should conduct this kind of analysis to improve consistency in decision making:

The following note and the accompanying data are provided by Sean Rehaag, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School.

8 March 2017

Data obtained from the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) through an Access to Information Request reveals vast disparities in refugee claim recognition rates across decision-makers in 2016. This is consistent with similar findings from prior years for Canada’s previous and new refugee determination systems.

Refugee claims referred to the IRB after 15 December 2012 are subject to the new system, whereas claims referred to the IRB prior to that date are legacy cases that are decided under the old system. Legacy and new system cases are not only decided under different rules, but are also decided by different cohorts of decision-makers. Because of these important differences, the data on RPD decision-making for 2016 is separated into legacy cases and new system cases.

In 2016, some Refugee Protection Division (RPD) decision-makers granted refugee status in most of the cases they heard, including R. Tiwari (95.9%, 74 new system cases), I. Singh (92.5%, 53 new system cases) and K. Genjaga (91.8%, 85 new system cases). Others granted refugee protection much less frequently, including B. Lloyd (23.8%, 63 new system cases), R. Gibson (26.0%, 77 new system cases) and M. Beatty (29.8%, 57 new system cases).

Some of the recognition rate variation may be due to specialization in particular types of cases. For example, some decision-makers specialize in geographic regions with especially high or low refugee claim recognition rates. For further possible explanations for variations in recognition rates, please see an IRB explanatory note, which was provided with a response to an earlier Access to Information Request: http://ccrweb.ca/files/7.irb_explanatory_note-2012.pdf

Although some of the recognition rate variation can be explained by factors related to specialization, the tables below suggest that country of origin specialization alone fails to fully account for the variations. The tables show substantial variance for some decision-makers between the recognition rates that would be predicted based on the average recognition rates for the countries of origins in the cases they decided, and their actual recognition rates. For instance, in new system cases B. Lloyd (predicted 57.4%; actual 23.8%), R. Gibson (predicted 53.9%; actual 26.0%) and J. Daubney (predicted 59.7%; actual 32.3%) had much lower recognition rates than predicted, whereas R. Tiwari (predicted 62.6%, actual 95.9%), J. Eberhard (predicted 56.5%; actual 87.4%) and J. Bousfield (predicted 63.6%; actual: 89.3%) had much higher recognition rates than predicted.

This year’s data also includes information about outcomes on appeals at the IRB’s Refugee Appeal Division (RAD). As with RPD decision-making, outcomes at the RAD appear to vary greatly depending on who serves as the decision-maker. For example, in RAD cases decided on the merits, claimants were much more likely to succeed in their appeals before S.S. Kular (56.5%, 46 cases), R. Dhir (50.5%, 32 cases) or L.F. Agostinho (46.6%, 58 cases) than before L. Favreau (5.3%, 94 cases), Stephen Gallagher (17.1%, 35 cases) or D.E. Sokolyk (20.6%, 63 cases). Remarkably, claimants were more than 10 times as likely to succeed on appeals with S.S. Kular than with L. Favreau.

A few implications of this year’s data are worth highlighting:

  • Some countries that are designated as “safe” in Canada’s refugee determination system produced many positive refugee determinations in 2016. Consider for example, Hungary, which had a 66.9% recognition rate, and which produced 184 successful refugee decisions (involving 529 individual claimants) in the new system in 2016. It is difficult to understand how such countries can reasonably be designated as “safe” or what could justify limitations on procedural rights (e.g. expedited processes, limitations on pre-removal risk assessments) that come with such designations. For further analysis, see: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2588058
  • The persistence of unexplained variations in recognition rates across adjudicators in the new refugee determination system, combined with the devastating potential impact of false negative refugee decisions (i.e. refugees being returned to face persecution), make robust oversight mechanisms essential. Unfortunately, many refugee claimants continue to be denied access to the appeal at the Immigration and Refugee Board and are ineligible for automatic stays on removal pending judicial review at the Federal Court. This includes large numbers of claimants who transited to Canada via the United States – even though one’s route to Canada has little to do with whether one has a well-founded fear of persecution. For further analysis, see: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2647638
  • While substantial variation in recognition rates persist, it should be noted that no new system decision-makers in 2016 who made 20 or more decisions denied every single claim they heard. This is in contrast to the old refugee determination system (S. Roy in 2013: 0.0%, 23 decisions; D. McSweeney in 2011: 0.0%, 127 decisions; D. McBean in 2010: 0.0%, 62 decisions; D. McBean in 2009: 0.0%, 72 decisions). It is worth considering whether this change relates to the professionalization of refugee decision-making and the shift to civil servant decision-makers (rather than political appointees as was the case under the old system).
  • The overall success rates on RAD appeals are remarkably high. Indeed, appeals brought by claimants and decided on the merits were granted in almost one third of cases (33.1%). On the one hand, the fact that the RAD is correcting large numbers of claims that were wrongly denied at the RPD emphasizes the importance of this form of oversight. On the other hand, however, it also suggests that there is room for improvement in initial decision-making at the RPD.

For a discussion of the methodology used to obtain the data and to calculate the statistics, as well as an analysis of the implications of similar data for a previous year, see Sean Rehaag, “Troubling Patterns in Canadian Refugee Adjudication” (2008) 39 Ottawa Law Review 335. This article is available via links here: http://ssrn.com/author=404046

Source: 2016 Refugee Claim Data and IRB Member Recognition Rates | Canadian Council for Refugees

Cabinet to map out scenarios for dealing with border-crossers

As expected, work taking place behind the scenes:

Federal cabinet ministers are set for an in-depth discussion of the practical and political pressures being placed on the Liberal government by a rising number of asylum seekers in Canada.

Border security, RCMP and immigration officials have been running scenarios to prepare for the possibility that a relative winter trickle of crossings into Canada could turn into a spring flood.

The results of their table-top exercises will help form options being put before cabinet Tuesday, The Canadian Press has learned.

Officials are also studying links between distinct groups of border-crossers that might belie the common notion they’re all being pushed into Canada by the volatile U.S. political climate.

Two government officials confirmed to The Canadian Press that many of the people coming into Quebec hold American visas issued at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Interviews revealed the visas were obtained to use the U.S. as a transit point to get to Canada and claim asylum — plans set in motion long before the U.S. election in November, the officials said, neither of whom were authorized to publicly discuss the issue.

USA-IMMIGRATION/CANADA-BORDER

An RCMP officer carries a child from a family that said they were from Yemen after they crossed the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Que., on Sunday. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

But it is the pictures of RCMP officers hoisting small children above snow-covered fields along the Canada-U.S. frontier that have drawn global attention and placed political pressure on the Trudeau government from all sides.

The Opposition Conservatives are demanding a crackdown, and want those crossing illegally charged with crimes, something the government notes cannot happen until asylum claims are heard.

‘We are the endpoint’

The fact those claims are being fed into a clogged system has others urging the Liberals to put more resources into the refugee-determination process and the agencies that support newcomers.

“We are the endpoint,” said Chris Friesen, director of settlement services for the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia.

The Immigration and Refugee Board reported in its last quarterly financial document that in the first nine months of 2016-17, there was a 40-per-cent increase in new claims compared to the same period the previous year.

Statistics provided to The Canadian Press show claim levels generally began rising in Canada before U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

Refugees crossing into Quebec

A family claiming to be from Turkey are met by a RCMP officer after they cross the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Que. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

In fact, the increase seems to have begun just as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took power.

In October 2015, the month of the last federal election, 1,519 claims were lodged in Canada. The next month, when the Trudeau Liberals took office, there were 1,647 and — with the exception of two months in 2016 — they have been rising since.

Trump is pushing people into Canada, but the Trudeau government’s repeated messaging on welcoming diversity and immigration is a pretty strong pull factor, Friesen said. “We are now the beacon of hope for desperate refugees.”

In B.C., there has been a 60-per-cent increase in the number of refugee claimants in the last 12 months compared to the previous one-year period. Most are Iraqi Kurds and Afghans, and there were also 18 undocumented Latin Americans from Guatemala, Honduras and Venezuela who recently crossed the Canada-U.S. border, immigration agencies said.

The number of Mexican claimants is also starting to rise in B.C., following the end of a requirement for Mexican citizens to have a visa to enter Canada. During the last three months, there were 29 refugee claimants from Mexico, the agencies reported, compared to 30 who arrived between December 2015 and November 2016.

The Immigration and Refugee board is already adjusting to deal with the bigger numbers, but cabinet will consider giving it more resources.

Spotlight on Safe Third Country Agreement

Ministers will also consider whether there is room to alter the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S. The agreement says a refugee claimant must apply for asylum in whichever of the two countries they arrive first — unless they qualify for an exception.

It is being singled out as the reason people are avoiding official border stations and crossing into Canada illegally, and there are calls for Ottawa to suspend the agreement.

Source: Cabinet to map out scenarios for dealing with border-crossers – Canada – CBC News

Newly arrived Yazidis who escaped sex slavery of ISIS eager to build better future in Canada

Another article on Yazidis in Canada, focussed on London:

It’s here in London — where about 300 Yazidis have formed a small but tight-knit community since the early 1980s when they fled the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein — that Bhasa and other recently arrived Yazidis hope to start building a new life for their families and try to move beyond the horrors they suffered in captivity.

Dalal Abdallah, a Yazidi human rights activist who lives in London, says members of her community have been donating clothing, hygiene products and toys for the families who have arrived and look forward to absorbing more into their community.

“For many, many years, we have been struggling [to grow] as a community because no Yazidis were coming through,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to build our community, and the more people, the merrier.”

She said London has already accepted and integrated Syrian refugees and that there’s enough support for Yazidis, including a program at Victoria Hospital to help refugees deal with trauma.

Other support comes from London’s Cross Cultural Learner Centre, where Yazidis can learn some basic tools for integrating in Canada: how to get housing, set up bank accounts, apply for health cards.

“We are here to support them, welcome them, make them feel comfortable, that they are not alone here,” said Omar Khoudeida, a Yazidi interpreter who works at the centre and who himself came to London nearly 20 years ago as a refugee.

“There’s a community behind them and supporting them.”

But even with that support, Bhasa must still cope with the emotional fallout of a family torn apart by genocide.

She fears being identified. Although she doesn’t know the fate of family members in Iraq, she’s worried that going public could put them in danger. She hasn’t seen her husband and other male relatives since ISIS invaded her home in August 2014.

Daughter still missing

She also fears for her daughter, who was nine years old when she was snatched by the Islamist militant group.

“They took her. She doesn’t know anything about her,”  Khoudeida said.

While ISIS targets all communities, it has particular antipathy for Yazidis, whom it considers to be infidels.

Iraq Cda Yazidis 20170222

ISIS survivors Suham Haji, from left, Samira Hasan and Saud Khalid sit in the Dohuk Girls and Women Treatment and Support Centre in Dohuk, Iraq. The three women are among 900 being treated at the centre after escaping ISIS captivity. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Last June, a UN commission declared in a report that ISIS was committing genocide against the religious group of about 400,000. ISIS, it said, was subjecting “every Yazidi woman, child or man that it has captured to the most horrific of atrocities.”

Source: Newly arrived Yazidis who escaped sex slavery of ISIS eager to build better future in Canada – Canada – CBC News

Women-only English program in Metro Vancouver hopes to expand

Good initiative:

A unique English program for immigrants and refugees in Metro Vancouver is hoping to expand after finding success with women-only classes where participants can also bring their children.

The focus is not just on language, said teacher Diana Jeffries, but also on supporting mental health.

“So learning the language through taking care of yourself … making connections through community, through working together in this classroom.”

Unlike federally funded language programs like Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC), there are no eligibility requirements or tests to join the Pacific Immigrant Resources Society’s community English classes for refugee women.

“We’re different in that we’re trauma informed, that we allow young children in the classroom, we don’t have the same kind of assessment processes the LINC has,” said program director Amea Wilbur.

“We are specific to women and also we can be a lot more responsive in terms of curriculum.”

The program is open to refugees and immigrants from any country.

Farzana Fakrhi said the flexible atmosphere is the main reason she’s able to attend the classes in Burnaby.

“It’s very helpful — especially for the women who have small kids. They have daycare for the small babies, which the other classes didn’t have it.”

Some federally funded classes do provide child minding for children, but they usually have to be 18 months or older.

Community english classes

The female-only language program in Metro Vancouver allows women to bring their children to class. (Bal Brach/CBC)

Outreach worker Zarmina Ali said some of the women have never stepped foot in a classroom before arriving in Canada.

“This program is very important for them because most people haven’t been at school in their life — this is the first time they come to school and they enjoy it so much.”

Sharing stories of loss

Jeffries said the supportive environment in the class has given students the confidence to share their stories of loss and struggle.

“[They talk about] the era of the Taliban and wearing burkas,” she said.

“And experiences of great loss, family members, of even children. They carry around a huge weight of their past but [they are] just looking to Canada as an opportunity for a better future for themselves and their children.”

Wilbur created the program after witnessing a gap in services for newcomers.

Source: Women-only English program in Metro Vancouver hopes to expand – British Columbia – CBC News

Officials confirm rise in asylum seekers [with data] crossing illegally into Canada, but RCMP lay no charges

Good that the numbers are being released, along with the close monitoring – an increase of 26.5 percent compared to last year (January 1 to February 21) :

Canadian officials are keeping close tabs on the number of people illegally crossing the border into Canada, but they don’t expect the winter increase will necessarily lead to a spring surge.

Government officials, who spoke on background and did not wish to be named, provided journalists with an update on illegal crossings today and confirmed an increase in three provinces.

Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 21 this year, there were 290 illegal crossings in Quebec, 94 in Manitoba and 51 in British Columbia, totalling 435.

That compares with 2,464 illegal entries apprehended by the RCMP in the same regions in all of 2016.

These numbers do not include people who may have crossed illegally without being caught by police.

While it is a criminal offence to cross into Canada outside a legal border point, no one has yet been charged, according to an official. If caught, the person who has entered the country without authorization is arrested and required to undergo a criminal background check.

“To my knowledge we haven’t charged the people for crossing the border illegally,” one official said. “We determine if there’s any criminality … then we would follow up. If there’s no criminality, we would turn them over to our counterparts at CBSA.”

The Canada Border Services Agency can detain people who have a criminal record, who can’t be properly identified or who are at risk of not showing up for a hearing. Officials stressed that all people are carefully screened by CBSA before they are released.

No charges until after refugee claim process

Refugee and human rights lawyer Lorne Waldman said police cannot lay a charge until the refugee claim process is complete.

“There’s a clear provision in the law that says people who cross the border or use false documents in order to come to Canada to make a refugee claim cannot be charged unless their claim is rejected, because the UN convention says people shouldn’t be punished for illegal entry if it’s for the purpose of making a refugee claim,” he told CBC News.

Careful screening process

“We are not releasing anybody that we have concerns about,” an official said. “Their identity is confirmed, the biometrics have been confirmed, the biographic data is confirmed … they are deemed admissible and they are eligible for proceeding towards a refugee claim.”

The total number of people who made refugee claims in Canada inland — not at official border points — climbed to 2,281 this year between Jan. 1 and Feb. 21, up from 1,803 during the same period in 2016.

Source: Officials confirm rise in asylum seekers crossing illegally into Canada, but RCMP lay no charges – Politics – CBC News