Canada’s minority Conservative government is trying to change the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The changes are in accord with the government’s over-all style. When elected, the Conservatives pledged a more open government, but in fact everything is tightly controlled by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He does not even allow his caucus members to express their views publicly without his approval. This practice is meant to prevent some of his more extreme red-necks from alarming the voters. After all, Canadians tend to be moderates. Why did the Canadians cross the road? To get to the middle.
The revisions are sometimes noticeable only on close inspection. Thus, “shall” becomes “may,” when it comes to issuing visas and in examining humanitarian and compassionate applications by persons outside Canada. Many of such applications are for family unification. Control-freak that he is, Harper also wishes to shift the emphasis in immigration to focus more on temporary work permits.
The changes would also give the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration the power to stop taking applications for immigration. The Conservatives argue that there is such a backlog (up to six years) that something must be done to streamline the system. Hiring more staff does not appear to be an option.
Chances are that the changes will become law. The amendments to the act are a matter of confidence, and if the government were to lose the vote there would have to be a new election. Stephane Dion, leader of the official opposition Liberal Party, wants to avoid an election, in which his party’s prospects do not appear bright. A Quebecker, his party is currently less popular in his home province according to polls than the separatist Bloc Québécois and the Conservatives, and Quebec counts for a substantial number of the seats in Parliament.
As a result of the tight spot in which the Liberals find themselves, they are likely to take measures to avoid defeating the government. They may abstain on the vote or simply not show up.
Saudi death penalty criticized
He’s got friends in Montreal, and on March 23 some 30 of them took part in a demonstration on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, to protest against his death sentence in Saudi Arabia. Mohamed Kohail is a 23-year-old Canadian citizen, born in Saudi Arabia. He attended Jean XIII High School in Montreal, and his friends and acquaintances came out last Sunday to demand justice for him.
Kohail is charged with killing another youth in a brawl in January, 2007. For months, his trial heard witnesses, but there were things missing. For one thing, the proceedings were in camera. The public, family, and Canadian embassy officials were not allowed in. Not even his lawyer could attend! Then, on January 7 this year, his lawyer, his father, and a Canadian consular official were finally allowed to attend. His brother is currently out on bail, accused in the same incident.
It appears that witnesses have given wildly different accounts of the incident in question, some supporting the charge against him and others saying that he is totally innocent. Perhaps Saudi Arabia opened the case up to prepare for the January visit to the country by Maxime Bernier, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Since then, a spokesman for Helena Guergis, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, declared that Canada is “deeply disappointed” by the verdict.
In the past, Canada has always intervened in urging that the death penalty not be imposed on Canadian citizens. However, the current Conservative government recently reversed this policy in refusing to ask that a convicted Canadian in Montana not be put to death. The Conservatives have argued that a death sentence resulting from a fair trial in a free country should not necessarily be opposed. However, this puts Canada in an awkward position. If it opposes a death sentence, the message is that Canada sees the country imposing it to be authoritarian and unfair. Hardly a good starting point in arguing for clemency.
Fencers choose hijab as uniform
Carleton University’s female épée team has decided on a uniform. The school is in Ottawa. Since Mozynah Nofal, a member of the team, wears a hijab, the other women, who are not Muslim, decided to make the covering a team uniform. Harmony Mah, one of the team, said that they decided that “we would put the hijab on to be like her.” Reaction from the public has been mixed: some positive, some simply curious.
Gulf mutual fund in the works
Frontier Alt Capital Corporation of Toronto is planning to release a new mutual fund based on instruments from the Gulf region. The company is inspired by the economic strength and rapid growth in the area. MAK Allen & Day Capital Partners will handle the portfolio of investments.
While the price of oil makes the region an attractive play, the fact that most local currencies are pegged to the U.S. dollar is a drawback, due to recessionary pressures in the American economy.
Terror trial begins
This week, the trial of one of the Toronto 18, accused of plotting terrorist acts in Toronto and Ottawa, got underway. Evidence from a videotape of a training activity was presented, in which one speaker told the group that their exploits would far exceed the mayhem in London and Madrid.
The person on trial cannot be named, by court order, and some of the evidence is also off limits at this time. However, the defense is arguing that what happened at the training session and much else in the alleged plot were empty braggadacio.
Charges against three of the young males have already been dropped.
The latest in Khadr case
In other news about the case, Khadr’s lawyers are in the Supreme Court to try to force Canada to release all the information they have on the case, including notes from the interrogations he experienced at the hands of Canadian intelligence at Guantanamo.
|Khadr’s mother and grandmother