Saturday, January 31, 2009


I am honoured to be a panel moderator at the "Immigration and Employment law issues for Business, Investors and Families" conference starting tomorrow in Kitzbuhel, Austria. I will be reporting from the Austrian Alps as of tomorrow. The conference promises to be both challenging and interesting. I will also be moderating the final panel discussion on the impact of the current economic conditions on immigration policies. What will the future bring? More in the upcoming days! For more information, see this link:


More stories of immigration fraud are coming out of India; this one from the Toronto Star is fairly typical. The question is: are these people "victims" f scammers, or are they willing participants in a scheme that they hope will succeed? I find it interesting that, despite so much negative publicity against the fraudulent consultants in both the Canadian and Indian press, and even in the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website, and notices posted in most visa posts abroad, there are still people who "fall" for scams promising easy "jobs" for which they were never interviewed, or ask for exorbitant amounts of money to "facilitate" immigration. Don;t these "victims" know that the amounts requested are out of proportion with those charged by reputable law firms and organizations? Food for thought....

Trafficking in false promises

Immigration tricksters in Punjab region prey on Indians who hope for new lives in Canada

January 29, 2009
Rick Westhead

Kapurthala, India–One morning in February 2007, Harvinder Singh read an ad in a local newspaper that promised to change his life.

The ad offered a visa to Canada and a $450-a-week job as a kitchen helper at a Crowne Plaza hotel in Toronto. Singh answered the ad, and agreed to pay an immigration consultant a $12,500 advance and an equal amount when his immigration documents were prepared.

Today, however, Singh, 31, is still working for his father in this blue-collar city in the northern Punjab region, manning the family photo shop and tending 1.2 hectares of wheat fields on the outskirts of town.

Police say the rise of unregulated immigration consultants is the most troubling crime trend in the state, ahead of a burgeoning drug problem and sectarian violence.

Singh, who has filed a complaint with the police, said he wanted to immigrate to Canada for his two young children, daughter Manbir Kaur, 4, and son Garpreed, 2.

"My father said it first, `We're being cheated,'" Singh said.

Standing in his family's photo shop, Singh pulled out an undated, three-paragraph note, one of several that urged him to come up with more money for the consultant.

One note was typed on a sloppy imitation of Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts' letterhead – the email address itself was a tipoff:"; the ".ca" written in pencil over top of ".au."

Another two-page letter given to Singh warned there were 158 other candidates in India for the kitchen-helper job.

Singh didn't want to miss out and, even though his father disapproved, kept handing over more cash – until his father last summer said "enough."

"I don't know about the formalities of these things," Singh grimaced. "I just wanted to go to Canada. It's a country where they appreciate hard work, right? I hope I can still go there one day."

A city of about 1.4 million where a distillery and railcar assembly line are the main employers, Kapurthala may be ground zero for immigration fraud, say Canadian immigration officials in Chandigarh, the state capital of Punjab.

Scams like the one that has ensnared Singh highlight the scale of the desperation in Punjab these days.

Historically one of India's breadbasket states, where the average per capita annual income of $484 is still the highest in India, Punjab has fallen on troubling times in recent years.

The water table is sinking to critical levels and two years ago soil scientists at Punjab Agricultural University announced that 80 per cent of the groundwater in Punjab was not drinkable and often laced with arsenic.

The male-to-female birth ratio, meantime, is one of the worst in India, meaning young men are having a difficult time finding brides. "There's not much of a future for many young men there," said a Canadian visa officer. "It makes them do desperate things.

"The five visa officers who staff the Chandigarh mission's consular section are deluged with applications sent with phony documents, mission staff say. Over the past year, 85 per cent of employment letters related to work visa applications have been forgeries.

Although no hard statistics are available, staff say other categories such as temporary visit and student visas are similarly rife with fraud. And unlike Singh, some would-be immigrants are willing participants in their bogus applications, staff say.

A presentation made by Chandigarh visa officers to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney during his visit this month highlighted the myriad tactics used to dupe Canadian officers.

One doctored bank document suggested a visa applicant had a balance of about $25,000 when he actually had about $7.50

A fake airline ticket submitted in another case shows an applicant had booked a direct flight between Toronto and New Delhi on a route Air Canada no longer flies.

Then there are forged letters from Canadian funeral homes, submitted by applicants asking to travel to Canada after a death in the family.

Punjab's chief minister promised Kenney a special inspector would be appointed to act as a liaison with the Canadian mission to battle immigration crime.

"These unscrupulous, unregistered operators take huge amounts of money from people selling the false promise of coming to Canada," Kenney told the Star.

"When this turns out to be a lie, I think it hurts Canada's reputation. In a sense, these people are trading off the good name of Canada. It's nothing but a form of exploitation."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Here is an example of how Canadian citizenship is being depreciated: immigrants ( probably coming as "refugees") manage to "get in" and eventually acquire Canadian citizenship, then they use it for nefarious purposes to advance the cause of those "back home". I think that Canada should seriously consider a legal process to revoke citizenship not just to those who obtained it fraudulently, but also to those engaged in promoting international terrorism, or aiding groups which have been deemed terrorist by Canada. Let's not be so naive and allow these characters to use us.

Canadian guilty of aiding Tamil Tigers

Trial In New York; Attempt made to buy missiles for terror group

Stewart Bell And Adrian Humphreys, National Post
Published: Tuesday, January 27, 2009

TORONTO - A Toronto man pleaded guilty in New York yesterday to attempting to purchase Russian heat-seeking missiles and hundreds of AK-47 assault rifles for the Tamil Tigers guerrillas.

Sathajhan Sarachandran, 29, a former national president of the Canadian Tamil Students Association, pleaded guilty to all five counts against him, which included supporting terrorism and conspiracy to acquire missiles. Nadarasa Yogarasa pleaded guilty to two charges.

Both men were about to go on trial in Brooklyn, N. Y., for their role in an international arms-smuggling conspiracy that worked under the direction of the senior leadership of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

The case was the product of a cross-border investigation conducted by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and the RCMP's Integrated National Security Enforcement Team in Ontario.

The investigation, called Project O-Needle ("needle" was allegedly the conspirators' code word for missile) began on July 30, 2006, when Yogarasa phoned a contact about a potential arms deal, FBI Special Agent James Tareco wrote in an affidavit.

The contact -- who was actually a confidential police informant -- invited Yogarasa to New York to discuss the deal. The next day, Yogarasa, who went by the nickname "Yoga," met the informant in Queens, N. Y.

He was accompanied by Sarachandran, who had travelled from Canada for the meeting. Sarachandran said he was "taking direction" from Pottu Aman, the intelligence chief of the Tamil Tigers, the FBI said.

At the meeting, Sarachandran, who was referred to by his co-accused as "Satha," said he was seeking weapons to use against Sri Lankan military jets. Later that day, the informant sent an e-mail to Sarachandran saying: "I will contact my guy and see what he has."

The FBI informant sent another e-mail to Sarachandran on Aug. 2. "Here are photos of what my guy has available," it said.

The photos showed Russian SA-18 shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles. "Let me know if you guys are interested," it said.

A few days later, Sarachandran indicated that the elusive leader of the Tamil Tigers, Velupillai Prabhakaran, had seen the photos of the SA-18 missiles, the FBI agent wrote.

Meanwhile, on Aug. 14, an undercover officer posing as an arms dealer contacted Sarachandran, who said he was "serious" about buying the weapons. They spoke again the next day and Sarachandran said he wanted 50 to 100 "needles."

On Aug. 18, Sarachandran and two others left Toronto and drove to Long Island, N. Y., to meet the undercover informant and police officers to further discuss the deal, said the FBI.

They agreed on an initial shipment of 10 missiles and 500 AK-47s. The cost was US$900,000. The weapons were to be delivered by ship off the southern coast of India.

As the meeting was winding up, one of the undercover officers gave a signal and police moved in to make the arrests. The RCMP later arrested three more men in Ontario.

The Tamil Tigers are separatist rebels fighting for independence for Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority. Providing material support to the Tigers is a violation of Canadian and U. S. anti-terrorism laws.

Sarachandran is a Canadian citizen. He faces a sentence of 25 years to life imprisonment. He entered his plea as a jury was being selected for his trial.

The two men who accompanied Sarachandran to New York are still awaiting trial. The three arrested in Canada are fighting U. S. efforts to have them extradited to New York.

Piratheepan Nadarajah, 32, of Brampton, is accused of being an accomplice of the two men who pleaded guilty yesterday.

He and Suresh Sriskandarajah, 28, a recent graduate of the University of Waterloo's engineering program, are free on bail and in the midst of a joint extradition. The hearing will continue next month in Toronto, according to his lawyer, John Norris.

Ramanan Mylvaganam, 33, of Malton, Ont., who was a computer engineering student at the University of Waterloo when he was arrested, was ordered extradited in October but is currently on bail pending an appeal, according to the Department of Justice.

The RCMP has been clamping down on Tamil Tigers activity in Canada since 2006. Last year, the government shut down the Toronto and Montreal offices of the World Tamil Movement, a suspected rebel fund-raising front.

An RCMP forensic accounting report says that between 2002 and 2006, the group had wired more than $3-million to overseas accounts, most of them linked to the Tigers. Many Tamil-Canadian donors told police they were pressured into giving money.

Monday, January 26, 2009


The coming into force of new Citizenship regulatory amendments are causing confusion amongst adoptive parents. The article below from today's Globe and Mail newspaper is an example of the confusion that reigns. While the government has not done a good job explaining the changes, the bottom line is that citizenship cannot and should not be passed infinitely to generations of foreigners who should not receive the benefits of citizenship and the obligations associated with it, unless they are livign in Canada and contributing to society, paying their fair share of taxes and complying with Canadian law. How would you like someone sitting in the middle of the Gobi Desert choosing your next Prime Minister?

Complex citizenship laws anger adoptive parents

New rules suggest children adopted or born overseas may not have same rights as those born here


From Monday's Globe and Mail

January 26, 2009 at 4:41 AM EST

OTTAWA — Parents who have adopted overseas say they are confused and angry after learning that their children may not have the same citizenship rights as those who are born in this country.

If Canadians give birth abroad or adopt from another country, they can pass along their citizenship to their children. But new federal regulations that take effect in April will prevent those foreign-born children of Canadians from bestowing that same citizenship on their own children should they, too, decide to adopt or give birth in another country.

"I am just getting flooded with e-mails and phone calls. It's crazy," said Sandra Forbes, executive director of Children's Bridge, a group of international adoption consultants based in Ottawa. "It produces what appears to be a two-tier citizenship status. Some people are saying clearly that this is discrimination."

The changes, which most adoptive parents learned about from news reports earlier this month, are actually part of an effort by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to fix anomalies in the system.

Among other things, the government was trying to prevent foreign-born nationals from coming to Canada, obtaining citizenship, then returning to their country of origin and passing along citizenship to generations of family members that have never set foot in this country.

"It is to protect the value of Canadian citizenship," said Douglas Kellam, a spokesman for the Immigration Department.

But the amendments to the Citizenship Act that were passed into law last spring, and subsequent regulations that were released late last year, did not take into account the ramifications for internationally adopted children and children born to Canadians overseas.

And they have proved so complicated that even the department has been unable to articulate exactly how they will work. Immigration officials admit that the explanation on their own website may mislead parents of children born or adopted overseas that their children will automatically fall under the new rules.

In fact, children born outside Canada who apply to become citizens after their Canadian parents sponsor them to come to this country as permanent residents are entitled to the same rights as children who are born here.

The new rules affect only those children whose Canadian parents, on the basis of their own citizenship, choose to have them declared citizens of Canada while they are still abroad. That is an option that has always been available to Canadians who give birth outside Canada and that was granted to adoptive parents in December, 2007, after years of intense lobbying.

Gerry Boychuk, a professor at the University of Waterloo, is the father of a two-year-old daughter adopted outside Canada, and is on the waiting list for a second international adoption. He is frustrated by the unclear website and by the new rules in general.

"I don't understand the insistence on creating tiers of citizenship and differentiating citizenship for this group of people," Dr. Boychuk said.

Ms. Forbes of Children's Bridge said parents who have adopted abroad are now confused about whether to have their children declared citizens while still in the foreign country, or to go through the naturalization process.

They are also concerned, she said, that their grandchildren could be left stateless if they are born in a country that does not automatically grant citizenship to everyone born on its soil.

Mr. Kellam said Canada cannot leave people stateless because it is a signatory to an international agreement saying it doesn't have rules that create such a situation.

And, he pointed out, if a Canadian born abroad has children in another country with a Canadian-born spouse, their children can obtain citizenship through the spouse.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal. It constitutes a good argument against granting any type of "amnesty" to low skilled workers in "good times", as they quickly become a social problem in "bad Times" for the economy. In Canada, there were growing calls, particularly from the left and from unions, to grant "amnesty" to the thousands of illegal workers toiling in the construction industry. With the economy down and the construction sector in a precipitous fall, those calls for legalization are now muted. In my opinion, a robust temporary foreign worker program without the reward of permanent residency is best suited to ensure that the labour supply is adequate in good times, and that those workers return home in a slowdown. Otherwise, they became an unnecessary burden to the taxpayers and slow down economic recovery.

JANUARY 24, 2009

Spain's Jobs Crisis Leaves Immigrants Out of Work
With Prospects Worse Elsewhere, Few Takers for Government Campaign Offering to Pay Legal Foreigners Who Return Home


MANCHA REAL, Spain -- Spain's unemployment rate rose to 13.9% in December -- an eight-year record and by far the highest rate in the European Union. In this southern village, that means olive grower José Morillo is hiring locals and turning away foreigners who worked for him during the country's economic boom.

Half of Mr. Morillo's pickers used to be immigrants, as Spaniards shunned the low-paying work. This year, all but one of his 11 workers is Spanish -- and the nearby town is teeming with unemployed immigrants who sleep outdoors or in church shelters.

"There's lots of carpenters and craftsmen from town who are picking olives this year," says Mr. Morillo, standing on a hillside near Mancha Real. "I called the [foreign] ones who had come before and said: 'Don't come this year, there isn't any work.' "

Government efforts to free up more jobs for Spaniards are having a limited effect. Billboard-size ads in subway stations and on city buses pitch payments for legal immigrants who go home: If they agree to leave Spain for at least three years, the government will pay the unemployment benefit they're entitled to in a lump sum -- 40% on leaving and 60% on arrival back home.

The average payment runs about $14,000. In the program's first two months last year, just 1,400 immigrants took up the offer.

The competition for jobs here among the olive groves and throughout the country illustrates Spain's dramatic fall from being Europe's star economy. The country's output grew at an average annual rate of nearly 4% a year for the decade until 2007 -- around twice the average rate for the euro-zone countries.

After adopting the euro in 1999 and submitting to the European Central Bank's national budget rules, Spain acquired the economic stability of a rich nation. Investors no longer worried about the national debt or possible currency risks.

A building frenzy helped Spain generate more jobs than any other country in the euro zone this decade. More than five million immigrants arrived, and the registered population, which had been stable till 2000, jumped 15% by 2008.

Last year, the cheap credit that fueled Spain's boom dried up. The economy likely entered recession in the second half of 2008, and the European Commission expects it to shrink 2% this year. Data out Friday show the number of Spanish out-of-work job seekers rose by 609,100 in the fourth quarter, bringing the total number to 3.2 million. The unemployment rate was nearly twice the euro zone's November average of 7.8%.

Beyond Spain, economic prospects for the euro zone remain dismal, additional Friday data confirm. A survey of purchasing managers by the Markit Economics research firm shows the entire region registered shrinking private-sector activity in January -- albeit at a slower pace than in December.

Among individual countries, Germany -- the euro zone's largest economy -- hit a record low in the January purchasing managers' index, while France reflected a slowing pace of contraction. Italy -- the developed world's least productive economy -- this week took steps to improve productivity, with an accord between the government and most of the nation's largest unions. Outside the euro zone, the United Kingdom on Friday posted two consecutive quarters of contracting gross domestic product in the second half of 2008.

During Spain's flush times, immigrants were welcome to come and work. In 2005, the government granted amnesty to more than half a million people living in Spain illegally. Today, they are seen as a growing social problem.

Other European countries, such as Ireland, also had influxes of foreigners who came largely from other EU nations, such as Poland, and are returning home for jobs. Many of Spain's immigrants come from Africa and Latin America, and view employment prospects at home as even dimmer.

Spain is entering "uncharted territory," says Fernando Eguidazu, an economist and vice president of the Círculo de Empresarios, a business association. "There's a group of five million immigrants in a situation of economic crisis and a shrinking economy. We don't know how that is going to work."

Many foreign workers have flocked to Jaén, an Andalusian province of rolling hills and whitewashed houses. The region produces most of the olive oil in Spain -- and accounts for nearly a fifth of world production. But as the country's economy flourished, young Spaniards abandoned the fields for jobs in construction, banks or offices. A year ago, local growers hired 40 workers in Romania and flew them to Jaén.

"We just couldn't find enough labor," says Rafael Civantos, provincial head of the farmers' association.

Now, Spaniards are lining up to pick olives for €53 ($68) a day, the rate agreed to with Spain's labor unions. Because many olive growers are small farmers, they tend to give the jobs to needy friends or relatives, says Pedro González of Jaén Acoje, a charity that helps immigrants.

One of Mr. Morillo's new workers is Jaime Jiménez Morales, the 18-year-old son of a Spanish friend who was laid off from his job as a carpenter. His brother, Daniel, 20, also works for Mr. Morillo after losing his job as a house painter.

At the same time, more foreigners than usual have been arriving, because construction work elsewhere has dwindled.

In December, 3,000 people arrived, according to Cáritas, a charity run by the Roman Catholic Church. "There's no work for us this year," says Mohammed, a young Mauritanian huddled with a group of unemployed friends outside a hostel in Jaén. "The farmers have given the jobs to their friends and relatives."

Hundreds of foreign workers have been sleeping outdoors in the cold. In the provincial capital, also called Jaén, the church turned a former convent into a temporary shelter. In the nearby town of Úbeda, hundreds of unemployed foreigners have been living in the municipal sports center. Charities have set up soup kitchens. "The situation is dramatic," says Juan Carlos Escobedo, provincial head of Cáritas. "We've seen a real avalanche of people arriving this year,"

Many of those who haven't found work in Jaén are waiting until February, when the strawberry-picking season begins in Huelva, about 220 miles away in southern Spain.

Mohammed Ennejim, a Moroccan who has lived for nearly 20 years in Spain, was trying to scrape together gas money to drive. He isn't sure he will find work there, either.

Mr. Morillo's only foreign picker this year is Najim, an Algerian who declined to give his family name and who has picked olives in Jaén for the past eight years. He had worked for Mr. Murillo the previous year, and called to say he was sleeping outdoors. "I told him not to come," Mr. Morillo says. "But then he called me from Jaén, saying he was sleeping in the street, and I said: 'All right then, come over.' "

—Paul Hannon, Laurence Norman and Alistair MacDonald contributed to this article.


Here is a sotry from teh Montreal Gazzette. What I find interesting is the apparent ease the fraudsters managed to get helth care documentation, whihc calls into question the safegurds in place in the system. More to come...

3,000 would-be immigrants used fake medicare cards: report

The GazetteJanuary 24, 2009

Quebec’s health care insurance board and the RCMP have uncovered a ring of about 3,000 north Africans allegedly using fake medicare cards to help themselves immigrate to Canada, according to a report in La Presse published Saturday.

In a statement, the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Quebec confirmed that it is investigating “a sophisticated subterfuge that apparently was set up by an immigration consultant to make believe his clients live in Quebec.” It did not say how many people might be involved, however.

The operation apparently permitted non-residents of Canada to gather various types of proof of residence in Quebec, the Régie added.

Children were signed up, in name only, in schools and at day camps to prove families’ residence, the La Presse story said.

Those allegedly benefiting from the operation live in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, the story said.

Luc Bessette, a spokesperson for the RCMP, told The Gazette he could not confirm or deny that there is an ongoing investigation into the matter. But he said the RCMP does occasionally investigate issues of fraud for the health insurance board.

Coincidentally, Revenue Quebec officers this week conducted eight raids in Montreal and Laval on Décision immigration 2000, Inc., an immigration consulting firm.

Revenue Quebec suspects the firm’s administrator and two employees of producing false income statements for non-residents since December 2004, a statement from the agency said.

It is not known if the case is linked to the investigation by the health insurance board.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


It has been obvious for some years now that young Indian immigrants to Canada have been found to be desirable marriage prospects by other Indians, who are desirous of living overseas. Given the relatively easy and fast sponsorship process in Canada, which does not require a sponsor to be a citizen (unlike in the US), Indians have been in the habit of immigrating to Canada as "single" and immediately return to India to get married and sponsor their new spouses. This has been a fertile source of marriage fraud and unscrupulous "agencies" who exploit this loophole.

Recession takes bloom off India's marriage market


From Thursday's Globe and Mail

January 22, 2009 at 4:56 AM EST

NEW DELHI — Irene O'Brien and her parents sometimes gather for an evening to review the prospects: What new groom looms on the horizon? Ms. O'Brien, who, like many Christians in India has a "Western" name, is 29 and is beginning seriously to consider her prospects in the marriage market.

She has given her parents the task of combing their social networks to find her a suitable partner.

Until a few months ago, her ideal prospective husband worked in the booming information-technology sector and had coveted NRI (non-resident Indian) status, with a job overseas. That, indeed, described the groom of choice sought by millions of single Indian women in the past decade.

Then the global financial markets crashed, taking with them a few other markets, including that for India's most sought-after grooms.

"What happens with all this recession going on is that there is no kind of security - marriage means security, but when there is no stability or security, how can a parent give their daughter to someone who is in IT or an NRI?" said the eminently practical Ms. O'Brien, who writes for a neighbourhood newsletter in Noida, a high-tech hub outside the Indian capital of New Delhi.

"Rather give her to a government official, which is much less salary but many more perks, because in India, once a government officer, always a government officer. Even when you retire, you are taken care of. But you marry an NRI and then he loses job and what can you do?"

Many of India's matchmaking services, which range from informal networks through religious organizations to vast Internet dating sites, are reporting an abrupt shift in priorities: The IT groom, with his soaring salary, and the NRI, who promised a life of luxury overseas, are suddenly badly out of favour, as high-tech companies begin to lay off workers and Indians with foreign jobs start to slink home after being pink-slipped, a verb suddenly ubiquitous in café chat here.

There is some good news, however, for the likes of Ms. O'Brien.

"The flavour of the month is working women," said Vivek Khare, who heads, an Internet matchmaking site that takes its name from the Hindi words for "soulmate" and has 1.5 million members. "Because of the downturn, people want to get married and have both partners working. The searches for brides who have jobs have really gone up since October."

But engineers are slipping steadily down the search lists. While India's economy has not yet been hit as hard as those in the West - growth for 2008 is believed to have fallen from a projected target of nearly 8 per cent to "just" 7 per cent instead - the sense of anxiety is growing here. Thus, the humble Indian bureaucrat, whose legendary job security paled utterly beside the much higher salaries and perceived glamour of IT-sector jobs, has seen a sudden rise in lustre, Mr. Khare said.

Vibhas Mehta, head of business at, which has millions of members and claims to be the world's largest matchmaking site, reports that the popularity of civil servants has climbed steadily since October.

Here, too, NRIs are losing popularity, while working women are hot - searches up 15 per cent over the past year - and the self-employed are newly enticing.

But, he said, IT and finance professionals continue to remain relatively popular search subjects, which he attributed to the fact that the Indian economy is still comparatively strong. Anish Sapra, 26, and working for an Internet business in Delhi, said he has yet to see his stock drop on the site. "I haven't had people say, 'Oh, I'm not interested in you, you're in IT,' " he said confidently, then paused. "Not yet."

The wedding business in India has taken a hit overall - the cooler winter months are traditionally "wedding season," and in recent years, in the larger urban centres, these were lavish multiday affairs where the bride's 13 changes of jewel-encrusted lengha testified to the country's growing prosperity.

In this grim economic climate, however, the society pages are filled with laments for "the real Indian wedding," and there are chastened discussions of whose celebration took place on a mere weekend, or, horrors, a single evening - just 350 guests, no elephants, fireworks only five minutes long.

But Mr. Mehta said that his business Shaadi, which means "marriage," can only benefit from the economic crisis. Overall searches for spouses are up 17 per cent since the crash began in late September, "as people are looking at finding an emotional anchor for themselves," he said.

Or maybe, of course, they're just sitting around their offices with more time on their hands.

Valini D'Souza, 25, and husband-hunting in Mumbai, said she will not alter her plans, crash or no crash.

"I am looking for an IT groom - or [one in] international banking. Those jobs are well paying, and that helps when you're starting off fresh.

"This phase will end in the next year and you will see things getting better, or at least in three years," said Ms. D'Souza, who works in public relations in the IT world. "So I haven't changed my partner preferences. I might just have to delay the celebration [of a marriage]."

Then, she added, with a determined sort of romanticism, that too much preoccupation about earning potential and job security misses the point.

"If at the end of the day you have a person who is willing to share everything with you and a shoulder to lean on, that's what counts."


This article appeared today in the Globe and Mail. It is an illustration of the weaknesses of the immigration system that allows easy permanent residence status based on marriage. There is a pressing need for reform.

Marriage was genuine, Guinean immigrant tells panel


From Thursday's Globe and Mail

January 22, 2009 at 4:40 AM EST

OTTAWA — Federal officials delved into the murky he-said, she-said world of an alleged marriage fraud yesterday, as Ottawa challenged the immigration status of a Guinean man who left his Canadian wife less than a month after arriving on Canadian soil.

His wife, Lainie Towell, known in Ottawa as "Sufi Girl" for her African dance productions, attracted significant attention last year with her story. She spoke of falling in love with an African drummer in Guinea over several visits, leading to their decision to marry and move to Ottawa. She claims the love story came to an abrupt end when her husband simply disappeared weeks after she brought him to Canada as her spouse in December, 2007.

The Canada Border Services Agency is pursuing the case, alleging Ms. Towell's husband, Fode Mohamed Soumah, misrepresented himself to border officials when he came to Canada. For the first time yesterday, Mr. Soumah had his say before the Immigration and Refugee Board and told a very different story.

He said Ms. Towell wanted to control his work as an African drummer, as well as every other aspect of his life. He left her after a month, he said, because she drank heavily, was violent and banned him from talking to his friends.

"I was afraid of her. That's why I left," said Mr. Soumah, 29, speaking in his first language of Susu, which was translated into French at the hearing. He said he later offered to get back together but Ms. Towell declined.

The hearing represents the front lines of what the Conservative government vowed last year would be a crackdown on fraudulent marriages, also known as marriages of convenience. Immigration experts say that's easier said than done. Canadian officials overseas are asked to make a judgment call as to whether a couple's love is true. When a marriage falls apart, public servants in Canada are required to decide if the breakup is evidence of fraud - or not.

There are no statistics measuring the scope of the problem, but advocacy groups argue it is widespread, leaving Canadians feeling ashamed and possibly on the hook financially should a fleeing spouse go on social assistance.

Ms. Towell was not allowed in the hearing room yesterday and declined comment.

She will present her side of the story to the board on March 19.

The ultimate decision in the case will be made by board member Rolland Ladouceur. If he deems Mr. Soumah inadmissible, the deportation process - which could include appeals - will begin.

The Canada Border Services Agency is arguing before the tribunal that Mr. Soumah is inadmissible to Canada because the marriage was not genuine and he failed to mention that he has a child in Guinea.

Mr. Soumah maintains the child is not his.

Jennifer Hollister, who said she has been friends with Ms. Towell since 2002, testified on behalf of Mr. Soumah. She rejected the accusation of marriage fraud and said Mr. Soumah was genuinely afraid of Ms. Towell and unhappy with the home life he found in Canada.

"Every time she was there [in the house], it was constant conflict," Ms. Hollister said after her appearance.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Ayers denied entry to Canada


Globe and Mail Update

January 19, 2009 at 6:11 PM EST

An American academic and former 1960s radical accused by U.S. vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin of being a “terrorist” friend of Barack Obama's has been denied entry into Canada to speak at an education conference.

William Ayers, a distinguished education professor from the University of Illinois at Chicago, said he was perplexed and disappointed when the Canada Border Services Agency declared him inadmissible at the Toronto City Centre Airport on Sunday evening.

He said he has travelled to Canada more than a dozen times in the past.

“It seems very arbitrary,” he said. “The border agent said I had a conviction for a felony from 1969. I have several arrests for misdemeanours, but not for felonies.”

Mr. Ayers, 64, was thrust into the global spotlight during the Democratic primaries last spring, when Hillary Clinton questioned Mr. Obama's association with him. In the fall, during the general election campaign, Ms. Palin told a Republican rally that Mr. Obama was “palling around with terrorists,” meaning Mr. Ayers.

The educator was a co-founder of the Weather Underground, a group that planted bombs on government property, including New York City police headquarters in 1970, the U.S. Capitol building the following year and the Pentagon in 1972.

In 1970, three group members, including Mr. Ayers's girlfriend, died when a nail bomb they were assembling went off. Mr. Ayers, the son of a wealthy Chicago philanthropist, went into hiding and resurfaced a decade later. The charges against him were eventually dropped because of prosecutorial misconduct, and he went on to refashion his life as an author and lecturer.

Mr. Ayers said Mr. Obama would have been a young child during his activist years, and that he met the president-elect long after his time as a Weatherman. They served together on the board of a charity in the 1990s and were neighbours in Chicago. “I think most people rejected that dishonest narrative about me, and of guilt by association,” Mr. Ayers said.

Anna Pape, a CBSA spokeswoman, said she cannot comment on the Ayers case. People may be denied entry into Canada for reasons of criminality, human-rights violations, security or health, she said.

Jeffrey Kugler, executive director of the Centre for Urban Schooling at the University of Toronto, called the refusal to allow the professor into the country a violation of academic freedom. His organization, which invited him to speak on the University of Toronto campus, had to move the event to a larger facility after an outpouring of interest in the wake of a Globe and Mail story last week.

“There is no one who could have thought it possible there was any danger to Canadians to letting him in,” Mr. Kugler said.

Mr. Ayers had planned to speak about education reform and to reference both the 80th birthday of Martin Luther King yesterday and the importance of Mr. Obama's inauguration today.

Paul Copeland, his lawyer, called the decision of the CBSA “arbitrary,” and said the agency could have issued Mr. Ayers a temporary resident permit.

Mr. Ayers said Canadian authorities denied him entry on one other occasion, in 2005, but that otherwise he has never had trouble entering the country. He also travels to China, Taiwan and the United Kingdom giving lectures on education and has written several books, including Fugitive Days and Race Course.

In a recent op-ed piece in The New York Times, Mr. Ayers acknowledged that the Weather Underground “crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even common sense.”

“Peaceful protests had failed to stop the [Vietnam] war. So we issued a screaming response. But it was not terrorism,” he wrote.

Sergio Karas, an immigration lawyer, suggested CBSA officers may have been “overly zealous,” noting that Mr. Ayers is not a member of an active radical group. “They always have discretion and in this case, considering the facts, may have needed to exercise better judgment.”

Friday, January 16, 2009


The following article appeared in the Indian Express:

Canada seeks help in fraud cases

Express News Service Posted: Jan 16, 2009 at 0034 hrs

Chandigarh A delegation, led by Canadian Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney, today called on Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and sought cooperation from the state government to address the issues of fraudulent visa cases that have created a major problem for both Canada as well as India.
Expressing concern over the issue, Badal assured the delegation that the Punjab government would extent full support to evolve a permanent solution to curb the illegal practice.

The Chief Minister directed the State Chief Secretary to coordinate with the delegation and chalk out modalities to resolve the issues in a time-bound manner. Badal was told that a few owners of marriage palaces were involved in arranging fake marriages in connivance with travel agents and immigration consultants to provide photographs of marriage as proof for Canadian visa.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Change the things you can

Rudyard Griffiths, National Post
Published: Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Discussion about what should be in the upcomingfederalbudget has focused almost exclusively on how tax cuts, infrastructure spending and direct cash infusions for troubled industries can revive the country's sputtering economy. As such, it seems all but inevitable that billions of dollars will be showered on groups and regions to create jobs and revive consumer spending -- all with the aim of getting Canada's GDP back in the black.

The prevailing view in Ottawa is that the economic forces that will determine Canada's near-term fiscal future are mostly outside of the country's control. There is nothing, for example, the federal government can do to revive global commodity prices or shake U. S. consumers out of their doldrums. Conventional wisdom therefore dictates a massive stimulus package and sky-high federal deficits which future generations will have to pay off.

But is it really the case that government is powerless to affect, in positive ways, the economic inputs that will determine the severity of the recession?

Canada's immigration targets are an interesting case in point. As recently as last autumn, the Conservatives reiterated their commitment to maintain immigration levels at historic highs and accept 250,000 new citizens in 2009.

We know, from a slew of studies, that newcomers are facing ever-greater challenges climbing Canada's economic ladder. Over the last decade and a half -- the very period when our economy experienced one of its longest and strongest expansions -- low income levels among recent immigrants rose from an already worrying 31% to 35% of all new arrivals.

These higher rates of poverty cannot be blamed on lower skills or levels of employability among new arrivals. The percentage of new immigrants with university degrees increased from 17% in 1992 to close to 50% in recent years. Yet despite almost two decades of Canada selecting immigrants with higher skill sets and greater levels of expert knowledge, native-born Canadians earn fully one-third more than newcomers who are the same age and have similar education levels and work experience.

With the current intake of newcomers set at a quarter of a million for 2009 it is unavoidable that the underemployment of recent immigrants will skyrocket as the recession

deepens. Then the very real danger will exist that the skilled immigrants that the Canadian economy urgently needs will vote with their feet and leave Canada permanently. A recent Statistics Canada study found, for instance, that a whopping 40% of highly valued skilled and professional male immigrants to Canada exited the country permanently within 10 years.

But this is only half of the problem. Immigrants living in poverty for extended periods of time are starting to realize that their diminished life prospects are likely to be passed on to their children. This is a profoundly disturbing trend that has the potential to undermine the universal immigrant credo that the sacrifices of the first generation are made bearable by the successes of the next. For each new wave of immigrants, the second generation is expected to reap greater economic rewards and social mobility -- a process that has now all but stopped for some immigrant groups.

Given these realities, here is a modest policy proposal to complement any economic stimulus: Temporarily reduce the country's immigration targets to ensure that those newcomers who have uprooted their lives to settle in Canada do not experience even greater levels of economic hardship and privation.

A reduction in immigration levels would also take pressure off the various social services and associated government expenditures that every recession necessarily puts into overdrive. In addition, an easing off on record-high immigration would help ensure that the jobs that are in fact created by an economic stimulus help bring down unemployment as quickly as possible.

By taking a hard-headed look at the economic levers over which it has control, the federal government could help lessen the length and severity of the recession in ways that are not a burden on the public purse. More importantly, by temporarily reducing the country's intake of immigrants, the government could help ensure that we retain the skills, industry and ambition of the millions of newcomers who chose to settle in Canada over the course of the last decade -- the very people the country will rely on to rejuvenate our economy when the global economic tide begins to turn.

-Rudyard Griffiths is the co-founder of the Dominion Institute. His forthcoming book, Who We Are: A Citizen's Manifesto, will be published this March by Douglas & Macintyre.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


The following article was published by the Calgary Sun on January 13, 2009. It highlights all that is wrong with the refugee determination system.

An imposter and criminal earns a 'shocking' and 'really heavy' year term after a decade of snaking his way through Canada's immigration system


Antonio Guifaro Zelaya isn't a headline grabber of a gangster story.

He's just another tale, a decade and more of a guy in a system few can stomach and a judge who had enough.

Antonio is 35 and from Honduras. He pleads guilty under a seldom prosecuted immigration law to having a false passport, using it to get into Canada, lying about who he was and where he was he was from so he could get into Canada, a place where he wasn't authorized to be.

We are in Courtroom 505. The man on the bench is provincial court Judge Les Grieve. He delivers Antonio's sentence and the judgment is written and handed out to all who want a copy.

But first he tells Antonio's story, an individual the judge says does not obey society's rules, attacks the safety and security of Canadians and is allowed to live here committing crimes, pushing his claim to stay, ahead of those in line applying as immigrants and sneaking back and back again "to a country who treated him so well."

In '95, Antonio's brother Santiago comes to Canada, makes a refugee claim. It's accepted. The same year, Antonio is in the States being sentenced for making threats to kill or maim.

The next year, Antonio's mother is shot and killed in Honduras. The same year, Antonio is sentenced in the States for drug possession.

In December '98, after illegally entering Guatemala, Mexico and the U.S., Antonio arrives at our border. He makes a refugee claim saying the father of the guy convicted of killing his mother threatened to kill him.

Antonio is allowed to stay for 21/2 years. His refugee claim is denied in the summer of 2000. A few months later, Antonio marries a Canadian. He has a deportation order hanging over his head, but is convicted of assault in May of '01.

He doesn't report for deportation and illegally enters the U.S. His wife gives birth to a daughter here in '02. Antonio is stateside in '03 convicted of driving over the legal alcohol limit, possessing an altered identity card, resisting police and obstructing justice.

Antonio sneaks into Canada in '04, stays until caught and then makes a claim to remain. He is not charged for coming in illegally. The next month, Antonio is sentenced for falsely using a credit card, possessing an illegal firearm with ammo among others.

Around this time he fathers a second child and is charged with a criminal offence and is released on bail. He breaches a condition of the bail and is convicted in '06. The next year, he's convicted of theft.

The learned judge points out, despite committing crimes while his claim to stay in Canada is being considered, Antonio remains here.

In mid '07, Antonio's claim is denied and he's escorted to Honduras, as the judge says, "no doubt at Canadian taxpayers' expense." His family is left on their own. Antonio is now separated from his wife.

In '08, Antonio is shot in the stomach in Honduras. The judge says many people are victims of violence in Honduras and, with the shooting coming 12 years after his mother's death, "it seems to be unrelated."

Antonio says it is related. There is no evidence. The learned judge says Antonio's credibility is suspect.

Antonio recovers and illegally travels to Mexico, befriends a young man, bribes a Mexican official and gets a Mexican passport using the identity of the young man's uncle and his own picture.

He flies to Calgary on Sept. 23 of last year and is not found out until he's in a traffic accident in November.

The provincial court judge, a former prosecutor, says Antonio "came here to improve his lifestyle." His claim of persecution is "likely imagined to gain entry as a refugee rather than getting in line to immigrate here."

He chose "ill-advised times in which to marry and father children" and "it would be sad if his wife and children should come to believe they were merely ploys ... to help increase his chances of staying in Canada."

For the judge it is "especially aggravating" Antonio "put his own selfish and self-centred interests ahead of the Canadian people's interests and the interests of other legitimate refugees."

He is not happy with Antonio's brother who "turned a blind eye" and "shielded his brother and his crimes."

The prosecutor seeks a year in jail. Antonio's lawyer says time served is enough and, if not, any time should be done in the community. Antonio gets the year, minus two-for-one credit for time already served. He has 71/2 months left behind bars.

The judge says Antonio "is committed to a criminal lifestyle" and has no "true remorse" and there's a "substantial likelihood" he'll commit more crimes in Canada.

Bjorn Harsanyi, Antonio's lawyer, says he might appeal and will fight to have Antonio stay here once he's out of jail.

The ex-immigration officer says the sentence is not what he expects. It seems "really heavy" and "shocking."

"It's not over," vows the lawyer. And, after a decade and more, it probably is not.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Passport agency phasing in criminal checks, years after scathing audit

16 hours ago

OTTAWA — Canada's passport office is still finalizing a system to check the criminal background of applicants, almost four years after the federal spending watchdog first flagged the security gap.

The office has also dropped out of a national project to devise a quick electronic means of verifying the data on birth and citizenship certificates, used by applicants to obtain passports.

The lingering challenges come to light as Auditor General Sheila Fraser prepares to deliver an update next month on Passport Canada's progress toward fixing various problems identified in April 2005.

At the time, Fraser revealed Passport Canada was hampered by inadequate watch lists, outdated technology and poor record-checking.

She found the agency lacked ready access to information about people wanted by police or on probation. The data are contained in the Canadian Police Information Centre database, known as CPIC, administered by the RCMP.

Passport Canada set up a link to CPIC in 2006 and subsequently conducted two data trials.

A "significant investment" would be needed to fully usher in CPIC checks as part of a new computerized case management system, says a recently published progress report from Passport Canada on meeting the auditor general's recommendations.

"The magnitude of the process is under review before implementation can occur."

Passport Canada spokesman Sebastien Bois said the agency is taking a "phased-in approach" to screening applicants against CPIC.

"We're linked with the system. We're using it. But our approach right now is based on risk-management models."

The agency is checking applicants only when red flags trigger suspicions, particularly given the huge volume of people seeking passports.

"With 4.8 million applications a year, it's a lot of applications," Bois said, adding there is no target date for deciding if and when all people seeking travel documents will face a criminality check.

"We're looking at all the options."

In recent years, Passport Canada has faced a crush of applicants concerned about meeting stringent new U.S. border requirements. As of June 1, Canadians will need a passport or other approved, secure document to enter the United States by air, land or sea.

As of last May, just over half of Canadians held a valid passport, up from 41 per cent in 2005.

Three years ago, it emerged that an alleged Russian spy used a fake Ontario birth certificate to obtain passports in 1995, 2000 and 2002. He was later deported to Moscow.

In her 2005 audit, Fraser warned that Passport Canada had no easy way of verifying proof of citizenship.

The passport agency stressed its involvement in the planned National Routing System project, intended to establish links to provincial and territorial bureaus of vital statistics and Citizenship and Immigration Canada. This would allow agency staff to prevent fraud by quickly scrutinizing birth and citizenship data on applications, as well as checking the person's name against death records.

The initiative, now under the wing of Statistics Canada, has moved beyond the pilot stage but Passport Canada is no longer among the participants, said project manager John Menic.

"They had to pull out. They had some operational priorities with the backlogs they had a couple of years ago and they decided to step back," he said.

"I haven't heard from them for a couple of months now."

In its June 2008 progress report, Passport Canada says that while it continues to support work on the routing system, it "is now concentrating its resources over the next 18 months on its core mandate" of issuing passports.

Last month Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said Canadians applying for passports face serious security risks - including identity theft - because of flaws in every step of the process. She found problems in how personal information is collected, stored used and ultimately discarded by passport officials.

Passport Canada insists security has improved, noting in its latest annual report that an electronic link with the federal Correctional Service helped it deny passports to 44 people forbidden from leaving Canada.

It intends to proceed this year with a long-planned program to use facial-recognition technology to prevent the same person from holding more than one passport under different names.

It also aims to introduce a passport containing data on an electronic chip by 2011.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


South American pickpocket ring targeting Pearson

17 suspects arrested over past year, police say

Matthew Coutts, National Post
Published: Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Visitors to Pearson International Airport are being targeted by an organization of South American pickpocketers, who stole as much as $500,000 from travellers last year, police said yesterday.

Peel Regional Police believe the group is responsible for as many as 175 thefts in the past year. "What we have is an organized group that specialize in what we call distraction thefts, or pickpocketing," said Detective Sergeant Malcolm Bow, a member of Peel's airport division.

"Airports are a favourite because it is a busy place where people are generally distracted anyway, where people are carrying their valuables with them because they are travelling."

The ring has become such a problem, Peel police have assigned two officers to investigate the organization full-time. Over the past year, more than 17 suspected members have been arrested, most recently three Colombian suspects who were arrested on Dec. 20.

Police say most members are from Peru and entered Canada using false documents, almost always false passports from Mexico.

They believe they have come to Toronto to set up an organized crime ring.

"We believe they are living here basically on the avails of theft, they send a lot of the cash they get back home," Det. Sgt. Bow said. The group has also been linked to a series of thefts in hotel lobbies, malls and bus stops across Southern Ontario.

Det. Sgt. Bow said Montreal and Vancouver, as well as a number of U. S. cities, have the same problem to varying degrees.

"What they do is wait until someone is distracted. Very often they distract themselves, especially in an airport," he said. Other times the group will distract the person, bumping into the person, engaging them in conversation or dropping money nearby, while their accomplice will take one of the victim's unwatched bag. "It happens very quickly."

An official at the Greater Toronto Airport Authority directed questions about the pickpocketing ring back to police, saying the ongoing investigation is in their hands.

"They're trying to track them down, they're trying to track the whole thing," she said.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Federal lawyers wrestle over citizenship of baby born on airplane

By Andrew Duffy
January 2, 2009

OTTAWA — Is Baby Sasha, the child born to a Ugandan woman during an international flight over Canada on New Year's Eve, a Canadian citizen?

That question now rests with Immigration Department lawyers, who must determine whether Canadian citizenship rights that apply on the ground also apply in the air.

"I don't expect I'll have an answer for you before early next week," Karen Shadd, a spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, told Canwest News Service on Friday.

A child born on Canadian soil to a foreign visitor would have the right to citizenship, but it's not clear whether a baby born in the air shares that right.

"That's the question they're dealing with," said Shadd.

Baby Sasha was delivered on a crowded Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Boston on New Year's Eve.

The mother, 8 1/2 months pregnant, went into labour about six hours into the eight-hour flight.

An appeal was made on the Boeing 757's public address system for help with a medical emergency and two doctors — a radiology oncologist from Minneapolis, Dr. Natarajan Raman, and Dr. Paresh Thakker, a family physician from Massachusetts — came forward, according to accounts in U.S. papers.

The doctors laid the woman across a row of seats in coach class; a blanket was rigged around the seats to create a makeshift delivery room.

Thakker told the pilot that it was too late for an emergency landing since the baby had already crowned.

Sasha was born without complications about 10 minutes later, at 9 a.m., as the flight passed through Canadian airspace. The baby weighed just over six pounds.

"She (Sasha) looked perfect," Thakker told the Boston Globe. "She opened her eyes and was very happy. She was so calm: she didn't cry at all."

The entire plane erupted in applause when the baby was handed to her relieved mother.

After the plane landed in Boston, the woman and her new baby were taken to Massachusetts General Hospital.

U.S. officials deemed Baby Sasha a Canadian for customs purposes, but it remains unclear whether the child is, in fact, Canadian.

Some European countries do not allow a baby born on their soil (or in their airspace) to automatically gain citizenship rights.

The airline has not released the woman's name. It's not clear why she was travelling to the U.S. or why she decided to fly so late in her pregnancy.

A spokesperson for Delta Air Lines, which owns Northwest, said the company does not impose travel restrictions on pregnant women. It does, however, recommend that women in their final month of pregnancy consult a doctor before flying.