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Canada Border Services Agency moves to ‘substantially’ increase deportations

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Canada’s border agency is stepping up efforts to deport failed refugee claimants and other foreign nationals not welcome in this country, setting a goal of dramatically increasing deportation numbers by up to 35 per cent.

An email from the director of Canada Border Services Agency’s Enforcement and Intelligence Operations Division, sent Oct. 17 and obtained by CBC News, outlines the plan to ramp up removals to 10,000 people a year.

« Over the last few weeks I have been involved in several discussions both regionally and nationally concerning the Government of Canada’s decision to substantially increase removal efforts including the re-establishment of national and regional targets, a practice many of you may still remember, » Brad Wozny wrote to staff.

« Initial discussions have the agency working towards a new national target of 10,000 removals/year. This would imply about a 25-35 per cent increase over the last couple years. »

CBSA confirmed it has set a national goal of 10,000 removals a year.

Agency spokesperson Barre Campbell said Canada remains an open and welcoming place for people seeking refuge and will continue to treat them fairly and with compassion while expediting removals.

« To ensure that the CBSA is meeting its mandate under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to conduct removals as soon as possible, the agency is focused on increasing overall removal numbers for the current fiscal year and beyond, » said Campbell in an email.

18,000 people on removal list

There are 18,000 cases now in the deportation inventory, most of them failed refugee claimants. Delays in the process can be caused by appeals and legal proceedings, court sentences, a temporary suspension of removals, a lack of valid travel documents, medical issues, or an eligible claimant’s application for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA), Campbell said.

He said there are now about 5,300 « actionable cases » with no known impediment to deportation.

« While Canada is a humanitarian country that has welcomed many immigrants and asylum seekers over the years, those coming to our country are expected to abide by our laws and processes, » Campbell said. « As these individuals are processed through the asylum system, those whose claims are not eligible are required to leave Canada or be removed. »

The number of deportations fluctuates but has declined dramatically in the last five years, from 18,987 in 2012 to 8,472 in 2017. There have been 6,083 removals so far this year.

The move to increase removals comes as asylum seekers continue to stream into Canada from outside regular border points.

Few asylum-seekers removed

In May, officials said that of the 68,000 asylum seekers who had entered Canada since the beginning of 2017, less than one per cent had been removed from the country — even though a high percentage had been deemed ineligible to stay.

At the time, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said it was too early in the process to expect large numbers of asylum seekers to become subject to removal orders, but added it’s important to speed up the entire determination, appeals and removal process.

Today, Goodale said the CBSA is doing its part.

« We’ve indicated that we have to pick up the pace in terms of that activity, and we’ve provided some extra resources for CBSA to do the work that is necessary, » he said.

This year’s budget allocated an extra $7.5 million to CBSA to ensure that once a rejected refugee claimant has exhausted all legal avenues of appeal, and all administrative requirements are met, he or she can be promptly removed. 

A man removes his belongings from a CBSA truck at a processing centre for asylum seekers at the Canada-United States border in Lacolle, Que. Thursday, August 10, 2017. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said the government has failed to stem the flow of people illegally crossing in to Canada outside of official border points, leading to excessive pressure on the system. The government also has failed to remove those deemed ineligible in a timely way, she said.

« This shows the lack of seriousness that the government has in terms of this broader issue as well as the lack of a plan, » she said. « So without seeing any sort of concrete plan to reduce demand on the system, as well as how it would be executed, I would say that this is lofty thinking rather than anything sort of real. »

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said it should be expected that as the number of asylum seekers climbs, the number of removals also would increase. But she said arbitrary targets set in past have led to removal orders that did not take into account compelling humanitarian factors.

Consider case specifics

« I think that the risk is that we’re going to be seeing more stories in the media of individuals and families where many Canadians would say, ‘Well, this doesn’t make sense, why would we be deporting these people given their individual fact circumstances?’ And yet, that’s very likely to happen, » she said.

The CBSA says it sets priorities for removals. Cases involving national security, organized crime, crimes against humanity and other criminal acts — and failed refugee claimants who arrived irregularly — get top priority. Other failed refugee claimants get secondary priority for removal, followed by anyone else deemed inadmissible, including those who have overstayed travel, work or student visas.

Dench said that under a quota system, border officials tend to focus on the « easiest » removals — such as families and failed refugee claimants — and set aside more challenging cases, such as people with criminal records, because they tend to require more officers to handle each case.

« They get (lower) numbers for the same number of officers, » she said. « So it can distort where the priorities go, in terms of removals, and maybe leads to priorities being different from what most Canadians would consider should be the top priorities. »

Ntebo Ebenezer Awungafac, a human rights activist from Cameroon, has been deemed inadmissible to Canada and now fears deportation. He was affiliated with an anglophone minority rights group that had a splinter that advocated violent resistance, but insisted he was never involved with that wing.

Awungafac said he remains optimistic that Canada will let him stay, and his lawyer is exploring all legal avenues.

« I fear with the work I was doing back home, if I’m going back now with the warrant of arrest I have back home, I will not be alive, » he said.

The email from Wozny said the CBSA also is working on an action plan to improve data integrity and the accuracy of information in the removal system, with updates on arrests, the outcome of hearings and clients who left Canada voluntarily or received status.

Ntebo Ebenezer Awungafac has been deemed inadmissible to Canada and fears deportation to Cameroon. (Louis-Marie Philidor/Radio-Canada)

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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