While the US news cycle deals with the elusive ghost of collusion with Russia, and the backdoor negotiations to do away with the Magnitsky Act—which punishes human rights abusers—the first sign of Canada's intention to adopt its own version of the US-sanctioned Act did not bode well for the short-term future of relations with Russia.
The Canadian House of Commons approved with a majority the adoption of the Law on the victims of corrupt foreign governments. This led Russia—which sees the legislation as yet another extension of Western sanctions following the annexation of Crimea—to react swiftly, in a manner that went beyond the accepted diplomatic language standards. While the act was not yet officially implemented, the Russian government's strong stance appeared to be aimed at achieving two objectives: To show that the move will in no way change Russia's future political decisions, and—less likely—to influence the legislation's potential reversal by a higher authority.
Major Russian outlet Vedomosti (03/10/2017) was among the country's publications to voice Russia's resolve for retaliatory measures should the act be adopted by Canada's parliament. Kirill Kalinin, the press-secretary of the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, was quoted as saying that the Canadian parliament's plan to adopt the legislation is an undisguised intervention in Russia's internal affairs, which will not remain unanswered. The diplomat also said that that such a decision 'contradicts common sense and Canadian national interests, isolating Canada from one of the world's key states.' Russia state news agency TASS (03/10/2017) added more punch as per Mr Kalinin's words in that “this is a hostile step, like any anti-Russian sanctions, and will be met with countermeasures.”
The news was accepted with much greater jubilation from Russia's western neighbours, Ukraine in particular, which welcomes every opportunity to increase international pressure against Russian aggression across its eastern border regions. Ukrainian publication Depo UA (18/10/2017) shared Ukraine ambassador to Canada, Andriy Shevchenko's post on Twitter:
While Latvian outlet Delfi (05/10/2017) offered a more balanced take at the update, noting that the Magnitsky Act was passed unanimously by 277 Canadian parliament MPs, it also highlighted Russia's shock at the news, even though the law does not specifically target Russian officials but rather all people involved in human rights violations overseas.
When news broke that Magnitsky Act received Royal Assent and came into force in Canada, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was quoted saying “Canada has a worldwide reputation as a country that cherishes democratic values and protects human rights,” in Vedomosti. (19/10/2017). Russian officials immediately responded with a set of stern announcements. Sergey Zheleznyak, a member of the Russian Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, said: "Following in the footsteps of its senior partner, the United States, Canada, unfortunately, demonstrates a lack of independent foreign policy."
"The adoption of the US-style Magnitsky Act looks like an unjustified political manoeuvre by the Canadian authorities, which negatively affects the relations between our countries," he added. Sergey Ryabkov, Russia's deputy Foreign Minister, later announced that Canada's adoption of its own Magnitsky Act is unacceptable. "We reach the only conclusion from the decision in Canada, politicians continue to set the tone about the insignificance of bilateral relations with Russia, they pursue their own political goals, try to play cheap geopolitical games," Ryabkov said in Rossiskaya Gazeta. (23/10/2017). None other than the Russian Embassy in Canada produced some of the harshest reaction words on Twitter, claiming that “the law was signed in a hurry, and is an irrational decision supported by a fraudster and tax evader, as well as haters of Russia.” (Vesti, 19/10/2017).
This type of strong-worded statement was shared by the better part of Russian-based publications, which were negative to neutral in their reporting on the Magnitsky Act adoption. There is no surprise, meanwhile, that the Canadian Parliament's decision was mostly welcomed by the Ukrainian media, who see Canada as one of the country's closest allies against Russia's illegal manoeuvres in Crimea and Donbass, and the marked leader in the international coalition supporting Ukraine. As Ukrainian-language source Liga (19/10/2017) put it, “Canada officially approved its own Magnitsky Act, which provides for sanctions against human rights abusers in Russia and the world,” highlighting Minister Chrystia Freeland's words: “This new law, which has received the support of all parliamentary parties, clearly demonstrates that Canada is taking all measures to respond to serious human rights violations and significant instances of corruption overseas."
Canada's official adoption of the Magnitsky Act is simply another piece in a global geopolitical puzzle, which becomes increasingly unpredictable with the rapidly shifting political sands across the world. The nuance that lives within languages. especially when controversy or passion are involved, is where the heart of the story lies. Monitoring and understanding the logic behind global news streams is one efficient way of putting some of those pieces together. Doing so with first hand understanding of the complexities of those nuances makes the translation of information that much more effective and important to Canadian thinkers and readers.
Written by: Filip Merdinian and the European Media Team
Written by Caora McKenna, Data vizualization by Alex Irwin
Reports about DACA and the TPS are the most talked about immigration topic in Canada's ethnic media from August 30 to September 14.
News reports on irregular migration have swelled in Canada’s ethnic media over the summer, following a trend that began with the inauguration of Donald Trump and fears about his plans for immigrants, undocumented ‘aliens’, and those stuck somewhere in between.
As of January 2017, the US was providing Temporary Protected Status to over 300,000 foreign nationals from a total of 13 countries: El Salvador, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The status is given based on dangerous conditions in the home country, and is extended for six or 18 months at a time by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State.
When Haiti’s TPS protection was extended only six months in advance, moving the expiration date to January 22, 2018, fear broke out among Haitians who felt they could not safely return to their home country. Uncertainty over the TPS and rumours circulating in the US that Canada would accept Haitians with open arms, meant Canada saw the highest number of asylum seekers in years—5,712—cross the Canada-United Stated border in August. Canada’s ethnic media was part of the conversation.
Latin Americans look north
Even as news began to spread in Canada that those high numbers were going down, concerns continued to rise around TPS ending for Latin American countries like El Salvador and Honduras. There are 260,000 Salvadorans and 80,000 Hondurans who would be at risk of deportation, and as a result are looking to Canada. Reports from ethnic media in the US touted Canada as a safe haven, and Canadian politicians scrambled once again to shut down rumours. Around the same time, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) in six months.
Since June 15, 2012, DACA has given hundreds of thousands of immigrant teenagers and young adults the chance to live in the US without the constant fear of deportation. It allowed them to get jobs, build careers, get a driver’s licence and settle into life in the US. Also known as DREAMers, after the DREAM Act, which has been working its way through congress since 2001, hoping to allow unauthorized immigrants who grew up in the US to stay legally, and eventually get citizenship. More than 780,000 people have taken advantage of DACA, and are now at risk of losing what they have gained.
Where chaos and confusion drove discussion in the US, people looked north for possible refuge—returning to where they came from for most was out of the question. Canada’s ethnic media was paying attention: During the weeks of August 30 to September 14, concerns that DACA and TPS policies could prompt a massive new wave of immigrants was the most talked about issue in Canada’s ethnic media’s immigration stories.
Trump's policy changes felt in Canada
Concerns coming from ethnic media about DACA and TPS were voiced across all languages and groups. Senator Ratna Omidvar’s call to welcome 30,000 DACA young people was regularly mentioned.
A column in Sing Tao Vancouver responded to Omvidar’s comments saying that at first glance, they are “positive and humane,” but Canada’s immigration and refugee policies should not be formulated only on humanitarian considerations—Canada must take into consideration the associated costs. The writer says that the Trump administration is expected to continue making unfavourable policies for refugees and immigrants, and Canadian politicians shouldn’t always have to clean up their mess.
An article in the Canadian Chinese Express out of Toronto warned that the influx of migrants due to DACA and the TPS cancellation could mean more stress on an already overwhelmed immigration system, and further grow anti-immigration sentiment in the country. Chinese news site 51.ca also warned that this could be bad news for Canadians. Comments on the article included criticism for Trudeau, saying welfare cheques being handed out at the border is a “waste of taxpayer money,” and that “these people are not refugees, they are illegal migrants.”
A column in Chinese Real Estate Weekly mentioned Ontario International Trade Minister, Michael Chan’s comments that Canada has a historical tradition of supporting those in need, but that doesn’t mean it takes in everyone and anyone. The author praised the government for upholding the integrity of the immigration system,
In a column for the online publication Magazine Latino, immigration consultant Vilma Filici urged the government to act quickly to educate and warn Salvadorans and Hondurans in the US of their options, noting that validating illegal border crossings isn’t useful; entering Canada trying to claim refugee status is unlikely to work, as most of them have been in the US 10 to 15 years. Ficili also warned in a column for Toronto Hispano that even a small percentage of the Salvadorans or Hondurans would overwhelm the refugee processing system.
Ming Pao Express and Canada Chinese Express covered the false report in La Prensa from Florida on August 30 which said Canada would meet Honduran TPS holders with open arms—and inferred that these open arms came with no strings attached. Shortly after, Spanish-speaking MP Pablo Rodriguez headed to Los Angeles to meet with community organizations and members of government to denounce the rumours. Spanish newspaper La Opinion from Los Angeles quoted Rodriguez saying “Canada is a country with doors open for immigration, but within a legal and organized process.”
Warnings in writing
Many editorials and articles urged readers to understand that crossing the border does not guarantee a claim for asylum. Stories about outreach and clarification were third most frequent issue during the two weeks period examined. In an editorial in Vancouver’s Contacto Directo the author mentioned the criticism Trudeau has received for opening the doors “too wide,” noting that jobs have not been secured should the influx of migrants come, and that Trudeau’s statement that “to those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you regardless of your faith” for many, is a deception. They warn of the legal process that not everyone will pass.
Since September 14, reports have shown that the number of irregular border crossers appears to be dropping. Montreal’s Nawa-i-Pakistan noted that the reassigning of roughly 80 immigration department staff to help with the influx made a difference.
Though numbers are down for now, for many Latin and Central Americans in the US as the end of DACA and the TPS looms, Canada is their best option; conflict and danger persist at home—even if the US decides otherwise. The potential wave of migrants will impact Canadian cities and communities, and the ethnic media in those communities. As uncertainty prevails on the issue of immigration, criticism falls onto Canada, and who is to take responsibility, or action in supporting these neighbours. As the situation develops, Canada’s ethnic media is following closely—especially when speaking about Latin American migrants.
Written by Pierre Rossi
A surge in Haitian asylum seekers crossing the Canadian border is raising questions across North America.
Over the past few weeks, thousands of Haitians have made their way to Canada from the United States, crossing at several border crossings, to ask for asylum. The reason appears to be the looming end -January 2018- of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program introduced by the United States in 2010. Another major factor seems to be the spreading of false information about Canada’s willingness to take Haitians in. For the past few weeks, the issue has been front and centre in several Haitian media outlets in Canada, the United States, and Haiti, but the first signs of the crisis go back several months.
The story is well known. As a result of the devastating earthquake of January 2010, then US President Barack Obama granted Temporary Protected Status to Haitians in the United States. Prime Minister Stephen Harper did the same in Canada. While the United States renewed the program, the Trudeau government terminated Canada’s TPS program last year. As Robert Lodimus bitterly wrote on Aug 19 in TouT Haïti, an online site dedicated to Haiti and its Diaspora, about 1,500-2,000 Haitians in Canada have received a formal expulsion notice. Now, as they prepare to leave, thousands of their compatriots are coming knocking on Canada’s door.
By and large, the bulk of the coverage in Haitian media hit a peak in August, along with the number of asylum seekers. However, some media outlets had already warned that something like it might happen following the election of Donald Trump as US president. They pointed out that his statements against immigration were creating widespread unease among Haitians -and others- in the United States.
For the most part, the reporting focused on facts and figures, the response of Canadian authorities, especially in Quebec, and the practicalities of coping with an unexpected number of people arriving at remote entry points along the border.
The consensus in the various media outlets is that the triggering factor in the rise in asylum seekers was the decision by the Trump administration to renew the TPS program for only six months, allowing beneficiaries to make the “necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States,” as Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly put it in a statement on May 22. The existing program was set to expire on July 22, and the renewal extended it only to January 22, 2018. Previous renewals were always 18 months. This could affect almost 60,000 people, many of them children, some of them US-born. This could place Canadian authorities in the awkward situation of potentially expelling US citizens to Haiti, noted Haïti en Marche, a weekly newspaper published in Haiti, citing a Canadian immigration lawyer.
Before the official announcement several media had focused on attempts to get the program renewed. The Haitian Times, a New York-based newspaper, reported the launch of a petition in favour of TPS renewal in February. In May, the paper carried an OP-ED by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in favour of its renewal. Haïti en Marche reported a conference in June on the TPS, where people from Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador hoped get the US to grant TPS beneficiaries permanent resident status. In April, Haiti Press Network, an online news agency, reported lobbying activity by Haitian groups in Miami in favour of TPS beneficiaries.
Almost as part of this pro-active campaign, Haïti en Marche also highlighted the contribution Haitian TPS beneficiaries make to the US economy as well as to Haiti itself via remittances, noting that the loss of latter would be a blow to the country’s already fragile economy. Contrary to claims by US officials like then Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, Haïti Liberté, a Port-au-Prince newspaper, and Tout Haïti insisted that Haiti was neither safe nor capable of absorbing tens of thousands of people.
The Haitian Times, Haïti Liberté and TouT Haiti stressed that the country was still reeling, not only from the 2010 quake but also from the 2016 Hurricane Matthew, which wiped out almost a third of the country’s economy. Not to mention the outbreak of cholera reported by Haiti Press Network, widely believed to have been brought on by the UN peacekeeping force deployed in the wake of the 2010 disaster.
Going further, for Isabelle L. Papillon of Haïti Liberté, the six-month extension is just a way to prepare US and international public opinion for mass deportation. Citing Marleine Bastien, of Miami’s Haitian Women’s Center, Jean Numa Goudou in In-Texto, a Quebec-based monthly, suggests that the Trump administration deliberately created panic to push Haitians to “self-deport” themselves.
“The reality is that they have not received the right information”.
But none of this can be said to have come as a shock. François Jean-Denis, host of Tout savoir sur l’immigration (All you need to know about immigration) on CPAM 1410 radio, began warning in January of a rising number of asylum seekers, including Mexicans, Ghanaians, and Syrians crossing into Canada at remote border crossings in Quebec and Manitoba. In March, he reported that at the start of that month Canadian and US officials met to discuss the rising wave of asylum seekers reaching the border.
Again, the Haitian Times in August noted that Canadian authorities, including Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, were warned as early as March about the “‘urgent need’ to revisit policy” given the rising numbers of asylum seekers in January and the possibility that US President Donald Trump might scrap the TPS.
For Robert Lodimus of TouT Haïti, given intelligence cooperation between the US and Canada, the Canadian government must have known that if Washington ever cancelled the TPS, Canada would become a point of destination for many Haitian TPS beneficiaries. Since the termination of the TPS was set for January 2018, it was only natural that people would be heading north before the winter. In a similar vein, on August 30 Laurent Lafrance in Haïti liberté slammed Prime Minister Trudeau for his about-face over asylum seekers, blaming it on his desire to maintain close economic, military, and security cooperation with the United States.
With respect to who is coming, Haïti Liberté, In-texto, and Haiti’s main newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported that many of the arrivals were not necessarily beneficiaries of the US TPS program, but rather Haitians who had gone to Brazil in the wake of the 2010 quake, and found themselves forced to leave that country because of its economic woes. During his visit to Montreal in mid-August, Haitian Foreign Minister Antonio Rodrigue said the same.
Some of the stories of these transcontinental migrations are truly harrowing as entire families found themselves in the clutches of human traffickers trying to make their way across several national boundaries, usually overland, from Brazil through Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, and then the US.
Haïti Libre, an online paper, also reported that US Customs were telling their Canadian colleagues that some Haitians were coming to Canada from Haiti joining their US-based compatriots on the trek north. These Haitians were said to be flying from Port-au-Prince to Miami and then to Plattsburgh before taking a taxi to a border crossing point.
The other major factor that explains why so many Haitians have been trying to come to Canada is false information. On August 22, Haitian Times, noted Haitians were heading north “fueled by rumors Canada would be more sympathetic,” mostly because of misleading social media posts. Haitian-born New York City councillor, Mathieu Eugène, told the paper that “The reality is that they have not received the right information.”
But there is more. In June, radio host François Jean-Denis reported a scam apparently circulating in New York among Haitians that the Canadian government was actually encouraging Haitians to apply to come to Canada. In August, he went out of his way trying to dispel rumours about Canada’s policy towards Haitians, insisting that there was no open door, no automatic acceptance, no guarantee of Canadian citizenship.
To counter the disinformation, Haïti Libre reported attempts in Florida by local community leaders to warn their compatriots that crossing into Canada was not worth the risk of expulsion. Likewise, Canadian authorities dispatched Montreal area Haitian-Canadian MP Emmanuel Dubourg to dispel rumours about Canada’s openness (CPAM’s Reveil Matin, Haïti Libre, In-Texto), and launched an information campaign in Haitian creole to counter the widespread disinformation (In-Texto). However, for Laurent Lafrance, this response smacks of hypocrisy given Prime Minister Trudeau’s previous pro-refugees “propaganda.”
Last but not least, behind the headlines and the immediate concerns, some articles focused on factors within Haiti to explain the wave of asylum seekers. Moise Jean of Haiti Press Network, says Haiti is a failed state run by self-serving elites, backed by certain “benefactors.” Which is why so many want to leave.
In an opinion piece, Le Nouvelliste noted that the latest wave of migration is different from those of the past. Once Haitians left with the hope of returning home, now that hope is gone. People just want to leave, will do anything, go to any length, just to find a way to be somewhere else.
Writing on TouT Haïti, Pierre Clitandre noted last year that 30 years of democracy-building in Haiti have failed. Under the country’s old dictatorship, the rural poor were the bulk of those fleeing the country, usually by boats, as they still do; now they have been joined by the pauperized middle classes, who are using up what is left of their savings just to get a visa, just to get away.
By Silke Reichrath
Like the mainstream, the ethnic media in Canada follow news of the US presidential election campaign closely. Canadians have overall good reason to be concerned about political developments ‘down South:’ The US is by far Canada’s largest trading partner, our most powerful military ally and our only neighbour we can reach by land. Ecosystems and environmental concerns are entwined; each car crosses the border multiple times while being manufactured; and our regulatory systems need close alignment.
The ethnic communities in Canada have further reason to be engaged, as diasporas for most ethnic groups span the US – Canadian border. Individuals move back and forth and most newcomers to Canada have relatives or friends in the US.