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Toronto Star

Canada set to begin collecting data on travellers leaving country

Mar 19, 2019 7:10:07 PM

air travellers canada set to begin collecting data on travellers leaving country 19 03 2019 canada news thestar dam content  https:

Ottawa will soon start collecting data on every person leaving Canada by land and air in a bid to identify and track anyone from potential terrorists to snowbirds who lie about their residency to claim government benefits.

The new measures, expected to take effect later this year, aim to strengthen border security, enforce residency requirements for permanent residents and pinpoint those who fail to leave the country as required.

It is not known how many visitors who’ve overstayed their welcome, failed asylum seekers and criminals the new “exit” system will catch, but both Employment and Social Development Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency, which will have access to the data, are expected to nab many Canadians who are outside of the country and ineligible to receive further benefit payments.

The estimated savings for the government in employment insurance and old age security over 10 years could add up to $206 million, plus another $151 million in family and child tax credits and other benefits, according to an analysis of the proposed changes to the Customs Act published Saturday.

The Canadian Snowbird Association has been following the exit control changes closely and warns its 100,000 members against breaking U.S. immigration law by overstaying beyond the six-month limit and risking the loss of their federal benefits such as old age security and guaranteed income supplements.

“The move between the U.S. and Canada is inevitable and we are reminding our members to be mindful of the limitation on their time travelling abroad,” said Evan Rachkovsky, the association’s spokesperson.

Canada Border Services Agency does not currently collect exit information from commercial air carriers on travellers and only has access to U.S. records of foreign nationals and Canadian permanent residents arriving from Canada at land ports of entry.

The new reporting scheme — a final phase of what’s known as the “Entry/Exit Initiative,” similar to programs in Australia, New Zealand and parts of Europe — will allow Canadian officials to track the 97 per cent of all outbound travellers who leave the country by land and air. The effort will ultimately be expanded to travel by rail and sea. Officials will start collecting land exit data this summer, followed by air-travel data within 12 months.

“The government cannot easily determine who is inside or outside the country at any given time, which adversely impacts Canada’s ability to manage the border and support pressing and substantial public policy objectives related to national security, law enforcement and federal program integrity,” the border agency said in its 35-page report published in the Canada Gazette.

“By implementing a new regulatory framework that prescribes the source, time, manner and circumstance related to the collection of information, the CBSA would have access to reliable, timely and accurate information that could be effectively safeguarded and managed.”

Immigration policy analyst and lawyer Richard Kurland said this marks a shift to a “continuum tracking” system, where people’s movements are going to be monitored by the government.

“People do not know, generally, that by consenting to Canada, they also consent to having their personal information donated to other countries, such as the U.S.A., due to the many information-sharing agreements between Canada and other countries,” said Kurland.

“Canadians cannot fix information that goes to other countries, and it is a real issue. You may be wrongly netted by the system. Mistakes are going to happen, and there is no oversight, monitoring, or control over the system.”

Right now, commercial air carriers are required to provide Canadian border officials with advance information that identifies air travellers and flight crew arriving on international flights. Officials rely on passengers to provide the information on customs declaration cards or electronically via the primary inspection kiosk, with travellers self-declaring the date they originally left Canada.

The proposed exit control measures will operate similarly with Canadian officials collecting basic biographic information — name, nationality, date of birth, gender and time and place of departure — from airlines on all passengers leaving Canada, in the form of electronic passenger manifests.

Canada already receives information from the U.S. on departures of foreign nationals and permanent residents at land ports of entry. The new rules will expand to include records of Canadian citizens entering the U.S. by land.

The federal auditor general’s office has in the past highlighted a number of security concerns stemming from the absence of reliable exit data, the border agency report says.

“In recent years, the Government of Canada has seen a number of individuals travelling to foreign destinations to engage in terrorist activities,” the report says.

“These individuals often pose a danger to countries in which they operate and may become a direct threat to Canadians upon their return to Canada through acquiring combat experience and training and potentially establishing terrorist networks and recruitment capabilities,” the report adds.

Ottawa said the exit data will help officials:

  • Identify outbound movement of known high-risk travellers;

  • Track visitors who overstay their visa and remain in Canada illegally;

  • Verify travel dates to assess applicable duties, tax exemptions and benefits for returning residents;

  • And check if permanent residents returning to Canada have fulfilled their physical residence requirement to maintain their status or qualify for citizenship.

Data collection on air travellers is expected to take longer to implement because it requires commercial air carriers to register, test and certify that they meet the government-specific IT requirements. The whole scheme is expected to cost about $110 million, with almost $80 million assumed by the federal government and the rest by the commercial air industry. Airlines failing to provide the information will face fines.

Once fully implemented, personal information collected under the Entry/Exit Initiative will be retained for up to 15 years, after which it will be purged — unless it is otherwise required to be retained under Canadian law.

Meghan McDermott, a staff counsel of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said Canadians should be concerned about the sharing of the personal data among government agencies and with foreign partners. “It’s a vast new collection of data … I don’t know what recourse we have and where to go,” when inaccurate personal information has to be corrected, she said.

Both the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and the Security Intelligence Review Committee must constantly monitor the program and provide independent oversight to prevent abuse and breach of privacy and civil liberties, McDermott said.

Changes to the Customs Act received royal assent in December. The public has until mid-April to submit feedback.

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung

Ford denies Hillier’s allegations of ‘possible illegal and unregistered lobbying’ at Queen’s Park

Mar 19, 2019 5:17:16 PM

randy hillier ford denies hilliers allegations of possible illegal and unregistered lobbying at queens park 19 03 2019 provincial politics thestar dam content  https:

Premier Doug Ford is angrily denying a former Progressive Conservative MPP’s allegations that there is “possible illegal and unregistered lobbying” by his inner circle.

With the opposition New Democrats urging the Ontario Provincial Police to investigate claims made by maverick MPP Randy Hillier, the premier was on the defensive Tuesday.

“There’s absolutely no truth to any of the allegations. The accusations are absolutely ridiculous,” Ford thundered in the legislature under aggressive questioning from NDP MPP Taras Natyshak.

In a letter to his constituents Monday, Hillier, who was expelled from the PC caucus last week, said he was turfed for “raising concerns of possible illegal and unregistered lobbying by close friends and advisers employed by Premier Ford.”

The Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP, who was not available for comment Tuesday, has provided no specifics about the alleged improper lobbying.

Ford, who has been under fire since the Star first disclosed that the Tories asked lobbyists to peddle tickets to his $1,250-a-ticket fundraiser last month, countered that NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is herself holding an $800-a-head fundraiser this Saturday.

Read more:

Opinion | Martin Regg Cohn: How Doug Ford became Ontario’s empathy premier

NDP wants OPP to investigate Hillier’s accusations of improper lobbying by Ford friends, advisers

Hillier says suspension from Tory caucus was over clashes with Ford advisers

“They sent out an email: ‘Come and join the leader of the NDP, Andrea Horwath, for $800. It’s an open bar.’ And you actually get a reward. That is what it said in the letter: You will get a reward by having access to her highness,” he said, taunting Horwath.

But the premier appeared rattled when Natyshak (Essex) cited Hillier’s letter, which mentions Ford’s chief of staff Dean French and Chris Froggatt, head of the Tory election readiness committee.

“The member from Essex walks around here like he’s a big tough guy ... but why doesn’t the big tough guy walk outside and make those accusations outside this door if he’s so tough?” the premier said, referring to the fact that MPPs’ statements in the legislature are privileged.

“He’s not tough. He knows he doesn’t have a good enough lawyer to walk outside those doors. He walks around as a tough guy, but he’s nothing but a coward.”

Natyshak, who contacted police with his concerns Monday, countered: “I guess we know why the premier wanted his buddy to head up the OPP so badly.”

That was a reference to the Tories’ unsuccessful bid to have Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner, 72, a long-time Ford family friend, head the provincial police.

After months of controversy and an ongoing ethics probe by integrity commissioner J. David Wake, Taverner finally withdrew his name from consideration earlier this month.

York Regional Police deputy Chief Thomas Carrique, who has never met Ford, was appointed the new commissioner last week.

Hillier was originally turfed after being accused of saying “yada yada yada” to parents of children with autism who had packed the public gallery in the legislature over recent government changes last month.

But he maintained his barb was directed at NDP MPP Monique Taylor.

Now, the Tories say Hillier was exiled for “not wanting to be a part of the team.”

“The reason that Randy was removed from caucus is that Randy didn’t show up for work,” said government house leader Todd Smith.

“We knew that Randy was going to make some noise on his way out the door,” said Smith.

“But he’s given no evidence of his claims at all. There’s been nothing.”

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

Former diplomats warn global relations crumbling as Canadians mark 100 days in Chinese prison

Mar 19, 2019 7:29:07 PM

afp 1ea9tc former diplomats warn global relations crumbling as canadians languish in chinese prison 19 03 2019 canada news thestar dam content  https:

VANCOUVER—As a pair of Canadians mark their 100th day detained by the Chinese government in an undisclosed location, former diplomats are warning that Western countries can no longer afford to ignore the human-rights abuses of a country set to overtake the United States as the world’s most powerful economy.

Diplomat-on-leave Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor were arrested in China on Dec. 10 in a move observers and diplomats have called retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.

Beijing has officially denied the link. However, media statements from Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials suggest a different story. In a December editorial in The Globe and Mail, Chinese Ambassador Lu Shaye responded to public criticism over Kovrig and Spavor’s detentions by raising the issue of Meng’s arrest — a clear indication Beijing’s behaviour is motivated by politics, not rule of law, a political analyst told the Star at the time.

Meng’s arrest in Vancouver on Dec. 1 was conducted at the behest of the U.S. She is being sought for extradition to face fraud charges related to violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran. The CCP has called the process a U.S.-led plot to undermine China’s economic and technological ascendancy.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has always used the tactic of “disappearing” individuals for political ends, said David Mulroney, who served as Canadian ambassador to China between 2009 and 2012.

The “covert roundup and detention” of over a million members of the Uyghur minority population in the Western region of Xinjiang is the “latest shocking example,” he said. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying has rejected those accusations, saying they had “no factual basis.”

Read more:

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Rebuke of China from Canada’s allies clearest and best diplomatic path forward, say experts

What the detentions of Kovrig and Spavor point to is an increasingly “aggressive and blatant” detention of foreigners by the Chinese government under President Xi Jinping, Mulroney added.

“This is a real and growing threat,” said Mulroney, now a distinguished senior fellow at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

“The only silver lining, and it is a small one given the human tragedy involved, is that people in the West may finally be encouraged to see China as it really is. In practical terms, it means that China-bound exchanges should be scaled back while China-related travel advisories should be scaled up.”

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations — a United Nations document outlining the rules of diplomatic law — provides protection for any diplomat and her or his family from any form of arrest or detention while travelling in a foreign state.

Although Kovrig may arguably have been protected from arrest under the Convention, he was on leave from his diplomatic post at the time of his detention. He had travelled to China for his work with foreign affairs think tank International Crisis Group on a regular passport and business visa.

In January, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly chastised Beijing for failing to respect the diplomatic immunity to which he said Kovrig is entitled under the Convention. In a regular press briefing just days later, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs shot back that any Canadian suggesting such a thing made themselves “a laughingstock.”

“Michael Kovrig is not entitled to diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by any measure. He is not currently a diplomat,” Hua, the Chinese spokesperson, told reporters at a Jan. 14 regular press briefing.

A Monday article in the South China Morning Post, quoting anonymous sources, paints a picture of a diplomatic community scrambling to insulate themselves from the same fate and terrified to travel to China on anything aside from a diplomatic passport and on government business.

Former counsellor at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing and China expert Charles Burton, now a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Centre for Advancing Canada’s Interests Abroad, said such fears are not misplaced.

Burton said Beijing is all too willing to “flaunt international protocols and agreements,” as evidenced in part by the CCP’s refusal to observe a ruling from The Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration rebuking the country’s establishment of military facilities in the international waters of the South China Sea.

“As incidents demonstrating China’s increasing disrespect for the norms of international diplomacy continue to mount up, the West will have no choice but to disengage from the PRC in global affairs,” he said.

“This will inevitably impact on trade and investment as well as political relations.”

Swedish human-rights worker Peter Dahlin was detained in China for weeks. In a December interview with the Star, he gave an insiders’ account of the harsh conditions under which he believes Kovrig and Spavor are being kept: alone in a constantly-lit, padded room, guarded by two men they aren’t allowed to talk to and subjected to interrogations and sleep deprivation.

In a March 13 Hong Kong Free Press article, Dahlin painted a grim picture of the future for citizens of Western countries whose governments Beijing wishes to punish for any number of reasons.

“Soon the U.K., France, and eventually Germany will be added to the list of nations whose citizens will be disappeared (by Beijing), not because of any legal reasons, but as tools of foreign policy,” he wrote.

Guy Saint-Jacques, Canadian ambassador to China between 2012 and 2016, said the former detainee’s troubling prediction is not lost on Western governments.

“The detention of Messrs. Kovrig and Spavor by China has had a negative impact among Western and Asian countries as they understood that this could happen to their citizens as well,” Saint-Jacques, now a senior fellow at the China Institute of the University of Alberta, told the Star in an email.

“This explains why Canada has been able to gather international support from European and Asian countries.”

A chorus of protests from foreign officials, scholars, former diplomats and academics has been unleashed in the wake of Kovrig and Spavor’s detentions. Officials from the U.S., U.K., Germany, the EU, Australia and NATO as well as from numerous independent think tanks and foreign policy institutions have all urged fair treatment for the pair, with some calling for their immediate release.

Beijing’s deafness to these entreaties “will lead to a reassessment of countries’ engagement with China and (of) how to ensure that it adheres to international norms and standards in the future,” Saint-Jacques said.

“I expect that it will take the form of increased co-ordination in a number of areas to prevent such behaviour in the future but also to ensure that the multilateral system is not undermined further.”

In the meantime, Kovrig and Spavor remain imprisoned without access to lawyers and now stand accused of committing espionage on Chinese soil. According to Dahlin’s account, the likeliest scenario is that the men are being kept in a compound near a small airport used by the Beijing branch of the Ministry of State Security, where their only sense of place might come from the sound of planes above their cells.

And according to Burton, there is little sign of an end to their bleak saga. Despite international pressure, Burton told the Star on March 4 it is clear Beijing continues to view the pair as a bargaining chip in its bid for Meng’s release.

“Tragically,” he said, “Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig could be heading for life imprisonment in China, or even for one or both a sentence of death, depending on the outcome of Meng Wanzhou’s extradition process.”

Perrin Grauer is a Vancouver-based reporter covering community issues and Canada’s drug policies. Follow him on Twitter: @perringrauer

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