Refugee Services in Rexdale

Rexdale is located within an ‘urgent priority’ neighborhood of Toronto with a large number of new immigrant families; a demonstrated need for refugee services.

Since April 1, 2011 Legal Aid Ontario has issued 301 Certificates to clients residing in the M9W, M9V, M9R, and M9P postal code prefixes, which allow clients to seek out private immigration law services who accept LAO certificates. Nearly half of these certificates have been issued to clients who originate from Somalia and Nigeria.

US Blackhawk helicopter over Mogadishu on the Day of Rangers

PHOTO: US Department of State

Somalia has been in a de facto state of civil war since 1991 when the communist dictatorship of Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted by a coalition of rebel movements.

Nigerian troops with US C130 transport aircraft

PHOTO: US Department of State

Nigeria has been plagued by ethnic conflict and violent disputes over oil since the country regained democracy in 1999, after 33 years of military rule.

Refugee Certificates issued by LAO in Rexdale from April, 2011 to Present:

COUNTRY of ORIGIN Number of LAO Certificates Issued
SOMALIA 103
NIGERIA 43
Pakistan 16
Hungary 9
Poland 8
St. Vincent & the Grenadines 8
Afghanistan 8
Namibia 7
India 6
Hon. Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturism speaks to media Day 31st, 2010 on the proposed Balanced Refugee Reform Act, introduced in the House of Commons on March 30.

PHOTO:  Dave Abel / Toronto Sun / QMI Agency.

Balanced Refugee Reform

On 15 December 2012, important changes to Canada’s refugee determination system came into effect. The Balanced Refugee Reform Act brought many changes to the refugee protection system. Intended to deliver faster decisions, deter abuse and quickly remove persons not in need of Canada’s protection.

“Our changes will make Canada’s asylum system faster and fairer,” said Canada;s former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and current Minister for Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, The Honorable Jason Kenny. “For too long, Canada’s generous asylum system has been vulnerable to abuse. Under the new asylum system, genuine refugees fleeing persecution will receive protection more quickly. At the same time, bogus asylum claimants and those who abuse our generous system at great expense to taxpayers, will be removed much faster.”

Changes to Immigration and Refugee Protection Act

  • The Personal Information Form is now referred to as the Basis of Claim
  • 28 day time line to submit this form has been reduced to 15 DAYS
  • A hearing will take place no longer than 60 days from the day the claim is made.

This is down from the average 600 days to receive a hearing (CIC).

TIME LINE: Claim made at Port of Entry (ex. Pearson Airport)

  • Day 1- Arrive in Canada-Complete eligibility forms-have eligibility interview-receive BoC and RPD Hearing date
  • Day 10- Deadline for submitting address and telephone number to CBSA
  • Day 15: Deadline for Submitting BoC Forms to IRB-RPD
  • Day 50 (approx) Deadline for submitting all documents to the IRB-RPD
  • Day 60-REFUGEE HEARING
Terminal 1 of Pearson International Airport in Toronto, ON

PHOTO: AcidBomber at en.wikipedia (GNU Free Documentation License)

Designated Countries of Origin

DCOs are countries that do not normally produce refugees, and respect human rights and offer state protection. Claimants from a DCO will have their asylum claim heard faster (30-45 Days) and will not have access to the new Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) at the IRB.

Concerns in the context of female claimants

 With very short timelines for filing forms and for the refugee hearing many women will find they don’t have enough time to prepare for the refugee hearing. It takes time and trust to be ready to speak about traumatic experiences, especially sexual violence. Documentation of human rights abuses against women is not always readily available. It is also more difficult to meet short timelines if you are juggling childcare.

Because of the barriers to legal representation more claimants will be left unrepresented in the new system. Negotiating the refugee process without a representative is particularly difficult for women who have had limited access to education or relevant professional experience.

Woman wearing a hijab

PHOTO: luisrock62, stock.xchng

The Basis of Claim form (BoC)

The Basis of Claim Form is a crucial document that a refugee claimant must fill out for the Immigration and Refugee Board. It is used to determine if they have a valid claim. If information is missing, incorrect, or inconsistent, the Board could refuse the claim.

At the hearing, the claimant will have to answer questions about what they said on the Basis of Claim Form. A Board member who thinks that the claimant has not told the truth—for example, by inventing harm or threats—will refuse the claim.

What Rexdale Community Legal Clinic is doing

  • Prepare and file Basis of Claims with the Refugee Protection Division (RPD)
  • Prepare and represent claimants at the RPD of the Immigration and Refugee Board

Tips for Refugees and community agencies

  • If you are looking to make a refugee claim, contact Rexdale Community Legal Clinic immediately. If you are not within our catchment area we can still give summary advice and will issue appropriate referrals
  • If a client is looking to make a refugee claim, make an immediate referral to Rexdale Community Legal Clinic
  • A potential refugee should never go to CIC without seeking legal advice first-once they do the stringent timelines are triggered!
  • Please Rexdale Community Legal Clinic with any questions and we will be happy to assist

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SOMALIA – Al Shabaab coup d’etat: senior leaders killed, fled, and in custody

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys

Government soldiers in Adado lead Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys onto a plane bound for Mogadishu. REUTERS

A man once considered a spiritual leader for Somali Islamist group Al Shabaab, and considered by the US to be one of the most dangerous terrorists alive, is now in the custody of the newly constituted Somali central government.

“Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys is in good health and is currently in the custody of the Somali Federal Government,” Interior and National Security Minister Abdikarim Hussein Guled announced on July 3rd. After protests in the capital city over fears he might be extradited to the US, Gulded assured the public, “Sheikh Aweys will not be transferred over to any foreign government and we call upon the Mogadishu public to calm down”.

The Minister also apologized for the circumstances in which Aweys was taken into custody on June 29th. The Sheikh had flown into Mogadishu from Adado with a group of parliamentarians, elders, and warlords. Upon his arrival, Aweys and his entourage were allegedly ‘beaten up and arrested’. All but Aweys were later released. Aweys had originally traveled to Mogadishu on a promise of amnesty from the government.

Aweys’ capture comes after the violent purging of senior Al Shabaab leadership by the Islamists’ emir, Ahmed Abdi Godane, aka Abu Zubeir. In the past few weeks Godane has stepped up attacks against his rivals within Al Shabaab as well as government forces in the capital, Mogadishu.

Many among the Islamists’ upper echelon have been critical of Godane’s command, particularly with regard to his distrust of foreign Jihandists. In May, foreign Jihadist Ibrahim Al-Afghani wrote an open letter to Al-Quaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri accussing Godane of imprisoning and murdering foreign fighters who’s views were not aligned with his own. In the weeks following that letter many Al-Qaeda linked websites have been critical of the state of Jihad in Somali.  Godane’s loyalists replied via Twitter, calling those disloyal and critical of his leadership to be ‘cowards’.

Around June 19th forces loyal to Godane retaliated on dis-affectionate Al Shabaab forces in Barawe, a costal town in southern Somalia controlled by the Islamists. Civilians continue to report heavy fighting in that area. Godane’s forces also reportedly assassinated senior Al Shabaab members including Ibrahim Afghani, co-founder of Al Shabaab, and Moallim Burhan. Perhaps the most outspoken opponent of Godane, American-born Jihadist Omar Hammami (now known as Abu Mansour al-Amriki) is rumored to have been killed after a previous attempt to assassinate him in April failed. Mukhtar Robow, the Islamists’ former spokesman, is believed to have fled to his the Rahanweyn clan homeland in the Bay and Bakol region. Analysts say Robow’s withdraw poses serious implications as the majority of Al Shabaab’s regular forces are members of the Rahanweyn clan, and harbor loyalties to Robow.

Aweys and his faction joined Al Shabaab in 2009, and although he has been considered a terrorist by the United States since shortly after the September 11th attacks in New York and Washigton DC, he is considered to be much lower on the Al Shabaab totem pole than such figures as Mukhtar Robow, and the late Ibrahim Afghani.

With reporting from Hassan M. Abukar of the SomaliLand Sun, BBC, AllAfrica, and Doctor Mohammed Gilao of Dejinta Beesha.

External Links:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-23120468
http://allafrica.com/stories/201306260104.html
http://allafrica.com/stories/201307030075.html
http://somalilandsun.com/index.php/in-depth/3248-somalia-the-godane-coup-and-the-unravelling-of-al-shabaab-analysis

SOMALIA: VIOLENT INFIGHTING BETWEEN BOTH PRO-GOVERNMENT AND ISLAMIST FACTIONS THREATENS RECENT PROGRESS

Sheik Muktar Robow is shown, center, flanked by aids and gunmen in Mogadishu, December 14th, 2008. al-Shabab has since lost control of the city.

Sheik Muktar Robow is shown, center, flanked by aids and gunmen in Mogadishu, December 14th, 2008. al-Shabab has since lost control of the city. PHOTO: REUTERS/Feisal Omar (SOMALIA)

Fierce infighting is reported among rival factions within Somalia’s Al-Shabab militants. The BBC reported six Somali militants and two foreign jihadists were among those killed near the militant stronghold of Brava. The fighting is likely linked to a power struggle between forces loyal to the group’s leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, and ex-spokesman Muktar Ali Robow. Robow is said to be more moderate and could be pushing to open talks with the government as international attention focuses on rebuilding the country. The country’s parliamentary election of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in September of 2012, who’s government was officially recognized by the IMF after 22 years in April, and an international conference in London on the subject of ending the conflict in Somalia, are all likely to be boiling points for the extremists.

Earlier this week the al-Qaeda linked organization killed fifteen people in an attack against of the UN offices in Mogadishu.

According to Somali news sources, fighting resumed earlier this month around the southern port city of Kismayo, which was liberated from the control of the Islamists in heavy fighting by African Union soldiers and the local Ras Kamboni militia last December. However, fighting there is said to be linked to rival militias, some loyal to the central government in Mogadishu, the others supporting former Somali Defence Minister Ras Kamboni who has declared himself ‘president’ of ‘Jubbaland’. The UN Security Council called on the factions to refrain from armed conflict with each other, and to instead focus on defeating the Al-Shabab militants who fled the region only after fierce fighting.

Al-Shabab splintered from the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts in 2006 after that organization lost a series of battles against Somali transitional government forces, backed by Ethiopian troops. Al-Shabab and other Islamist factions are fighting to hold the country side surrounding Mogadishu as Government forces backed by 18,000 African Union soldiers, Ethiopian troops, and pro-government militia struggle to retake their country from the extremists.

Somalia Divided

Al-Shabab and other Islamist militants have been losing territory to African Union troops and local militias loyal to the central government in Mogadishu since they formed after the dissolution of the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (Islamic Courts Union). MAP: BBC

External Links:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-22988404
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/06/19/309888/un-concerned-over-somalias-kismayo/
http://sabahionline.com/en_GB/articles/hoa/articles/newsbriefs/2013/06/09/newsbrief-01
http://www.biyokulule.com/view_content.php?articleid=1645

SOMALI COMMUNITY CONDEMNS DIXON ROAD RAIDS

Press Conference

After meeting and preparing statements last night, members of the Rexdale Community, largely members of the Somali community affected by the raids conducted by Toronto Police Services and police from across Southern Ontario on Dixion Road last Thursday, held a press conference at the Rexdale Community Hub today to condemn police actions during the raids.

“Community members are angered by the destruction of property and disrespectful remarks made by some officers and the police brutality that they were subject to,” said Mahad Yusuf, executive director of Midaynta Community Services.

“The community has been further stigmatized by the careless actions of some officers involved in the raid, and the irresponsible conduct of Toronto’s disgraced mayor,” Margaret Parsons said. Parsons also made the allegation that the police choice to target the Dixon community was based on recent media attention connecting Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to residences suspected to be bases in Rexdale’s drug trade, and the now infamous video which allegedly shows Rob Ford smoking from a glass pipe, although the video’s existence has still yet to be proven. Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair had disclosed previously that investigators had herd subjects of their investigations discussing the video several weeks ago over wire-taps that had been in place for nearly a year.

Dixon residents in attendance accused police of kicking down doors at random, carrying out unlawful assaults of building residents not subject to arrest warrants, carrying out unlawful arrests without warrants, uttering racial slurs, and needlessly destroying property.

However, not all Somali residents were in agreement with the panel. Margaret Parsons’ call for residents to thank the leaders of the Somali community prompted one woman in attendance to vocalize her distrust of Somali leaders, urging those in attendance to ‘recognize and address the corruption within the Somali community’. This created a huge uproar among those in attendance with many of them calling for the woman to be removed from the public gathering.

Mike McCormack, President of the Toronto Police Association,  stated in a televised interview following the press conference that the police take all allegations of misconduct seriously, but that many of the residents were ‘victims of their own families’, asserting that drug traffickers intentionally resided with family members to shield them from police investigations. McCormack went on to say that the community at large ‘thinks we did a good job’.

Toronto Police Services 23rd Division’s Community Relations Officer, Constable Parm Rai, could not be reached for comment.

As a result of Project Traveller 44 arrests were made, 224 charges laid, 40 weapons seized, $500,000 in cash and an estimated $3,000,000 (street value) in narcotics. How much of those arrests and seizures took place on Dixon Road is unclear, with raids being conducted on nearby residences on Mercury Road, and at least eight of those arrested being residents of the City of Windsor.

The African Canadian Legal Clinic, after meeting with members of the community, Somali community services agencies, and the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, prepared this press release prior to today’s conference:

AFRICAN CANADIAN LEGAL CLINIC
PRESS RELEASE:
SOMALI COMMUNITY CONDEMNS DIXON ROAD RAIDS
Toronto: June 17, 2013

At 3:00 a.m. on June 13, 2013, units located at 320, 330, 340, 380, and 390 Dixon Road were raided by Toronto Police, as part of a police investigation dubbed “Project Traveller”. “In the aftermath of the raids, many community members feel victimized, vilified and traumatized as a result of the reckless manner in which officers forcibly entered their homes. Community members are angered by the destruction of property and disrespectful remarks made by some officers and the police brutality that they were subject to,” says Mahad Yusuf, Executive Director of Midaynta Community Services.

While the raids were intended to target criminal elements in the Dixon community, the actions of the TPS labeled and profiled the entire Somali community on Dixon Road as possible criminal elements. “This is particularly hurtful to a community already reeling from systemic barriers to services due to the combined impact of anti-Black racism, and Islamophobia. The community has been further stigmatized by the careless actions of some officers involved in the raid, and the irresponsible conduct of Toronto’s disgraced Mayor,” stated Margaret Parsons, Executive Director of the African Canadian Legal Clinic.

Residents shared stories about the raid with community leaders at a Town Hall meeting held at 320 Dixon Road on June 15, 2013. “Instead of providing additional resources, or hiring trauma counselors from within the community to heal the collective wounds caused by the raid, an increased level of policing has been deployed in the community. This only serves to further perpetuate fear in an already victimized and traumatized community,” says Yusuf.

At the community meeting several disheartening stories were shared. In one horrifying example, a 100 year old community Elder was so shocked by the raid on her unit she fell to the ground and was not assisted by officers. Her daughter, who is also a senior citizen, was cuffed, pushed to the ground and kicked by officers while her pleas for water to control her high blood pressure were ignored. Another 65 year old woman, who recently immigrated to Canada just 3 months ago, was also cuffed. Children as young as 10 years old woke up to guns pointed at their heads. “All of this has caused near irreparable damage to community police relations and has entrenched the feelings of indignity amongst residents,” says Yusuf.

In July 2012 the African Canadian Community responded to the Danzig Street and Eaton Centre shooting by calling for sustainable funding to the African Canadian community for social development programs. “Rather than heeding the call made by community leaders and organizations, the response has been further criminalization and racial profiling of our community. Clearly, nothing has changed,” said Parsons.

For further information contact:

Mahad Yusuf, Executive Director
Midaynta Community Services
(E): mahad@midaynta.com
(T): 416-544-1992 Ext. 229
(C): 416-702-8056
Roger Love, BA., J.D. Advice Counsel
African Canadian Legal Clinic
(E): lovero@lao.on.ca
(T): 416-214-4747 Ext. 25
(C): 647-294-1583

18 KINO STREET EAST, SWTE 901, T0RONTO, ONTARIO M5C1C4 TEL: (416) 214-4747 FAX: (416) 214-4748

Somali Canadians…
Fact Sheet

Canada has one of the largest Somali populations in the western world, with the census reporting 37,785 people claiming Somali descent, though unofficial estimates place the figure as high as 150,000. Somalis tend to be concentrated in the southern part of the province of Ontario, especially the Ottawa and Toronto areas. The Albertan cities of Calgary and Edmonton have also seen a significant increase in their respective Somali communities over the past five years. In addition, the neighborhood of Rexdale in Toronto has one of the largest Somali populations in the country. In the early 1990s, Canada saw an increase in the total number of Somali immigrants entering the country, with some secondary migration from the United States.

As with many other immigrant groups in the Toronto area, Somalis have faced some barriers to employment despite counting many qualified professionals; This has been attributed to enclave economies, self-employment, language unfamiliarity, and various public policies and social programs.

The Drop out Rate
•        The Toronto District School Board Grade 9 cohort study looking at Fall 2000 students found that the highest dropout rates (according to student 9 language) were Portuguese, Spanish and Somali speaking students.
•        Somali community has a 36.7% drop out rate which is the second highest in Toronto

Criminal Justice
•        Generation 1.5 – are the second generation Somali youth who came to Canada at a young age
•        Because of the various forms of discrimination faced by their parents, Somali second generation youth have difficulties integrating into Canadian society
•        High Unemployment Rate: Even with high school diploma or university degree, Somali males were unemployed (Gariba, 2009)
•        Unemployment is significant barrier for young Somali community, as a result, many Somalis migrated west
•        Unfortunately, a result, over 59 Somali male5 who moved to Edmonton for employment opportunities have died
•        This puts the homicide rate in the Edmonton Somali community higher than the national homicide rates in high-risk countries like Panama, Brazil and the Dominican Republic.

Social Housing: The issues
•        10 year wait list for affordable housing. Affordability: families spend 50% or more of income on rent.
•        Overcrowding: small spaces housing 6 people
•        TCH property aging and in deplorable condition, while the landscape outside is poorly maintained and offers no space to socialize.

“When you live in a bad neighborhood, not even the advantages of family, intellect, and ambition can protect you from the violence that threatens your community.”

Unemployment

Parents
•        Long-term implication of the initial settlement experience.
•        English proficiency a deterrent.
•        Lack of affordable child care Foreign skills hard to get accredited.

Youth
•        Over 80% of the Somali-Canadian community is under 30.
•        Negative perception oft he community.
•        Institutionalized discrimination based on name or address.
•        Unemployment rate hovers at 70 % in Toronto alone.
•        Lack of opportunity = Endemic disenfranchisement
•        No networks/human capital to tap in.

For more information please contact:
Amina Noor
Somali Youth outreach Worker
Midaynta Community Services
(416) 544-1992 or anoormidaynta.com

External links:

http://www.680news.com/2013/06/18/somali-canadian-community-condemns-project-traveller-raids/
http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/members-of-toronto-s-somali-community-speak-out-against-raids-1.1330664/
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/06/18/toronto_somalis_say_they_were_victimized_by_police_in_dixon_road_raids.html