Today marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the Hundred Days Offensive, the last hundred days before the Armistice that ended the war on November 11, 1918.
On August 8, 1918 the Canadian Corps under the command of Canadian Sir. Arthur Currie launched a major surprise offensive with our Allies in Amiens in northern France.
The reputation the Canadian Corps earned as “shock troops” at Vimy and Passchendaele was confirmed at Amiens with the Canadian and Allied armies going forward 13 kilometres on the first day and gaining an additional 10 kilometres before the attack came to a halt. Though a spectacular victory by the standards of the First World War the battle took a heavy toll on the Canadian Corps with 11,822 soldiers killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
Over the next hundred days, Canadian and Allied armies continued the initial success at Amiens and pushed the German lines back into Belgium and forced the Germans to surrender.
As we mark the 100th anniversary of the last hundred days of the First World War let us remember the determination, valour and sacrifice of those who served Canada and continue to serve Canada.
Lest we forget.
With the arrival of spring there’s something besides the temperature that’s heating up.
I’m increasingly hearing from Edmonton Griesbach constituents and other Canadians who are upset about the issue of illegal border crossings.
Ever since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in January 2017 sent out a decidedly reckless tweet on Twitter, the problem has worsened.
Trudeau tweeted: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada”
Well with a big welcome mat like that, it’s no surprise that scores of people have taken up the PM on his ill-conceived offer.
Indeed, in 2017 alone, RCMP officers nabbed about 20,000 asylum-seekers who crossed into Canada illegally.This year more than 6,000 have come into Canada illegally and officials expect things to get worse before they get better.
Quebec’s Immigration Minister David Heurtel has said he fears 400 people a day could be crossing into Quebec illegally by summer. That doesn’t even include the number of illegals who could be pouring in at the Manitoba border.
Official Opposition Conservatives have been pushing the Liberals to do something about the situation pointing out that the illegal onslaught essentially punishes all the people who are trying to come to Canada by going through proper channels and following our laws.
Critics say it essentially puts law-abiding claimants — who want to come to Canada — at the back of the line and extends the time it takes for officials to process their files. That’s not fair. Canadians (and those hoping to become Canadians) are getting increasingly upset about this crisis.
About 80 per cent of the work done by staff in my Edmonton constituency office consists of helping people on matters of immigration. The vast majority of people who reach out have come through regular channels and rightfully express frustration when they see reports about the flood of illegal border crossers.
Many of those who cross our border illegally in order to seek asylum here have obtained visas to visit the U.S. They fly there, then make the trek to Canada. Many are from African nations and Haiti.
It costs a small fortune to process illegal queue-jumpers. It has already cost Quebec $146 million last year alone. The province wants the feds to reimburse those costs. Quebec officials say it has reached capacity at four centres in Montreal for asylum-seekers and will urge the feds to redirect people to other parts of the country.
Clearly, people flooding over the border illegally realize Canada treats them pretty much with open arms. There are scenes of RCMP officers toting the bags of those who enter, like bellhops with badges.
Those who cross the border illegally are arrested and taken to a Canadian Border Security Agency office where they’re given a medical check and finger printed. In most cases they’re then free to go and the clock starts ticking on processing their refugee claim.
As a refugee claimant, they’re eligible for a work permit and health care paid for by the Interim Federal Health Program. They’re also eligible to apply for provincial social assistance, emergency housing, education and legal aid.
But that’s not all. Canada is super generous because if an illegal border crosser’s refugee claim is declined, they’re also entitled to an appeal.
The legal crux of the problem is the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement. That pact makes it impossible for would-be refugees arriving from the United States to claim asylum at an official port of entry to Canada (such as at an international bridge).
They can only successfully make such claims from inside our country, so that’s prompted thousands to make the crossing on foot from the United States at “unofficial” entry points. Many take taxis to these unofficial entry points then walk across to Canadian soil.
Media reports quoting U.S. officials say our southern neighbour is reviewing a proposal from Canada to amend the Safe Third Country Agreement to have it apply across the entire length of the border. That would close a loophole that has allowed more than 26,000 illegal crossings since Trudeau’s irresponsible Twitter tweet.
The Liberals this week added confusion to the issue saying there are no “formal” talks on the subject. To add to the confusion, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale were both quoted in media as being opposed to closing the loophole by having the Safe Third Country Agreement apply across the entire length of the border.
That’s something Conservative immigration shadow cabinet minister Michelle Rempel has been urging the Liberal government to do for months.
The bottom line is that most observers agree the vast majority of people who are crossing illegally from the United States to Canada are not in mortal danger, unlike many people in the world who might be fleeing vicious civil wars, or murder and mayhem caused by terror groups such as ISIS.
A government analysis said our system is now so flooded it could take the Immigration and Refugee Board 11 years to process all the claims and cost Canadian taxpayers $2.9 billion.
Last year alone more than 50,000 asylum claims were processed in Canada.
Canadians expect and deserve an immigration system to work in an orderly, safe and predictable way. Currently, it’s anything but. The system is broken and needs fixing.
For 10 years, Edmonton’s Zion Baptist Church of Kensington has hired students to run programs and activities including a summer camp for children, many of whom were from low-income families.
They did it through a federal government program called Canada Summer Jobs grants, under the auspices of Employment and Social Development Canada.
For the church, the program was a win-win.
A young person got hired at a modest salary, oftentimes to their very first job.
With oversight from a church official, that young person supervised neighbourhood children leading them in free healthy activities ranging from carnivals, to senior citizen teas to barbecues to summer day camp.
“It’s been a very successful program,” says church Pastor Craig Traynor.
But this year the successful initiative is in jeopardy.
The church’s application for a student to run the program has been rejected because officials felt they could not in good conscience check off a new attestation box on the form — a requirement that was introduced this year by the federal Liberal government and has caused widespread outrage especially among faith communities.
That attestation (or values test) says the job and the organization offering it must respect individual human rights in Canada including the values “underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Fair enough, says Traynor. His church was good with that.
But what it was not good with was a further demand in the attestation that the organization a.k.a. the church must support “other rights. These include reproductive rights…”
That was something the pastor or other church principals could not sign.
Instead, Traynor wrote a response on the application form that reads in part:
“On the basis of religious conscience, we are not prepared to express the words that the minister [of the Crown] has required in the applicant’s guide.
“We attest that we are committed to upholding our obligations under all Canadian law, including Charter and human rights law.
“We believe the minister does not have the jurisdiction under law to compel someone to make a statement or adopt a belief, especially one that conflicts with our religious conscience under the Charter as a condition of receiving funding.”
Ironically Pastor Traynor’s church does not have an official policy or bylaw related to reproductive rights.
“We have people who are pro life and we have people who are pro choice,” he says. “We are very tolerant.”
That’s in stark contrast to the intolerance shown by this outrageous attestation, or values test, demanded by the federal Liberals.
Another great irony is the Liberals’ demand for people to agree to the rights stated on the application actually undermines and violates peoples rights.
“The requirement of the government to force us to make the attestation is a violation of our constitutional rights,” says Traynor.
In a last follow up letter to government officials he writes: “Our religious beliefs and obligations, our conscience, our beliefs, thoughts and opinions all preclude us from making the attestation…It is for this reason that we request an accommodation of our Charter rights to freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, freedom of believe, freedom of opinion, freedom of thought, freedom of expression and equality rights.”
The pastor is not optimistic the government will overturn its draconian values test, but he and others are determined to continue to pressure them to do so through social media and letter-writing campaigns, including sharing the website: www.stopthevaluestest.ca
“I know lots of other churches and pastors are very upset at this,” he says.
The true irony is that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal MPs constantly preach as gospel that all Canadians must be tolerant, understanding and inclusive.
But I guess that applies to everyone else except him and his fellow Liberals.
That hypocrisy is truly vile and disgusting.
Click here to find out more or to send the prime minister a message Stop the Value Test.
My warmest wishes to all those celebrating Christmas today according to the Julian calendar!
May your homes be filled with joy, peace and hope.