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FILE PHOTO: France, Paris, 03-12-2022. March against the Uighur genocide

Fiora Garenzi / Hans Lucas via Reuters Connect

Hard Numbers: Slave labor gets free pass, China probes fried chicken blast, Fresh beef over origins of meat, Windfarms vs. farmlands, Record numbers at US-Canada border

0: Is Canada complying with its obligation, under the revamped NAFTA accords, to stop importing goods that are made with forced labor? A Politico report earlier this week suggested Canadian border services officials were starting to detain shipments from Western China, where Beijing is accused of using slave labor among the Uighur population. But the Globe and Mail reports that zero imports have so far been rejected. Of particular concern are exports of relatively inexpensive Chinese solar panels, which have helped businesses and homes wean themselves off fossil fuels without breaking the bank.

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The Rainbow Bridge over the Niagara River links the borders of Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada, to Niagara Falls in New York.

Norbert Grisay/Hans Lucas via Reuters

Hard Numbers: Migrants head for US-Canada border, Canada flies fresh F-16 funds to Ukraine, Big Oil plans for a Big Crash, Toronto cans scan plan

191,603: While the immigration crisis at the southern US border has commanded significant attention in recent months, the northern border with Canada is becoming more popular with asylum-seekers, undocumented migrants, and human traffickers. In 2023, officials recorded 191,603 encounters with people crossing into the United States via Canada without papers, more than 40% higher than the year before but still less than one-tenth the volume along the US-Mexico frontier.

60 million: Canada pledged to send Ukraine $60 million in support for F-16 jet maintenance and ammunition. The move, part of a larger $500 million pledge made last spring, comes as congressional infighting, public fatigue, and election jockeying continue to hold up tens of billions of dollars worth of fresh support for Kyiv from the US.

30: Given where gas prices are these days you wouldn’t think it, but global oil giants like Shell, Exxon, Chevron, and Total are carefully preparing for the possibility of another oil price crash, beefing up their production at newer oil fields that are profitable even if oil prices plummet to $30 a barrel. As of this writing, that was less than half the price of a barrel, which is hovering around $75.

6: The Ontario government has canceled a pilot program in which people’s IDs would have been scanned at the entrances to six Toronto-area liquor stores. The program was meant as an experiment to find ways to boost security at liquor stores, but it immediately generated privacy concerns, since the data would have been held in government systems for 14 days.

Asylum seekers cross into Canada from the US border near a checkpoint on Roxham Road near Hemmingford, Quebec.

REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

Canada’s top court says US safe for refugees – more or less

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the Safe Third Country Agreement, which governs refugee migration between Canada and the United States, is constitutional. Refugee groups had said the US was not a “safe” country and that returning refugees who fled north violated the Canadian Charter’s Section 7 guarantee of “life, liberty, and personal security.” The court said otherwise.

The decision follows the March deal struck between Canada and the US to close the irregular border crossings not covered by the 2002 agreement. Refugee migration experts warned the amendment would make life more dangerous for refugees, and eight migrants died soon after while trying to cross the St. Lawrence River to reach the US from Canada. Data from the US Customs and Border Protection before and after the March deal show an initial downturn in migrant encounters after the deal but an increase in May. Canadian data is pending, but Ottawa has acknowledged that the amendment will be tough to enforce and that the use of clandestine irregular routes could raise the risks of human trafficking and sexual violence while putting children and elderly migrants at greater risk.

In the court’s decision, Justice Nicholas Kasirer wrote that legislative “safety valves” guard against “real and not speculative risks of refoulement from the United States.” The court also noted that while some of the concerns cited by advocates were legitimate, such as poor holding conditions, migrants had access to “curative measures” like resident permits and humanitarian and compassionate exemptions.

So the STCA passed one hurdle … but the court also sent the case back down to the Federal court for review on the grounds of a possible Section 15 violation of the Charter. Section 15 covers equality under the law and protects from “discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.” Advocates argue migrant rights are being violated based on sex and religion, with the US providing inadequate protections and accommodations for either.

While some want the STCA scrapped, both Washington and Ottawa prefer to keep it in place. Both Joe Biden and Justin Trudeau are facing elections in 2024 and 2025 in which immigration will be center stage. Biden needs to limit the porousness of the northern border, and Trudeau needs to reduce irregular migration via Quebec, a province with huge political sway.

Whether the new STCA deal holds, however, is up to the courts, where round two on its constitutionality is about to get underway.

CBP Border Patrol agent during a news conference announcing the completion of border wall prototypes in San Diego.


ACLU demands data on irregular border crossings

The New Hampshire American Civil Liberties Union is suing Customs and Border Protection for access to apprehension and encounters data along the New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire borders with Canada. In February, CPB claimed there was an 846% jump between October 2022 and the end of January 2023. Now the ACLU is asking CPB to prove it with hard data – which the latter is disinclined to do. The border agency says it “does not release enforcement statistics and/or enforcement data at less than a Sector or Field Office level.” Whether CPB can keep this data private remains to be seen – that will be up to the courts.

In March, as President Joe Biden visited Ottawa, Canada and the US struck a deal on closing a common irregular border crossing and amending the decades-old Safe Third Country Agreement. The deal was short on details and long on promises, and experts said it posed a risk to migrant safety. In May, Canada’s Border Services Agency said the deal was working, claiming irregular migration had fallen “significantly.”

The March deal was premised on increased irregular migration between the two countries. That deal is done, and the ACLU suit won’t change it, but it isn’t the only border policy change being sought based on agency claims. In New Hampshire, for example, Gov. Chris Sununu is pressing for a tighter, more expensive border patrol to address irregular crossings from Canada into his state. That measure is currently being considered by the state Senate.

While governments like to claim they make policy based on hard facts, the ACLU thinks that evidence should be made public, especially when it comes to an issue as sensitive and significant as migration. This isn’t the ACLU’s first border policy-related pushback. In fact, last week, CPB settled a 2020 lawsuit with ACLU chapters over border patrol checkpoints on Interstate 93 in Woodstock, NH, near the US-Canada border. Use of the checkpoints has now been suspended.

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