It was only a few years ago that Shaho Shahbazpanahi remembers moving his friend Razgar Rahimi and his young family into their home.
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Less than 24 hours before her flight, a 30-year-old woman, who was brought to Toronto as a little girl, has had her deportation to France suspended after her lawyers say Canada’s immigration minister intervened.
Laura Emmanuelle Souchet, a samba dancer who now owns her own cleaning business, was scheduled to be deported Saturday after the Canada Border Services Agency learned she had been living in Canada without immigration status since she was a young girl.
On Friday, a judge was supposed to make a last-minute decision on whether to suspend her deportation, but Souchet was granted a temporary resident permit by Marco Mendicino, the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship Canada, Souchet’s lawyers said.
A TRP is a document that authorizes a person who is inadmissible or does not meet the requirements to be a refugee or a permanent resident to enter or remain in Canada.
“I have my freedom back, I feel like the bricks are lifted off my shoulders and I’m free,” Souchet told CTV News Toronto Friday afternoon. “My wish as a child every birthday since I was 12 to become Canadian, we’re not there yet, but we still get a chance to do that.”
Souchet’s lawyer Graciela Flores Méndez said she is thrilled that the minister has intervened, and that it’s only fair for someone like Souchet, who “came into this country as a child and made it her home.”
“We stand firm in our belief that Canada needs to create a policy or law that provides a path to regularization for children who were brought into this country and have subsequently not only established roots in Canada, but have contributed to our society as a whole,” Méndez said.
Souchet said that she came to Canada with her mother at the age of 12 to take care of her grandmother, who suffered a severe stroke.
On the advice of an immigration consultant, Souchet said her family applied as refugees in order to stay in Canada, something that puzzled Souchet as a young girl seeing as France was a safe country.
But the family trusted the consultant to know the Canadian system better than they did, and they handed over their payment, Souchet said. When the application was rejected and a deportation order was issued, the consultant advised them to go under the federal government’s radar and wait for amnesty.
“I was hoping [it would work out], but I realized she was feeding me a dream that wasn’t a reality,” Souchet said on Thursday. “She was charming and convincing as if she had our best interest at heart … I was later told that she’s known for doing this kind of stuff.”
For 18 years since then, Souchet said she has lived in fear, scared that at any moment officers with the Canada Border Services Agency would come to her home, and tear her away from her friends and the life she built here in Canada.
She said that even in situations when she has felt afraid for her safety, she has not contacted police due to her fear.
“It was like living with a ton of bricks on your shoulder for 18 years,” she said.
This past November, she decided that she needed to find help. She contacted Mendez, who took up her case and helped her apply for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
Her application listed her address, and she said that last week officers with CBSA came to her home, detained her for two days and then on Wednesday gave her a deportation order.
She walked into the court house Friday morning surrounded by friends and supporters, and told reporters she hoped the judge would let her stay until her case has been heard.
Méndez said their aim Friday morning was to suspend her deportation until a decision was made on her application.
She said the minister’s intervention means that the deportation and court case today is now “moot” and Souchet is permitted to remain in the country.
Souchet completed public school in Toronto, but when she was accepted into university, she was unable to attend because she did not have a SIN card and other ID necessary to study at the institution.
She said at the age of 18, she started a cleaning business and paid taxes to the Canadian government using an individual tax number, which allows non-residents to contribute to the Canada Revenue Agency.
“I wanted to do the right thing, I wanted to give back,” Souchet said. “My only dream ever since I was a child, my only wish was to become a Canadian citizen, who I am as a person is Canadian.”
She said resettling in France would be very difficult because of her lack of formal French education and employment experience there.
With the new permit, Souchet will be able to study, work and have some health services.
“I can go to school, work [anywhere], I can drive a car. I can do everything I’ve wanted to do in my life,” she said. “There’s no limit to what I can do.”
She said images of the immigration consultant still haunt her some days, the blond-haired woman sitting behind a desk. “It’s a memory I could never get out of my mind,” she said.
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The 2020 Census kicks off Tuesday in remote Alaska. U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham will be there to conduct the first count in the Bering Sea community of Toksook Bay. Dillingham planned to spend time Friday at the Alaska Native Cultural Charter School in Anchorage, giving students a lesson on statistics. Additional outreach is planned throughout the weekend.
WHY IS THE 2020 CENSUS STARTING IN ALASKA?
With its sparse population and subzero temperature, rural Alaska can be hard to reach, and some of its villages are accessible only when the ground is frozen. So, the Census Bureau starts the head count in The Last Frontier state by going door-to-door in January — more than two months before the rest of the nation — so it can make sure it reaches villages before the spring thaw, when residents head out to fish and hunt. The state’s heritage is traditionally on display during these first counts. In 2000, then-U.S. Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt arrived for the first count in the village of Unalakleet as a passenger in a dog sled. This year, Alaska Native dancers from Toksook Bay will perform for Dillingham.
WHEN DOES IT START ELSEWHERE?
Residents in the rest of the U.S., as well as the rest of Alaska, can start responding online and by telephone in mid-March. The Census Bureau plans to send out a first round of notices explaining how to participate during the second week of March. It will send up to four more rounds of mailings, including a paper questionnaire, in March and April to households that haven’t responded.
WILL SOMEONE BE KNOCKING AT MY DOOR?
Only if you fail to reply online, by mail or by telephone. This is the first census in which the Census Bureau is encouraging most people to answer the questions via the internet. Around three-quarters of households will initially get invitations to respond to the questionnaire online. However, the Census Bureau realizes some communities don’t have easy access to the internet, and about a quarter of households will initially receive paper questionnaires that can be mailed back. By May, the Census Bureau will be sending out workers to knock on the doors of households it hasn’t heard back from.
WHAT ARE THE QUESTIONS?
The form asks how many people live in the household as of April 1, whether the home is owned or rented, and the form-filler’s age, race and sex. It also asks if the form-filler is Latino, and if so, their country of origin. In the race question, the form-filler also can specify country of origin. All other residents in the household must answer, or have the first form-filler answer for them, the same questions on age, sex and race. They must specify their relationship to the form-filler and if they live elsewhere, like away at college. For the first time, same-sex couples will be able to identify as such, either as spouses or unmarried partners.
IS THERE A CITIZENSHIP QUESTION?
No. The Trump administration tried to add the question, but the U.S. Supreme Court blocked it.
WHO GETS COUNTED?
Everyone residing in the United States and the five U.S. territories, including non-citizens and immigrants living in the country illegally. Also included are military personnel temporarily deployed overseas, who are counted at their home addresses in the U.S.
WILL MY INFORMATION BE SHARED?
No. Under federal law, all responses are kept completely confidential, and they can be used only to produce statistics.
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT THE CENSUS?
Because it is used to determine who your representative in Congress is, where new businesses can build, how crowded your local schools will get over the next decade, and whether highways in your community get money for repairs. The results of the 2020 Census help determine the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending, as well as how many congressional seats each state gets.
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Mark Thiessen And Mike Schneider, The Associated Press
It was only a few years ago that Shaho Shahbazpanahi remembers moving his friend Razgar Rahimi and his young family into their home.
He’s now trying to figure out what to do without them, not only in terms of grieving their loss, but how to take care of everything they left behind in Stouffville, north of Toronto.
Rahimi, his wife, Farideh Gholami, and their three-year-old son, Jiwan Rahimi — “little Razgar” as Shahbazpanahi called him — were among the 176 passengers who died when a Ukraine International Airlines flight was shot down by the Iranian military near Tehran last week.
“I get up each hour during the night and I feel something’s missing,” Shahbazpanahi said.
Friends say the couple, who arrived in Canada six years ago without any other relatives, made lasting relationships and friends became like family.
Gholami, a talented jewelry designer, was seven months pregnant with their second son when she died and had already decorated a room for the new baby.
“Razgar and Farideh always dreamt of having a big family,” said Arin Minasian, another close friend.
Shahbazpanahi said he’s been in touch with the family’s relatives in Iran hoping to find out what they want done with the couple’s two vehicles and their belongings inside the rental house.
“It is my responsibility,” he said. “It’s a responsibility of any close friend to help a friend.”
There were 57 Canadian citizens killed and many more of the dead had ties to Canada.
What will happen to victims’ belongings is a concern for the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton, said president Reza Akbari.
He said most of the 13 passengers from Edmonton were first-generation immigrants. He doesn’t know how many of them had relatives living in Canada.
Akbari believes some people who knew the passengers, including international students studying in Canada, may be wondering what to do with their things.
His group recently sent out a message to its networks in Farsi asking people to get in touch to help facilitate communication with relatives in Iran or to get legal advice.
Vancouver lawyer Samin Mortazavi said disasters such as the plane crash present challenges for victims’ relatives.
Mortazavi, who deals with estates as part of his family law and immigration practice, said relatives of someone with assets in both Iran and Canada could find themselves dealing with Canadian and Iranian law.
Travel could also be an obstacle.
“Imagine there’s a passenger, Ms. Jones, who is an Iranian-Canadian living in Vancouver for the past 30 years. Now Ms. Jones has no relative or next of kin or a friend that she named as an executor in Vancouver, but she has a sister in Iran and that sister wants to apply to be her executor,” Mortazavi said.
“It would be very difficult for that sister to travel to Canada in order to apply through our B.C. Supreme Court to become appointed as the executor.”
Canada’s lack of a diplomatic relationship with Iran makes it tough for an Iranian to acquire a temporary resident visa, he added.
The federal government says it has established a dedicated email and phone line to help victims’ families who urgently need visas to travel to Canada.
Mortazavi said a death certificate is also necessary to handle a person’s affairs and relatives could be waiting for Iranian officials to issue one.
Sending money back to Iran also can be difficult because of sanctions.
Settling a victim’s affairs could take up to a year, he said.
Shahbazpanahi said he’s talking to the couple’s landlord and has done things such as cancel their internet. At this point, he doesn’t know what’s going to happen to everything inside the home.
He’s unsure if the couple had a will or if their relatives, now dealing with funerals, can travel to Canada to sort things out.
Shahbazpanahi anticipates that one day he will have to go inside his friend’s house to help pack things away.
“That’s going to be my worst day ever.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2020
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LONDON — Prince Charles, the future king, has long been seen as a potential modernizer who wants a more modest monarchy in line with other European royal households — and the streamlining process has already begun with the astounding developments of recent months.
But the changes have come at a terrible cost for Charles, who has seen his brother Prince Andrew disgraced and his once close sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, become estranged.
The trials and tribulations of Andrew and Harry — one tainted for a close friendship with a convicted sex offender, the other unwilling to continue his high-profile role — will take both out of their royal duties, leaving a smaller, more modest royal apparatus.
“Charles has been saying for years and years, ‘Let’s make it smaller,’” said Majesty magazine editor-in-chief Ingrid Seward. “He feels quite strongly that with such a big House of Windsor, there are too many opportunities for things to go wrong. And it’s too expensive. And they need too many houses, too much public expenditure.”
She does not expect Charles to take any joy in recent events, though, particularly because of the breakdown between William and Harry.
“He’s very saddened, as any parent would be if their children have fallen out. But I think he probably feels that in the fullness of time, hopefully, it will get back on track,” she said.
The royal focus going forward was neatly summed up by a rare formal portrait released two weeks ago by Buckingham Palace to mark the dawn of a new decade: Queen Elizabeth II with her three direct heirs: Charles, 71, William, 37, and 6-year-old Prince George.
It is a serene image of a 93-year-old monarch surrounded by the three people expected to follow her to the throne, and it masks the behind-the-scenes turmoil and disappointments surrounding Andrew and Harry.
Andrew’s fall is a full-blown scandal. His conduct has raised ethical issues in the past, but he had managed to retain his royal role until he completely miscalculated the impact of using an extended TV interview in November to defend his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy financier.
The queen’s second son seemed to have a moral blind spot, defending his relationship with Epstein — who died in a New York prison in August in what was ruled a suicide — as honourable. He did not express a word of sympathy for the girls and young women victimized by Epstein.
Andrew still faces possible questioning from law enforcement in the U.S. and Britain over allegations that he had sex with a teen trafficked by Epstein, which Andrew denies, as well as questioning from lawyers representing women who have filed civil suits against Epstein’s estate.
When the tempest of bad publicity became unbearable, Andrew announced a decision to step down from royal duties. There was no public comment from the queen or from Charles, who was said by the British press to have advised the queen that Andrew could not continue.
There is no scandal surrounding Harry, but it seems painful for all concerned. Even the stoic queen, who seems to refer to private matters roughly once per decade, has spoken of her disappointment.
With his charming smile and ginger hair, Harry has long been one of the most popular royals, and with his brother, William, was seen as a key part of making the creaky monarchy vital to younger Britons. Much of the world watched enthralled in 2018 when he married Meghan Markle, a successful American actress, at a storybook event at Windsor Castle.
The fairy tale has since fractured. Harry and Meghan, feeling trapped by their duties and warring with the British press, have announced plans to drastically reduce their royal roles and spend much of the year in Canada. In a major breach of family etiquette, they announced their plans without prior approval from his grandmother, the queen, earning a rare display of royal pique from Elizabeth.
Harry seems torn between the wishes of his wife, Meghan, and his fealty to queen and country.
The queen, whose 98-year-old husband, Prince Philip, is ailing, has slowly cut back on her official duties in recent years and passed more to Charles, who often represents her at overseas events. But Elizabeth took centre stage earlier this week when she summoned Charles, William and Harry to a crisis meeting at her rural retreat to deal with issues raised by Harry’s plan to break away.
Harry’s plan puts Charles in a ticklish spot faced by many parents, albeit on a much smaller financial scale. He is in the position to decide whether Harry and Meghan continue to receive money from the Duchy of Cornwall estate, with annual revenue of more than 20 million pounds ($26 million), once they have for the most part abandoned their royal roles.
Collateral damage has included the previously close bond between Harry and William, who hold a special place in many Britons’ hearts as the offspring of the late Princess Diana. Many remember them walking silently in her funeral cortege in 1997. William has not commented publicly on the breach, but Harry has said they are now on “different paths.”
Removing Andrew and Harry from the equation will leave the monarchy with a smaller footprint: fewer senior royals gathered on the Buckingham Palace balcony to wave to the throngs at national events, fewer to open hospitals and help raise money for charities, and fewer using public funds to pay for official travel and events. There will also be fewer royal households with competing interests.
Until these recent seismic events, the royal entourage has grown along with Elizabeth’s family. She is the longest reigning monarch in British history, with four children who have started families of their own. There are grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well. Some have scorned royal titles, but others have not, leading to a proliferation of princes and princesses.
Royal historian and author Hugo Vickers cautions that Charles may be misguided in his plans to shrink the monarchy because the extended family actually provides substantial help.
“I think it’s most unwise because other members of the royal family help with a lot of things the monarch cannot do,” he said. “He’ll soon find he needs to be helped.”
Gregory Katz, The Associated Press
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