By Charlie Gillis - Tuesday, December 11, 2012 - 0 Comments
Gangs target financially successful families in the country’s ongoing drug war
In Mexico, Daniel Balcorta had it good. Three cars, a house with a pool, lavish meals at Cancun’s top restaurants—such were the perks of a successful realtor selling beachfront on the Yucatan coastline. A former professional soccer player, Balcorta had paired minor celebrity with a strong grasp of Internet commerce, and developed a thriving business catering to well-heeled snowbirds from the U.S. and Canada. “I even had a private jet I’d rent to fly around my clients viewing properties,” says the 34-year-old ruefully. “We lived a very comfortable life.”
One call to his cellphone would change that. It was Aug. 14, 2009, and the man with the raspy voice on the other end introduced himself as a representative of “the Company”—gangster-speak for Los Zetas, a notorious criminal cartel known throughout Mexico for drug trafficking and extortion. The time had come for Balcorta to pay, the man said, and the price was 500,000 pesos (about $50,000). “You must have the wrong person,” Balcorta responded, and he promptly hung up.
But the man called back, and thus began a month-long nightmare during which the gangsters called Balcorta and his wife, Maria, no less than 10 times demanding they pay up or else. When the Balcortas stopped answering, the gangsters left voice mails threatening their lives and those of their children, aged 5 and 2. On Aug. 17, Maria took a call at the house in which a man told her the Zetas would kill Balcorta “or a member of your family” unless she persuaded her husband to co-operate. They complained to police—twice—but the calls kept coming. Continue…
By Michael Friscolanti - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 11:29 AM - 0 Comments
Ottawa’s plan to make it easier to kick criminals out of the country sounds simple, but some fear it goes too far
Ron Berry spent nine days in a coma. His wounds were so severe—bleeding in the brain, lacerated spleen, a contusion near the lungs—that doctors weren’t certain he would survive. When Berry’s own family first saw him lying in that hospital bed, swollen and unconscious, they didn’t even recognize him. “Words cannot describe what I saw,” his sister told a judge, months later. “His head looked like a rotted pumpkin on top of a body.”
The man who inﬂicted the beating was Dylan Lee Morgenrood, a landed immigrant from South Africa. Drunk and belligerent outside a Trenton, Ont., bar, the 23-year-old ambushed Berry from behind and stomped on his face and chest, over and over, until witnesses finally pulled him away. The attack was so violent and bloody, one veteran bouncer testified, that he still has “nightmares about it.”
Morgenrood pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in July 2009 and was sentenced to 3½ years in prison. The real punishment came next: a deportation order. Like thousands of other non-citizens convicted of a crime, Morgenrood was no longer welcome here.
His removal should have been swift. According to long-standing law, any non-citizen sentenced to more than two years in prison has no right to challenge his deportation at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). But Morgenrood did have one option left, a backdoor strategy that many other foreign-born offenders have exploited: he returned to court and appealed his sentence, hoping to be allowed to stay. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 7:50 AM - 0 Comments
A ‘Gypsy’ jazz man on why so many of his people flee to Canada
More than a thousand spectators packed Koerner Hall, the opulent concert theatre on Bloor Street in Toronto, for Robi Botos’ birthday concert earlier this month. Botos was turning 34. When he came onstage the audience broke into a raggedy chorus of Happy Birthday. Botos wheeled around on his heel and bent over the piano keyboard so he could accompany the last line of the song with a bluesy phrase. “What key was that in, Robi?” somebody shouted from the back of the hall. “D flat,” he said. Perfect pitch.
There followed three hours of extraordinary jazz. Botos was born in 1978 in Nyiregyhaza, Hungary. Since he moved to Toronto 14 years ago he has become one of the city’s most prominent musicians. His guests for the concert’s second half included the great saxophonist Branford Marsalis and the drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, two of the most demanding musicians in the world. Before the first tune was half done, Watts was leaning forward over his drum kit, his eyes locked on Botos’, a wide and satisfied smile on his face. I can do business with this guy, the smile said. The music sounded like a freight train.
But there was a special spirit about the concert’s first half, when Botos played with members of his family: his father Lajos Botos Sr. on drums, brother Lajos Jr. on bass and first cousin Jozsef on guitar. Here the music was more casual, often based on folk themes. Robi Botos, who befriended Oscar Peterson before Peterson died, often played in ways that specifically recalled Peterson: the way he tapped his foot, the way he dropped his right hand onto the keyboard from high altitude to kick off long phrases. I’ve been hearing about him for years, but this concert gave me a chance to confirm for myself that Robi Botos is a tremendous jazz pianist. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 12:01 PM - 5 Comments
Of appointments to the Immigration and Refugee Board, Jason Kenney told the House on Tuesday that, in fact, he was aware, he thought, of two appointees, out of a total of 140, who had “any association with the Conservative party.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 12:06 PM - 8 Comments
Responding yesterday during QP to complaints about the Immigration and Refugee Board, Jason Kenney sought the high road.
No, Mr. Speaker, they are not. In fact, I am aware of I think 2 out of 140 who have any association with the Conservative Party, unlike the Liberals who appointed the spouses of members of Parliament, the spouses of Liberal senators and failed campaign managers. The Liberals used the IRB as a partisan dumping ground. We have respected its role as an independent, quasi-judicial organization.
Conservative Senator Doug Finley is both the spouse of an MP and a former campaign manager. And he is joined in that independent, quasi-democratic institution by a former president of the Conservative party, a former spokeswoman for the Prime Minister, a former chair of Conservative party fundraising, failed Conservative MPs Josee Verner and Fabian Manning, and failed Conservative candidates Larry Smith and Yonah Martin.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, July 13, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 6 Comments
Last month I wrote about the results of an access-to-information request to the Immigration and Refugee Board, which yielded some 4,000 pages on Cindor Reeves. Nothing in those documents changes my conclusion that the board, as well as the federal government, which intervened in the case through the minister of public safety, has shown gross incompetence and perhaps worse in handling this case.
I should point out, however, the the IRB responded to my access-to-information request quickly and thoroughly. This shouldn’t be worth noting, but given the terrible record of virtually every other government department I have dealt with on access-to-information, it is. Indeed access requests on Reeves made to other departments remain in limbo as I write this. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 4:50 PM - 0 Comments
Since beginning four years ago to dig into the story of Cindor Reeves — the man who helped bring former Liberian president and warlord Charles Taylor to trial in The Hague, and whom Canada is now deporting — I have occasionally worried that there might be some missing piece of the puzzle that I didn’t have. Perhaps the government has information about Reeves that would explain its determination to send him back to Liberia, where he faces murder, other than incompetence, malice, and a perverted sense of justice. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 2:10 PM - 28 Comments
In the last three weeks, Cindor Reeves’ relatives in Liberia have been attacked by men looking for him and his wife. They abducted four children who are still missing. The following email is from his mother-in-law:
I don’t know if I will be alive before this message reach you. Last night some arm man came to my house,and toke my four ( 4) children away. They came and met some people in the house and wanted to know where C.R and [...] are,when they could’nt get good result then they ask for me and make a statement saying we will kill those ungratful people starting with that socall mother in law [...] .Atthat moment, I wos able to recongnize the voice of one.This follow came to the house as asympthizer, He repeated we will kill them know matter what. By the grace of God I was able run through the bathroom window with alappl and a T shirt,Leaving my children behind dont know their where about now.If Ishould survie it will be by the grace of God.You people force me to come back to Liberia saying Liberia was save for me now see what is happening to me? now where will I run to or find my kids
By Michael Petrou - Friday, January 28, 2011 at 11:44 AM - 40 Comments
Cindor Reeves, a man largely responsible for bringing to justice one of the most blood-soaked tyrants in recent history, has had his refugee case rejected by Canada and may soon be deported to his native Liberia, where he runs a high risk of being murdered.
Reeves was the brother-in-law of Charles Taylor, who in 1989 launched a civil war in Liberia that killed more than 200,000 and left Taylor in charge of much of the country. Taylor was elected president during a brief lull in the fighting in 1997. Taylor also created a proxy army in neighbouring Sierra Leone that called itself the Revolutionary United Front, or RUF. The RUF’s child soldiers terrorized Sierra Leone for years. Taylor used them to obtain diamonds. He sent the RUF weapons; they sent him gems. Thousands died as a result.
It is for these crimes the Taylor is now on trial in The Hague. He’s there in large part because Cindor Reeves — of his own volition, without receiving anything, and at enormous risk to himself — helped the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone build its case against Taylor.
“I am willing to go on the record and confirm that CR provided invaluable information that led to the indictment of Charles Taylor and others who were ultimately convicted,” Alan White, chief of investigations for the court from 2002 to 2005, said in a 2009 email that was published in Maclean’s. He further explained Reeves’ help in a 2009 affidavit: “I could always rely on the information and support provided by Mr. Reeves. In his effort to bring peace and security to the region he endangered himself and his family, yet he did so willingly without asking anything in return but for protection for his family. The court owes Mr. Reeves a debt of gratitude for his support and service.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 12:23 PM - 33 Comments
Jason Kenney introduces refugee system reforms.
To deal more quickly with those claimants, the government will replace political appointees on Immigration and Refugee Boards (IRB) with full-time civil servants. The government says this change and some others to IRBs will mean claimants can expect a hearing within 60 days rather than up to 19 months.
Secondly, the government proposes to divide the countries of the world into two groups: those with a good human rights record and those with a poor one. Refugee claimants arriving from a country that has a strong record on human rights will be able to appeal a negative decision at the IRB only to the Federal Court of Canada. Claimants from an “unsafe” country will have an extra level of appeals they can use if the IRB denies their refugee claim.