Rotary Club of Oak Bay

Bulletin, 4 June 2019

by Adam Farquharson


President Peter opened the meeting. After the national anthem Steve Sharlow delivered the invocation. We then enjoyed a tasty buffet lunch.

Don O’Coffey introduced the visitors: Visiting Rotarians were Willis Coffman, from Montana, and Bob Schelle. Chris Kershaw was a visitor to the Club.

There was a small presentation from Willis Coffman. He talked about his small town with its impressive 42 club members and how they worked together with other clubs in Montana for international projects and large community projects. Willis tends to go and visit Rotary clubs in Texas, Montana and Victoria while visiting friends that live there.



Peter Lawrie brought up “big balls” Jack Petrie to talk about the upcoming bocce ball event on 18 June. He let us know that it would be full body contact, so he advised us to wear protective gear and padding. He brought up online attendance and payment available now for the 18 June Bocce and Burgers event.

Trond Holtbu’s back problem has been diagnosed as a pinched nerve in his back. He will be looking into getting back surgery.

Neil let us know that Gary Lunden had a fall downtown and is currently in the hospital getting tests.

The 75 year anniversary of D-day is on Wednesday.

Janette Nation brought up the thrifty smile cards funds.

Jack Petrie let us know that almost $11,000 was raised from the mother’s day jazz choir event.

Perry Bamji suggested we consider giving the funds to Our Place in order to help with their fundraising. They wish to spend the funds on a commercial washer and dryer so people can drop in and wash their clothing. The Club Board has approved of this. Next funding decision is in April 2020.

The winner of the 50/50 was Adam Farquharson. The marble was not available to be picked.


Steve introduced todays speaker, Atam Uppal. Born in India and raised in Delhi. He worked there for awhile as a quality control chemist in a plastic plant. In 1970 Atam came to Canada, becoming a health consultant. He eventually moved to Victoria to be with his family.

Atam brought up another anniversary. Today is the 40th anniversary of Canada becoming a member of the United Nations convention for refugees. As well as the 30th anniversary of Canada’s creation of its refugee/immigration board, which made sure anyone coming to Canada had a fair hearing as a refugee. Atam discussed his personal vocation. He described himself more as rolling stone, rather than having a steady vocation. Started as a chemist, came to Canada and became an economist then an adviser. Worked as a casino operator then a consultant in the gaming sector. He has been a judicator since 2006, which is his current area of focus. The issue of refugees coming to Canada and America is a very important topic these days. The United Nations has reported 66 million displaced individuals, with over 3 million requiring refugee status. A quote Atam enjoys is, “Find the job you love and you will never work another day in your life.”

We then moved into the PowerPoint presentation by Atam.


Initially started in this field in 2006-2013 refugee protection division

Then 2013-2016 refugee appeal division.  Atam retired and moved to Victoria to be with his family but his wife still has a condo in Toronto so that they are able to go back and forth. Atam talked about the requirements for being a refugee and whether the claimant falls under these categories:

Well founded fear of persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Examples could be women who are abused/do not have basic rights, or people who are gay/have different sexual preferences.

People who don’t fit into that convention. Protected person someone is removed from their country because a risk of torture, cruel and unusual treatment/punishment, someone who is a victim of crime. Hard to define who falls under these consolidated grounds status as it requires “more than a mere possible chance of persecution.”

People who come to the Canadian boarders deal with CBSA and go through an interview before their case is passed onto the board. The board member reviews the story of the claimant, evidence, country conditions. They conduct a hearing. Documents must be submitted at least 10 days before the hearing. Sometimes they will have large piles of documents to sift through.

The hearing explores the topics of identity, exclusion, (criminal history), credibility of well-founded fears.

Certain countries have larger, more complex documents because they have more unique cases of refugees.

State protection claims that the state the refugee is fleeing from cannot offer adequate protection. Internal flight alternative can the person safely go to another part of their country instead of fleeing? Some countries allow corrupt purchasing of personal information so that no matter where the individual is in the country they will not be safe.

Challenges: The number of claims is so large that they cannot be processed and currently numbers 73,000. This bogs down the system and prevents progress.

Resources are spread thin, a lot of funding goes to particular areas. People often come across the border illegally rather than at official ports. People who come through irregular means have an advantage as they skip the lineup and are still allowed the fair hearing. A possible fix is finding irregulars and bringing them to a proper checkpoint. The law states if you can get into the country, regularly or irregularly, you are allowed a fair hearing.

Ninety-eight percent of the claims that are rejected are due to false documents. Canada does not have time to verify all the documents required. Certain organizations can have more reliable documents than others. Atam talked about organized human smuggling. Estimates are that this industry is  bigger than oil or coffee trade over borders. He talked about a personal story of a refugee who paid a smuggler to come to this country. The smuggler had lied about the money needing to be paid to be smuggled into the country.  Atam’s speculation is that the person was  brought in to Canada by the smuggler and  worked here for the higher wages than in India. (One months salary here is worth much more than in  India. The plan would be to work illegally here and create savings that would be worth much more in his homeland back in India. There are a lot of shady practices that need to be watched for.

Atam’s feelings of rewards offered by this career:

  • Positive feeling of granting Canada’s protection.
  • Opportunity to study other countries.
  • Cultural awareness.

Concerns are:

  • Did I make the wrong decision?
  • Claims rejected in error.
  • Claims accepted from possible troublemakers that passed the filters of laws.

Joan Peggs asked a question about people who escape countries but are followed by gangs from their home country.

Any person who is granted protection cannot have it overturned. Unless the minister can make a case before its granted.

Peter closed the meeting at 1.30pm.

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