Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Is the immigration insanity set to come north of the border?

It has been troubling for me to watch the news coverage and commentary around the arrival of a boatload of potential Tamil refugees in Canada this week, and it has left me wondering if I lived in the Canada I thought I lived in after all. Certainly, it seems that a re-examination of what has typically been seen as our values and attitudes is in order.


My concern isn’t necessarily about policy but more about tone, since the government doesn't seem to be doing anything substantive (yet) to back-up their ranting. I’m uneasy about boats arriving on our shores, I believe human smuggling is a heinous crime, and I don’t want terrorists released in our midst. But I also believe we should welcome legitimate refugees, no matter how they get here.

There are short-term and long-term issues here. Short-term, I believe we should process these people through the refugee process; those who meet the criteria (legitimate fear for their safety, persecution, etc.) can stay; those who do not should go. That is happening. The crew should be prosecuted for human smuggling, the ship seized, an investigation to find their sponsors launched, and those people pursued through international legal channels.

Longer-term, I think there needs to be policy changes, both domestic and international.

Complaints that many refugee claimants abuse the system by staying after being ruled ineligible, and that claims take too long to process, are legitimate. This isn’t an issue unique to these Tamils however; it’s a deeper issue with our immigration and refugee system that should be addressed by the government as part of its wider systemic reforms. And if we are being targeted by abusers for the laxness of our system, the answer is simple: fix the system so we're less attractive to those that would abuse it while still welcoming legitimate claimants.

Internationally, we need concrete efforts to deter and prosecute human smuggling. But we also need to look at other initiatives, and examine the root causes of such incidents. For example, working with the UN to improve the situation on the ground in places like Sri Lanka, and setting-up regional refugee processing centres overseas so that claims can be processed and legitimate refugees can come to Canada and other countries legally, without resorting to paying human smugglers for illegal passage.

There are very real issues that can be debated here, from policy reforms to more philosophical questions around what our refugee policy should be. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to be having that debate. Instead, it seems as though the worst tactics of the U.S. Mexican immigration debate are coming to Canada.

We see Vic Toews and Stephen Harper stoking security fears and using the story to try to change the channel from issues that have been hurting them. We see Sun Media going all Rambo, seemingly implying we should sink the next boat that approaches our shores, or shoot them all or something, and warning you they’re stealing our tax dollars and our health care services. And in Toronto, we see mayoral candidate Rob Ford seemingly promising to wall-off Toronto to any further immigration (well, some immigration, to be sure). And he could actually win. And such attitudes and opinions aren’t exactly isolated.

It seems astounding though to be seeing this in a nation of immigrants. Wasn’t it not long ago that this government was apologizing for the Komagata Maru incident, when in 1914 a ship of Indian immigrants was prevented from docking in Canada over laws designed to prevent Asian emigration? Have we forgotten that our laws that prevent us from blocking ships of immigrants from landing were enacted following the shame of the Holocaust and World War Two, when Canada and many other countries barred our doors to Jewish refugees trying to flee the spread of Nazism?

I think we should reform our immigration system to increase capacity, process claims more quickly and ensure denied claimants are sent home quickly. And we should crack down on human smugglers, not human victims.

But let’s not lose sight of our history, our values, and that everyone here is from somewhere else.

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10 comments:

WesternGrit said...

Great post!

Harper, by the way, refused to apologize to the South Asian community (more than just Sikhs were on the Komagata Maru) in Parliament. It would be a simple thing, but Harper does not want it in the record of the land. He also hoped that this wouldn't go mainstream (the news of the apology), so a quiet - almost covert - apology in a small Surrey BC park, rather than the splash of a public apology in Parliament. He doesn't want to piss off many of his more hardcore racist "base". The Sikh community (with the exception of the handful owned by the CPC) were outraged.

We continue to see the deliberate deconstruction of the Canada that had been known to be the most welcoming place in the world. I guess we can forget the adage "Give me your tired, your weak, your huddled masses..." (America has). I guess we only want the huddled masses if they are from particular nations and religious backgrounds.

What a shame.

The Rat said...

"Short-term, I believe we should process these people through the refugee process; those who meet the criteria (legitimate fear for their safety, persecution, etc.) can stay; those who do not should go."

How many, Jeff? That's the issue here. We take in a lot of refugees each year and our government supports them in many ways including welfare and free medical care. There are millions of legitimate refugees in the world, if they all showed up would you want to accept them all? If not then the debate is how many and how do we choose? And THAT is the real question as far as I am concerned. We in Canada must be able to control who we allow into our country. Right now we accept refugee applicants from around the world. We don't accept them all, however, so there must be some criteria being applied as to which we accept. But the second any refugee hits the beach or an airport those criteria are gone, apparently. That really cannot be allowed to continue.

I especially have an issue with refugees showing up in Canada and filing claims because most of them are country shopping. When Canada takes refugees out of a camp somewhere you know you have helped someone in real need of help. With these Tamils we know they were in Indonesia and Thailand and therefore NOT in immediate danger. They chose to come to Canada not because they were in danger but because Canada will give them the best place to live. Other refugees do the same thing coming in through the US or Europe. They were in safe third countries but chose to make a claim in Canada. Why should we allow refugees to shop for their country of refuge when so many others are unable to do so? Is that the Canadian way?

900ft Jesus said...

you really nailed it, Jeff. Long term planning is needed as we will see many more refugees as climate change makes places unlivable and genocide results over land wars. But the Harper approach is opportunistic, as usual. Short sighted, geared to garner votes rather than deal with the situation now and long term.

Stirring up hatred and fear by lying is very troubling as well. We've seen other leaders use that tactic throughout history, and it leads to more hatred, more fear, and a lot of bloodshed.

wilson said...

And now the Tamils are having yet another protest rally, in Ottawa on Monday.
Reason: Canadian laws are racist.
They are not helping themselves with events like this, imo

http://noii-ottawa.blogspot.com/2010/08/support-tamil-migrants.html

Gayle said...

"We take in a lot of refugees each year..."

Says who?

Relatively speaking, we don't.

Wilson - I suppose if they did not have a protest you would be more sympathetic???

CanadianSense said...

Wow, so many ommissions of fact where to begin.

We have a stellar record on asylum seekers. At present, 90% of the refugees resettled every year are accepted by the United States, Canada and Australia. All European countries together provide roughly six per cent of the world's resettlement opportunities.

Bill C11 was put forward, 19 Liberal amendments were included to address illegal immigration.

You invoked historical events that showed Canada failed refugees escaping WAR and persecution.

Did you offer ANY evidence on this boat they have the same threats? NOPE

The EU, US, Australia have stated the CONFLICT is over in Sri Lanka and don't accept boatloads from Sri Lanka.
http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2010/08/14/re-how-we-should-deal-with-the-tamil-boat-people/
I get it creative and revisionist history and framing this Federal Government as evil and racist is the only hand left.
http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2001/pix/PrintPage.asp?REF=/2010/07/11/sec02.asp
It did not work on the CP24 debate against Ford and it won't work here.

The game is up.

http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2010/08/15/tamil-migrant-story-some-facts-for-your-consideration/

The Rat said...

""We take in a lot of refugees each year..."

Relatively speaking we don't? We take in somewhere around 30,000 refugees each year. Frankly, I don't give a shit how many we take in, what I care about is who we take in and that we as Canadians make the decision. Maybe you can address my post instead of trying to redirect the discussion into some kind of "Canada is racist" bull.

publicpoetry said...

BCINTO? The right to travel from coast to coast freely is a right we Canadians take for granted. Much of the world is not so lucky--they don't enjoy basic human rights.

And if we're not careful...

The Rat said...

"Have we forgotten that our laws that prevent us from blocking ships of immigrants from landing were enacted following the shame of the Holocaust and World War Two, when Canada and many other countries barred our doors to Jewish refugees trying to flee the spread of Nazism?"

Jeff, the contrast with the SS St.Louis always bothers me because I am quite concerned that we might do the same somehow. But I was thinking about it and I can see at least one massive difference between the two. The Bremen sailed from Germany and was refused in several countries including the US, Cuba and Canada. The Jews on board had directly left from the country they were persecuted in and never found a safe haven. The Tamils didn't do the same. They had already found a safe haven before they decided to come to a more generous safe haven. To me that is a very large difference. Even if we refused to land all the Tamils they would most likely return to Indonesia and Thailand and not Sri Lanka.

Gayle said...

"Relatively speaking we don't? We take in somewhere around 30,000 refugees each year."

That's right, but the vast majority of the world's refugees stay withing the region of their country of origin. This means poorer countries take in more refugees than rich ones, which means relatively speaking, Canada does not take in a "lot" of refugees.

"Frankly, I don't give a shit how many we take in, what I care about is who we take in and that we as Canadians make the decision. Maybe you can address my post instead of trying to redirect the discussion into some kind of "Canada is racist" bull.""

Maybe you can stop being so defensive. Who said anything about Canada being racist? I was merely clarifying that Canada is not taking in more refugees than other countries.