Some groups are only comfortable if they have enemies to fight, real or imagined. If you were wondering how the Conservative government would adjust to having a majority government and a rookie opposition, don’t worry: where they can’t find enemies, they’ll just make them up.
It’s been interesting to follow this drama around the government’s recent “war criminal” round-up, where they flashed names and photos (but scant details) of a so-called “gang of 30” immigrants deemed inadmissible for immigration to Canada for alleged conflict-related activities in their home countries. These people are here but need to be sent home, and the government wants the help of the public tracking down these “most-wanted” persons.
Actually, what has been more interesting is how the Conservatives have tried to pick fights over this program where fights don’t necessarily exist. For example, I think most Canadians agree people deemed ineligible for admission to Canada, particularly if there are questions over their activities in an overseas conflict, should be sent home. I think most of us are in agreement on that central point.
Where there is disagreement though, a point that the government and the haphazard editorial writers at the Globe choose to ignore, is how the government is going about this. It seems abundantly clear this program is less about identifying and deporting alleged war criminals, and more about politics. Creating a media spectacle, appearing “tough on crime” and trying to pick a fight, real or imagined.
For example, there are reports that provincial and local police didn’t learn about this “wanted list” until the government held the press conference, and that there were even known addresses for some of these people. It raises the question, just how hard were immigration authorities really looking for these people?
The government has also taken pains to try to play-up the history and danger these people post to inflame public opinion. If they’re inadmissible they’re inadmissible and they should go, but let’s remember these people haven’t been charged with a crime here or at home. They’re not being extradited. Branding them war criminals approaches hyperbole. Particularly when you’re tarring them with that brush but refuse to provide details, citing privacy reasons.
That this is a public relations exercise is underlined by the near daily press conferences with Harper cabinet ministers trumpeting yet another capture of one of these dangerous fugitives.
It’s become reality television meets the immigration and justice systems. If this pilot episode is a ratings success, expect a four-season renewal to follow. It may be compelling television, but it’s no way to run an immigration system. Particularly when this is a time we should be having an open and frank debate about reforming our immigration system.