Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jason Kenney's Refugee Legacy Not So Troubling

Kenney filling in gaps in immigration policy

With Jason Kenney's governmental responsibilities as the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration intersecting neatly with his party responsibilities as the pointman for outreach to ethnic communities, it was only a matter of time before someone popped up to take some shots at him.

It turns out one of the first is Jim Creskey. Writing in Embassy Magazine, Creskey outlines what he considers to be Kenney's "troubling" record as the Minister of Immigration. In some regards, it reads like a screed from an extremist organization like No One is Illegal.

Creskey's complaints circle around Bill C-49, an anti-human smuggling bill. Authored with help from Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, allows immigration officials to temporarily detain a refugee who arrives by irregular means, and to reevaluate them after five years to determine whether or not they are at risk if they return to their country of origin.

Creskey suggests that Kenney, Toews and Prime Minister Stephen Harper fabricated the idea that Canada has been "overrun" by illegal immigrants. If Creskey is attempting to claim that there is no problem with migrants illegally on Canadian soil, he is simply wrong.

Bill C-49 would be one thing if it were targetted at legitimate refugees who belong in Canada. But that isn't the case. Bill C-49 is targetted at refugees who lack a founded claim. In particular, its aimed at denying foreign terrorists entry into Canada, and deporting them promptly if they are already here.

Individuals linked to the Tamil Tigers have spent years terrorizing law-abiding Tamil communities in Canada, often demanding funds while making threats against any family they may have at home in Sri Lanka. They also commit comparatively petty crimes in Canada, including debit card fraud rings.

This on top of attempts to form a Tamil Tiger government-in-exile in Canada.

For years, a policy aimed at using refugee status as a gateway to citizenship has biased immigration policy into letting many of these so-called "refugees" roam free. When one of them is identified as having links to a terrorist or criminal organization, they simply vanish. There is an incomprehensible number of such individuals currently evading deportation orders in Canada.

This isn't to say that Creskey is entirely wrong about the immigration issue. In an earlier Embassy column, Creskey relates the tales of numerous refugee claimants, with entirely legitimate claims, who simply get lost in the system.

It's a sad fact that sometimes, in Canada's refugee system, people get lost in the cracks. Occasionally, Citizenship and Immigration bureaucrats even hand down some poor decisions, such as the decision to deport a blind man back to Algeria. Fortunately, the decision was overturned with the help of considerable public pressure.

Kreskey does the country a service by raising these concerns. But to complain so hyperbolically about Jason Kenney's moves to fill in key gaps in Canada's immigration policy does the country a profound disservice.

Jim Creskey too often sounds far too little like a reasoned, educated thinker on immigration policy, and too frequently like one of the demagogues at No One is Illegal.

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