Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Conservative Immigration Bill Must Stand

Tories responsible, will opposition be?

In the wake of a controversy regarding Tamil migrants -- many of them suspected to be affiliated with the Tamil Tigers -- the Conservative government is moving to introduce new legislation that would make it easier to detain migrants who arrive on Canadian territory illegally.

"We're absolutely certain that this meets our international and domestic legal obligations, as well as our humanitarian obligation to provide protection for people who might face persecution," Kenney explained. "We would in fact provide protection and would not send back people, even illegal smuggled migrants, if they are able to demonstrate, in our legal system, that they would face persecution."

"We are confident that this complies with the Charter and our domestic and international legal obligations," he continued.

Immigration policy seems mysterious and technocratic to many people not deeply-versed in its legalities. But, in reality, the ultimate purpose of such legislation is very simple: let the people who belong in Canada in, and keep the ones who don't belong in Canada out.

Very simple.

Canada isn't the only country whose government examined the passengers of the Sun Sea and think twice about admitting them. Britain considered some of those on board the vessel and turned them down.

In Kenney's view, those Tamils who boarded the Sun Sea after being turned down in the course of a lawful application to the UK have simply jumped the queue.

"This unlawful behaviour is nothing more than jumping the immigration queue, taking up space and resources in our immigration and refugee system that should be focused on those who are legitimate and lawfully waiting their turn to come to Canada," Kenney insisted.

In terms of immigration, Kenney gets it: those who should be in, in. Those who shouldn't, out.

There are stark consequences if Canada forgets about this very simple idea.

Of course, not everyone is in favour of such legislation. Wanda Yamamoto, President of the Canadian Council for Refugees, objects. Particularly to the detention of irregular claimants.

"Measures keeping some refugees longer in detention, denying them family reunification and restricting their freedom of movement are likely in violation of the Canadian Charter and of international human rights obligations," Yamamoto complained. "People who are forced to flee for their lives need to be offered asylum and a warm welcome, not punished."

Yamamoto may want to point to any portion of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that allows foreigners to illegally enter Canadian territory with near-complete impunity. But she can't, because it doesn't exist.

If challenged based on its constitutionality, the choice for any court hearing the case is a very stark one: will Canada's immigration laws be decided by Parliament, or by special interest groups with a vested interest in maintaining a substandard and porous immigration policy.

Plugging these holes in Canada's immigration policy is important not only to repairing Canada's Extended Refugee System, but also to addressing security issues like terrorism, and criminal issues such as human trafficking.

The Conservative Party is doing the responsible thing with this legislation -- a point only underscored by the repeated arrival of vessels such as the Sun Sea.

"Since the last vessel arrived we saw a significant drop in Canadian public support for immigration in general and refugee protection in particular," Kenney said. "Our government cannot allow these exploitative criminal networks to continue to violate our immigration laws, undermine the fairness of our immigration system and undermine public support and confidence in that system."

What remains to be seen is whether the opposition is prepared to match the Conservative's responsible approach to this matter; or whether the special interest groups who stand to benefit from blocking a responsible immigration policy.


  1. Sadly no the opposition are not interested in playing the long game. This is about small politics and division. They will try to brand the federal government as anti-immigrant. The opposition and special interest groups will have a friendly media to distort the facts for spin.

    If it was about doing the right thing for the right reason we would not need to be blogging. The media are failing in providing context and balance.

  2. Even guys like Paul Dewar blast the government publicly, but then privately admit to the presence of holes that need to be plugged.



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