One Last Thing

Immigration: "Welcome to Canada"

Exactly who is getting into Canada and how they get to stay has been in the news recently – and for good reason. As always, the issues behind the headlines less clear than the instant criticism of anyone who tries to change the status quo (which Citizenship and Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, has finally said is on the agenda).

The most publicized move has been the decision to require visas from Mexico and the Czech Republic. The Canadian immigra­tion ‘industry’ complains this will result in economic ruin for our nation that is, apparently, dependant on tourism and business travel from these two locales. Who knew?

So what exactly is this horrendous new barrier, called a visa, and why has Minister Kenney decided to require it?  Basically, it means that before non Canadians from specified locations can enter Canada we want to ask them a few questions. “Ah ha” shout the Bob Rae’s of the nation. “Clearly this must be a racist, colonialist (insert suitable “ist”) move, inconsistent with our cherished traditions of… yadda yadda yadda.”

Actually… it’s a reaction to the undeniable fact that wildly increasing numbers of people from these two specific countries have been telling us they’re coming for a visit but once they get here say “I’ve changed my mind… now I’m a refugee. Honest.” That’s right folks, believe it or not, our Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) permits people to change their story but still claim refugee status while they’re in Canada.

And thanks to the badly drafted IRPA, the process to determine the validity of the claim… and to resolve appeals… and then to consider whether, even if the claim was determined to be bogus, so much time has passed that removing the fraudsters in question would be contrary to humanitarian and compassionate grounds (seeing as how they’ve now got kids)… and then to assess the ‘risk’ of the bogus refugees being dealt with unkindly upon their return. Not ­surprisingly, takes years to resolve – which explains the reported backlogs of 60,000 cases – and the situation is getting worse.

One other minor point. When we actually do make a decision to remove a non-citizen, including because they repeatedly commit serious crimes here, we generally employ an honour system by expecting them to leave voluntarily. This little ­absurdity was referenced last year in the Auditor General’s Report when she pointed out that there are arrest warrants for over 42,000 non-citizens ordered removed from Canada, including for criminality, which we have …uhhh… “lost.”

It gets worse. These inland claims are permissible even when the so-called refugee has arrived here, not from the alleged dungeons of Algeria, but from the more comfy environs of, say, France. I personally can understand not wanting to live in France but they sure as heck aren’t in need of ­‘protection’ there. The truth is that these supposed refugees are in fact choosing where they prefer to be a refugee which is called emigration… so get in line with everyone else. I used the Algerian example purposely. Ahmed Ressam, the Millennium Bomber, followed exactly this path (plus using phony documents) to get into and ­remain in Canada.

In the mid 90’s, some of us proposed changes to create a system that required such persons to seek asylum in the country they entered Canada from if they were safe. Hard as it may be to fathom, in those days more than 50% of our refugee claimants ­actually arrived here from… the United States. Turns out we’re a lot more generous in terms of public assistance, so word got out that Canada was the place to make a refugee claim. We supposedly fixed this in 2003 with the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. whereby we would mutually return refugee claimants that arrived from each other’s territory so their claim was ­assessed where they were arriving from. This sensible approach was even more ­important post 9-11 when the Americans started cracking down on persons illegally in the USA, and the trickle northward risked becoming a flood.

Guess what? The same Canadian ­officials responsible for IRPA, drafted an “exception” that exempts persons from this sensible turn-around policy if they are from a country from which we don’t ­require a visa for entry... like… Mexico. That’s right… we’ve managed to create a loophole that defeats the purpose of the agreement and permits people who are ­illegally in the U.S. to come to Canada ­simply by uttering the ‘R’ word. Word got out about that too… which is why bogus refugees from Mexico have skyrocketed in the past few years.

Requiring visas from Czechs and Mexicans is a help, but it’s not the solution. Measures like eliminating the Safe Third Country non-visa exemption, removing ­inland claims (except in defined exceptional circumstances), denying refugee jurisdiction shopping and streamlining claims ­determination and removals are patently necessary. MPs damning such reforms might want to consider that this broken system has also become a barrier for ­processing the entry and settlement of ­legitimate immigrants and refugees.

Minister Kenney has told Canadians to stay tuned for more changes because he understands and has the courage to admit that this is entirely a problem of our own making.

Scott Newark is FrontLine’s Associate Editor.
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