Bill C-49; Beefing Up the Law, or Tearing Down Rights?
In recent months, Canada has been the target of many high-profile cases involving suspicious, potentially unlawful Refugee claims, and Human Trafficking, making our great nation the butt of many jokes world wide. And also, as a result, increasing its pupoularity as a target for further instances of such occurances. Canada is seen as an easy mark. The Government is getting ready, as a result, to institute a bill designed to prevent, or at least decrease, the number of illegal refugee and human smuggling cases here in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Canada. The bill, C-49, has been under fire from various groups, including opposition parties, and refugee advocate groups. The claim is that the new laws would infringe the basic human rights of all refugee claimants, legitimate or not.
While these concerns are valid, and Canada does have a variety of international obligations with regard to the protection of displaced persons and refugee claimants, it is equally clear that Canada has become a target for numerous, often illegal, human trafficking rings. Whether the Tamil migrants who have landed on the coast of BC in recent months are themselves involved with the Tamil Tigers, a group clearly labelled as a terrorist organization, is immaterial. The smugglers themselves, and the huge amounts of money they are collecting to smuggle these refugees, are supporting such organizations. As such, the continuance of such activities is detrimental to the security and stability of this country, and others. By allowing it, our nation is essentially aiding and abetting these terrorists and their criminal accomplices in their unlawful activities.
Another important thing to remember is that, legally, a person is to claim refugee status in the first country they are able to. As many of the refugees being smuggled into this country are stopping over in one or more nations en-route which would fit the bill, they are technically not “refugees.” The majority, of course, are honest, hardworking, displaced people. The concern is that hiding within that 100 or more group, there are a few who are coming to Canada for other, more sinister purposes; funding terrorist organizations, fleeing from justice for crimes they actually committed, and various other concerns as well. Not all human trafficking involves refugees, after all. Sweatshop labour, sex-slaves, there are many different types of Human Trafficking, and not all of them are coming in.
The concerns raised over the stripping of rights from potentially legitimate refugees are indeed justified. Canada is not a nation with a tendency towards human rights violations. There have been situations in the past, black marks on our great nation’s record; internment camps, head taxes, residential schools, and of course, the Komagata Maru, are prime examples. We certainly do not wish to repeat such black chapters of history. This does not mean, however, that the bill is not needed, or that it does not have merit.
While the vague, broad nature of the bill is without doubt a problem which opponents can latch onto and attack, the basic goals and aims are sound. One could easily argue that the concerns over human rights are justified, considering the lack of specifics given with regards to definitions of “irregular” refugee claims. However, it is equally clear that an act of some type is needed to help stem the tide of illegal, or false refugee claims. It is a matter of fixing the weak points, and getting rid of some of the contentious phrases and definitions, replacing them with something more clearly defined. Doing away with the bill all together will solve nothing and leave this country open to a continuation of the abuses of Human Rights already being seen with regards to this issue.
The current immigration system is clearly not working as it should. It has been in the news many times over the last year or so. Wait times are too long, staff shortages, lack of resources, and increasing numbers of people claiming refugee status, legitimate or not, have been clearly identified as issues. The current system is suffering, and failing to do its job. This bill is simply a first step in rectifying some of these issues. Not long ago, it was in the news that many from Mexico or the Czech Republic were illegally claiming refugee status. I worked with someone who had been told by a travel agent in Mexico that it was better to come to Canada with no ID and claim refugee status than to apply for a work permit. It was faster, free, and they would pay you while you looked for a job. This was not an isolated case, either. Cases like this, which were all over the news last autumn, demonstrated the flaws in the system.
An overhaul is long overdue in respect to Canada’s immigration policy. This bill, flawed though it may be at this time, is a good first step. It simply needs to be properly edited before taking effect. Basic human rights cannot be brushed aside indiscriminately. It starts with refugees being detained for processing, but where would it stop? Work camps for permanent residents, to keep the better jobs for citizens? Stripping of Citizenship based on arbitrary determinations? These, of course, are extreme examples of an end result, but that is why it is called a slippery slope; it starts small, and then grows more and more rapidly. One can see the concerns that the opponents of this bill are raising. But that does not mean the issues the bill is trying to address are of a lesser concern.
Rework the bill, but do not sink it out of hand. Clearly, in it’s current form it is well intentioned, but still weak on the details. Put some checks and balances into place, prevent the slippery slope, by all means. But Immigration and National Security, so closely related, are issues that need to be address; in this day and age particularly. The problems are plain to see, for any willing to look. The solutions are more difficult to identify. Clearly something needs to be done, and forcing an election by toppling the government over their poor editing skills is not the way to do it. Offer amendments, give advice, and stop using these issues as tools to undermine the current government.
The opposition parties are not against this bill because they give a damn about the rights of refugees. When the shiploads of Tamils were rolling into CFB Esquimalt, many of them were quick to criticize the lack of response by the government. Now they oppose a response. To put it simply, they are opposing the bill because they oppose the government. They are jockeying for seats in parliament, following the next election. Partisan politics should not interfere with issues such as this. Offer improvements, alternatives. Enough of the political mud-slinging, MPs are adults, and should act like it.
The problems with the current Immigration system are clear. Equally, said problems need to be addressed. The concerns raised over the current, ambiguous wording of this bill, as it stands are equally clear. They too, must be addressed. However, those in opposition to said bill need to look at the bigger picture. The goal here should be to find a better way to solve the serious issues facing this country, not take every opportunity to try and make the government look bad, simply to jockey for more seats in government. Rewrite the bill, if needed; but do SOMETHING, beyond the usual political backbiting, to solve this very serious issue!
Essentially, the message for the MPs on both sides of the floor is simple. Do not play childish games with the stability and safety of this country. With issues such as this, one should not simply attack the government for taking a wrong course of action. Bring forward an alternative. The issue is serious, so help find a solution. Stop complaining that the government is not doing enough, and then panicking as soon as they do something. To put it another way, name calling solves nothing, bring something to the table or keep your mouth shut. Parliament is not preschool. So stop acting like it, and start working together. Or else maybe we should all ask the Queen should give you all a Time Out.