The following article (National Post, Nov. 16, 2004) clearly shows evidence that Canada’s immigration industry has secretly and quietly changed very important Canadian refugee policies. Once again, under the pretence of generosity, it has ensured a continued flow of potential clients who will use scarce Canadian social safety net dollars to stay in Canada. It also shows Canada giving in to U.S. interests. As the author, James Bissett (former ambassador and executive-director of Canada’s immigration service), points out, the measures accepted are outrageous. One violates both the United Nations Convention on Refugees as well as Canadian immigration law. Elected officials have to do something immediately.
For several years, Canada has been involved in negotiations with the U.S. on a Safe Third Country Agreement. The purpose of the agreement was to prevent asylum seekers on U.S. soil from appearing at the U.S.-Canada border and claiming refugee status in Canada. Almost all of these people are economic migrants. They have usually travelled from their own “first” countries into safe “second” countries such as the U.S., but have decided that their chances of being accepted as refugees are highest and safest in a “third” country such as Canada. The purpose of the agreement is to block this asylum “shopping”.
According to the current minister, Canada had 42,000 asylum seekers in 2003. Around 35% (about 15,000) of these people were previously on U.S. soil and crossed into Canada from the U.S. Most of the remainder arrive at Canada’s airports, most from democracies.
Since 1989, Canada has had over 500,000 asylum seekers. Most of these are young males who, when accepted, act as the thin edge of the wedge for their relatives. Many of those who have been rejected have appealed and re-appealed their rejection, costing Canadians billions. Many of those rejected never leave. A significant number have been granted amnesties, encouraging more to show up at the U.S.-Canada border and airports.
This is not a small-scale operation. The total of asylum seekers and their relatives is between one and two million. As many critics have pointed out, Canada’s refugee system has been turned into a second door into Canada—an alternative to the legal process of making application for entry.
Canada’s immigration industry (immigration lawyers/publicly-funded advocacy groups) has profited handsomely, taking literally billions of public money for their own use. Large amounts are given by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration to the immigration industry to sustain them and to perpetuate the undermining of Canada’s social safety net that these groups engage in. This industry pretends to be a hand of generosity to non-Canadians, but it is really a clenched fist delivering blow after blow to Canada’s own 2+ million unemployed. Refugee claimants/economic migrants look for and want the jobs Canadians also look for and want. In addition, refugee claimants/economic migrants compete for the scarce number of dollars in Canada’s social safety net. For example, researchers have pointed out that refugee claimants have occupied hostel spaces reserved for Canada’s battered women, in effect displacing them. Wishing to conceal the truth from Canadians, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration refuses to calculate the total social effect and dollar cost of its refugee/immigrant programme on Canada’s own people.
We call upon you for action. We also call upon our publicly-funded CBC to stop sanitizing the news it covers. The CBC has to inform the people of the country about this and other related issues. Canadians need your support. Please don’t disappoint us.
Putting out the welcome mat for criminals
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
If Canadians need further evidence that their government is not taking the terrorist threat seriously, they have it now. Last month, the government quietly passed regulations relating to the Safe Third Country Agreement, a deal relating to the treatment of asylum seekers signed between Canada and the United States almost two years ago. These regulations should cause Canadians serious concern.
The agreement itself is a shocking example of irresponsibility on the part of our elected representatives. It demonstrates all too clearly the willingness of Canadian politicians to cater to the interests of special lobby groups and set aside the national interest — even on matters of national security.
Fortunately, it may not be too late for Canadians to do something about it. The agreement has been signed by both governments. However, the Americans have not yet drafted regulations giving it force. Thus, there is time for Canadians to let their Members of Parliament know that they want the agreement scrapped or radically amended. This is an opportunity for direct citizen action.
The Safe Third Country Agreement was originally designed to prevent people who were not citizens or legal residents of the United States from crossing the border to make refugee claims under our more generous asylum standards. Our government hailed the agreement as promising a better system for managing refugee flows, enhancing security and combating terrorism. But the agreement will not achieve any of these objectives. In truth, it will make all three of them more difficult to achieve.
Management of refugee flows will be more difficult because the many exceptions to the agreement will undermine the integrity of our immigration laws, discriminate against Canadian citizens and legal residents and invite fraud and human smuggling along the border. In particular, exemptions written into the agreement’s regulations by the Canadian side after the negotiations were completed will seriously compromise the safety and security of Canadians.
The American negotiators were aware that many of the refugee claimants crossing into Canada were using this route as a means of avoiding normal Canadian immigration requirements. They insisted that anyone with a relative in Canada must be allowed into our country to make a refugee claim: The Americans did not want to get stuck with thousands of refugee claimants whose only reason for being in the United States was to get into Canada.
Our negotiators yielded to this demand, and so the agreement spells out that anyone with a relative in Canada will be allowed immediate entry. They will come in without having to wait years for processing; or undergo the usual medical, criminal, or security checks. And the list of relatives is long and includes: brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, grandchildren and grand parents. This list far exceeds the family reunion provisions of the Immigration Act that allow only Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor a narrow range of close relatives: spouses, dependent children and aged parents.
Another rule requires that Canadian border officers admit into Canada anyone who has been charged or convicted of an offence punishable with the death penalty. In other words once the agreement is enacted, any murderer or terrorist appearing at our border must be let in. The excuse for this astonishing folly is that it “supports the long standing practice not to return persons to a country where they may face the death penalty.”
This is absurd: Surely there is a difference between returning someone already in Canada to face a possible death penalty and facilitating the entry of such a person into our country.
This rule is in direct violation of the Immigration Act, which prohibits the entry of serious criminals and terrorists. Even the United Nations Convention on Refugees is explicit in denying protection to serious criminals and has ruled they are not eligible to claim refugee status.
Despite all this, the agreement and the associated regulations were passed by the government and met the approval of the House of Commons standing committee on citizenship and immigration. Discussions were also held with refugee activists and non-governmental organizations. These are groups that do not put a high priority on security, and which are always eager to promote a more porous immigration and refugee system. Given the security implications, why were consultations not held with the nation’s police forces, as well as provincial governments?
Not long ago, Immigration Minister Judy Sgro expressed her anxiety about a handful of failed refugee claimants seeking sanctuary in church basements. She stated then that: “The protection of our country and of Canadians must be our number one concern.” Now the same Minister is responsible for implementing a policy that would offer sanctuary to convicted terrorists and murderers. Obviously, her concern about the protection of the country and Canadians has changed. If Canadians act, there is still time to put her straight.
James Bissett is a former Canadian ambassador and former head of the Canadian Immigration Service.