The Edmonton Sun
May 9, 2008
In a bombshell decision more than 20 years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that anyone who sets foot on Canadian soil is entitled to protection under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Fast-forward to this week's report by Auditor General Sheila Fraser that revealed the authorities can't find 41,000 foreigners who were ordered deported.
Another report, another dismal portrait of what a pushover Canada is when it comes to properly assessing and monitoring people who show up on our shores.
As usual, Fraser was refreshingly direct in her remarks. “If people can come into the country and stay here illegally, why would they go through what was a very long and complicated process to become a resident in Canada,” she asked rhetorically during a news conference Tuesday.
Why, indeed? Canada has the largest immigration and refugee intake per capita of any country. Over the years, the word has spread that once you're in Canada it's virtually impossible to be booted out.
No wonder refugees and economic migrants are pouring in by the thousands. Not only do we hold the door open for decent, honest foreigners, we even put out the welcome mat for known criminals.
As Fraser outlined in her report, people who are considered inadmissible are allowed to enter Canada on a temporary basis if it's of economic benefit to the country or there are humanitarian or compassionate grounds.
More than 600 temporary resident permits were issued by the Canada Border Services Agency in 2006 to people who were inadmissible for “serious criminality.”
And in four of those cases, officials actually granted temporary resident permits to foreigners who were flagged as risks to national security.
Of course, there are no exit checks in Canada so the authorities have no idea whether these potentially dangerous people left the country when they were supposed to.
Shucks, Canadians are so nice we can't bear to be mean to anybody. But shouldn't we be dialling down the charm a bit and beefing up safety rules?
Sure, we've got about 12,000 foreigners in detention because of security concerns. But what about the tens of thousands of other illegals — mostly failed refugee claimants — who've disappeared off the radar screen over the years?
“The precise number of people remaining in Canada illegally is impossible to determine due in part to the lack of exit controls,” Fraser noted.
Perhaps the Supreme Court would have ruled differently in 1985 if it could have foreseen the problematic consequences. The ruling granted refugees greater rights to have their claims heard. But it also interpreted section 7 of the charter, which guarantees “everyone” the right to life, liberty and security of the person, to include anyone physically present in Canada.
In one fell swoop, the court gave foreign nationals the same charter rights as Canadians.
“It wasn't intended to apply to everyone,” says former diplomat Martin Collacott. “But someone in a burst of enthusiasm thought it sounded so much more generous and so much more Canadian to say it applies to everyone.”
The 1985 Supreme Court interpretation of section 7 needs a serious review and Canada needs to set up computerized exit checks like the U.S. is planning, he says.
“The refugee system is arguably one of the most dysfunctional in the world,” Collacott adds. “Once you land in Canada … you've got a good chance of staying here forever whether or not we want you, need you or whether you're a threat to us.”