Only in Canada could a white South African be accepted as a refugee
By MINDELLE JACOBS
The Edmonton Sun
Last Updated: 4th September 2009, 3:00am
The ridiculous decision to grant refugee status to a white South African who claimed he was persecuted is a potent example of how easy it is to abuse the system.
South Africa may have a shockingly high crime rate and deep-seated social problems but the victims are overwhelmingly black.
Brandon Huntley claimed that he was repeatedly mugged by blacks and had difficulty finding work in his native country.
Never mind that he somehow socked away enough money to fly to Canada several times when millions of black South Africans can't scrape enough funds together to feed their families. For many, the notion of getting on a plane is as fanciful as winning the lottery.
Let's be honest. This was a desperate bid by an ordinary guy who didn't want to go back to a violence-plagued country trying not all that successfully to reinvent itself post-apartheid.
Who wouldn't want to stay in safe, tolerant, polite Canada with its generous social benefits for virtually anyone who lands on our shores?
By no stretch of the imagination does Huntley meet the UN definition of a refugee — someone who has a well-founded fear of persecution because of race, religion, political opinion, nationality or membership in a particular social group.
He was mugged in South Africa. Unfortunately, that happens a lot. That's not discrimination. It's an ugly crime.
But an Immigration and Refugee Board official recently granted him refugee status on the grounds that there is an “inability or unwillingness by the government and security forces to protect white South Africans from persecution by black South Africans.”
I share the reaction of Michael Trapido, a columnist for the Johannesburg Mail and Guardian, who had this to say about the decision:
“It must be a requirement of that Canadian (Immigration and Refugee Board) that only those with a full frontal lobotomy are entitled to apply for positions.”
And William Davis, the refugee board appointee who declared Huntley a refugee, is a lawyer. Make of that what you will.
But I digress. Discriminatory behaviour and racist taunts happen everywhere. They're appalling elements of the human condition. That doesn't mean all those victims are entitled to refugee status, however.
If that were the case, many of Canada's aboriginals could make successful refugee claims in other countries.
“The refugee system was never designed to solve all the social problems of the world,” notes former diplomat Martin Collacott.
“We've had a very activist refugee lobby that's gradually pushed the definition (of refugee),” he adds. “The courts have gradually agreed and that's one of the reasons why the system is in such disarray.”
He argues that Canada's interpretation of a refugee is now so elastic that the system's become unmanageable. Haphazard discrimination is not the same as state-sponsored persecution, explains Collacott.
The feds should rethink how it interprets the definition of a refugee and stop appointing friends and political cronies to refugee boards, he adds. Board members should be highly trained professional civil servants, he says.
“The whole system needs an overhaul,” Collacott concludes.
Sorry, Mr. Huntley, but you're no refugee. You're not from, say, Darfur or Afghanistan.
Canada is not the world's gravy train.
We're tired of being treated like chumps.