Editorial board: Liberals block refugee reform
By National Post editorial board
June 8, 2010
The biggest impediment to refugee and immigration reform in this country is the federal Liberal caucus. That has always been the case, but their backbenchs obstinacy became even more glaring with the collapse last week of a bipartisan deal between the governing Tories and the main opposition party to speed up the refugee determination process.
Since last August, Tory Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has sought to reduce the number of appeals available to refugee claimants from safe countries, nations such as the United States and the European Union members. Unsuccessful asylum-seekers from those countries do not face torture or other forms of abuse if deported back home. So Ottawa would like to streamline the process for determining the legitimacy of refugee requests from safe-country applicants.
At present, most unsuccessful claimants can make six appeals of determination rulings that go against them, first to the refugee bureaucracy, then to the courts and finally to the minister himself. That process can take five to eight years, by which time applicants may have put down roots here, married, begun families and established a home.
The longer it takes to make a final ruling, the less likely Ottawa is to be able to expel anyone who is here under false pretences. And thats on top of Ottawas already dismal record of enforcing deportation orders that happen to make it through the maze of appeals.
The fastest way to help true refugees might be to winnow out bogus claimants faster, thereby freeing refugee determination investigators and review board members to deal in a timely manner with real applicants. Yet the Liberal caucus are so beholden to ethnic political chiefs, immigration industry activists and their own ideological sappiness that they oppose any move that might reduce the influx of new immigrants and refugees.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and his partys immigration critic, Maurizio Bevilacqua, were both reportedly in favour the proposed reforms. When the amendments were first introduced last summer, Mr. Ignatieff told reporters Im tough on that stuff. I want a legitimate, lawful refugee system, one that accepts those with valid claims, while turning away most applicants from safe countries.
But last Wednesday, Liberal rank-and-file apparently revolted at the partys weekly caucus meeting and scuppered the bipartisan agreement, overruling Mr. Ignatieff.
Still, Mr. Ignatieff can take solace in the fact that not even Jean Chretien could get immigration reform past the Liberal backbench. With the recent unveiling of Mr. Chretiens official prime ministerial portrait in Parliament, Liberals have been waxing nostalgic about his three straight majorities and his leadership. But in 2000, immigration reforms that would have placed more emphasis on language and jobs skills and less on whether or not an applicant already had family in the country were jettisoned by Liberal MPs, despite Mr. Chretiens endorsement.
We need immigration and refugee reform. If only the Liberal caucus would get out of the way.