See that smilin’ face to the left of these words? That’s Jason Kenney. He’s a Member of Parliament representing the fine folks in Calgary Southeast. He’s the guy behind Canada’s current Bill C-31, also known as “Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act”, which should not to be confused with previous Bill C-31s which include “An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act” and 1985′s “An Act to Amend the Indian Act”. If you want to read the bill, it’s right here.
Now, I don’t talk the legal talk. However, I’ve heard a lot of complaint about this (a very good argument against is found here), and I wanted to understand more. Tragically, at least for me, reading legal jargon does not open that door. Still, even as a John Q. Public, I saw something that concerned me with this bill.
Section 10 of the act, which would add this after section 20 of the existing act, states:
20.1 (1) The Minister may, by order, having regard to the public interest, designate as an irregular arrival the arrival in Canada of a group of persons if he or she
(a) is of the opinion that examinations of the persons in the group, particularly for the purpose of establishing identity or determining inadmissibility — and any investigations concerning persons in the group — cannot be conducted in a timely manner; or
(b) has reasonable grounds to suspect that, in relation to the arrival in Canada of the group, there has been, or will be, a contravention of subsection 117(1) for profit, or for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with a criminal organization or terrorist group.
So if I read that correctly, the Minister can decide that a group of people get sent back simply because he thinks it will take too long to bother with processing them.
The b) part in the above section references changes to subsection 117(1), which they want to read:
No person shall organize, induce, aid or abet the coming into Canada of one or more persons knowing that, or being reckless as to whether, their coming into Canada is or would be in contravention of this Act.
Right now it says similar, but essentially makes it illegal to help people get into the country without a VISA, passport, or other document required by this act. The change, at least from my reading of it, makes it against the law to help anyone get into the country if they in any way wouldn’t qualify. So what this 20.1(1)b revision really says is that the Minister can just decide that anyone who is suspected of having received such illegal help from a criminal organization (which becomes a logical loop, since anyone contravening 117(1) is now a criminal) or terrorist organization just plain old can’t come in.
I know that’s fuzzy. Basically, if John’s Refugee Agency helps my pal Jerry come to this country, and it turns out someone in his group wouldn’t pass the examination or the agency has a guy on the board of directors who happens to be a member of the local crime family, then that immediately makes John’s Refugee Agency a criminal organization, and the fact that they worked with Jerry, who is totally legit, means that they can decide to throw Jerry’s application out.
Reading further arguments from people, it looks like there are lots of potential abuses here, with the act particularly weakening the ability of people who are fleeing their homes based on their sex or sexual orientation.
I want to know, what’s the big deal with refugees? I’m not saying we should just fling our doors open, and I get that we want people to go through the proper steps, but the reality is that most of the people who get here via criminal and terrorist organizations probably have much better ways of slipping through the system. I’m more than willing to say that I could be totally off base here, but it seems to me like this bill has no way of stopping illegal immigration and human smuggling. It looks instead like the whole point is to further make difficult the process for legitimate refugees.
I’m not good with that. Some truly amazing people have come here as refugees and made our country better by their presence. Yes, there are people who exploit the system. Every system will have that potential, and you create rules to try to nip that in the bud as much as possible, but the only way to not have a system that can be abused is by not having a system.
I get that Conservatives are legally required to be jerk-ass dinguses (dingusses? dingii?) on topics like immigration, but from what I understand about this bill (and again, I may know nothing), this is way over the line.
Then again, that’s what we get for allowing a Conservative majority government…