Province: “Canada needs a new law to combat queue jumping”

Re: The Province editorial “Canada needs a new law to combat queue jumping” (2010-12-07):

There are many things wrong with C-49, the Harper government’s so-called “anti-smuggling” bill, not the least of which are the false premises behind it – many rehashed in this editorial.

Asylum seekers are most certainly not queue jumpers: they are separate and distinct from the normal immigration process; they do not affect that “queue” or quota, and take nothing away from people involved in it. And there is no queue for refugees; no queue jumping.

However irregular their arrival, people who enter our territory and ask for asylum have a Right to do so, and to have their case fairly heard and evaluated. A Right – according to the Supreme Court of Canada. Thus, they are also in no way “illegal.”

Nor is this a breach of nor any threat to our sovereignty. It is a celebration of it. We have chosen to exercise our sovereignty in this way, by giving expression to our Canadian values of compassion and respect for human rights and human dignity, by our commitment to the right of people to seek asylum from persecution.

We did this when we chose to sign the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol on refugees. We have done so by reflecting these commitments in our laws.

While some people do indeed use the refugee process to try to circumvent regular immigration, such cases are already dealt with in our existing laws, and where judged and found wanting, returned to their country of origin. Again, no queue jumping. And again, all who make such a claim are entitled to have it fairly heard and evaluated; it is not fair or reasonable to pre-judge them, nor to pre-emptively penalize them based on how they arrived.

If we have any regard for the rule of law in general, our own law in particular, and our long avowed support of human rights, we must recognize their right to avail themselves of this process, and then let the proper and fair process play out.

If this takes too long and is too cumbersome for our liking, that’s on us, not them; it’s our process, not theirs. It’s up to us to fix it, to take out the kinks, add personnel, speed it up, and clear the backlog – providing that in so doing we ensure that it is scrupulously fair and at all times mindful of our obligation to protect. Bill C-49 doesn’t do that; prejudicially short-circuiting fairness it front-loads penalty without trial, defence, or appeal, and for all that doesn’t improve the process in any way.

To persist in portraying them as illegals or queue jumpers, free-loaders, or in any way an affront to our sovereignty is baseless and, particularly when the government does so, defamatory. This serves only to wrongfully inflame public resentment and intolerance, and can come to no good end.

In the end, refugees are not here for a free ride, or to take advantage of our good will; they come here to be free – free of persecution, and free to earn their way, and live and raise their families in a free society, just like the rest of us.

What manner of generosity and good will is it, of which we’re so ready to boast, if we are so stingy and begrudging toward people who show up and actually need it?

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