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Pie in the sky politics on immigration and refugees

Pie in the sky politics on immigration and refugees

TORONTO – In the last two weeks, federal Ministers have taken to social media and the usual email channels in an effort to stem the erosion of support for Immigration and Refugee policies being contested openly and vigorously by Ontario’s new premier, Doug Ford. They are whistling past the grave yard. A piece sent by Minister CBSA Ralph Goodale, on July 23, titled “Confidence in the integrity of our borders”, will have done little to dissuade Premier Ford from demanding that Ontario is owed $200 million for having to deal with the Fed’s inability to address the “border-crosser” issue. Toronto is insisting on $64.5 million for unexpected shelter costs. That’s the context in which the province frames the debate. Aris Babikian, newly elected MPP for Scarborough-Agincourt, former Citizenship Court judge, former refugee from Armenia, says he and Nine others former refugees, now members of the Ontario Legislature, are confident the Premier is on the right track. There is a perception of abuse and incompetence that erodes public support for a system that is otherwise valid and productive. He’s been here for 40 years and wants to open the doors to others who like him have/had legitimate bases for their flight to Canada. Minister Goodale context is a numbers game in which he seeks empathy by comparing with past entries. He offers up “high volumes of refugee claims in previous years”: 45,000 in 2001, 33,000 in 2002 and 37,000 in 2008. Last year, he admits, nearly 50,00 made asylum claims in Canada, with “some 21,000 [entering] in an irregular way.” The vast majority of them near St. Bernard- de-Lacolle in Quebec. How many? He adds that the numbers for this year “are up a bit” but doesn’t say by how much. Minister Hussen, his colleague at Refugees and Immigration Canada submitted a plan to Parliament targeting 43,000 for 2018. A reassuring Minister Goodale itemizes the steps any asylum seeker must satisfy, prior to a hearing. The public is of course seized with security and safety concerns. At the hearing, the applicant must convince the officials of their need for protection from persecution, torture, terror or war in their home country. If they do not, and subsequent to the exhaustion of certain defined rights of appeal and due process, they must leave. And if they don’t? Citing Section 133 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) as a “pivotal part of Canadian Law”, he underlines the fact that it has been the case since the 1960’s; it flows from the United Nations Convention on Refugee which Canada signed nearly 50 years ago. This is all well and good, but border- crossers are coming from the USA. Goodale states categorically that “the vast majority of these border-crossers have already met admissibility criteria to enter the United States before ever getting to the Canadian border”. The USA is a “safe third country”, so what is the issue? The Province asks, with some legitimacy, if you can’t control the border, and you won’t send these ‘applicants” back to the USA, the at least reimburse us for the increased costs we have to incur to accommodate them. Meanwhile, his officials raid jobs sites and schools in search of working “irregular entrants” and their children for deportation. Sorry, Minister Goodale, your arguments aren’t very convincing.

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