Responding, doubtless, to WestonWeb’s recent post, Ahmed Hussen wrote an article in the Toronto Star explaining what his government is doing about an increasing number of asylum seekers.
I’m trying not to be churlish—I really am—but I just don’t think his answer measures up.
Two issues have been in the news. The important one is the Safe Third Country agreement, which governs our commitment to refugee claimants. The unimportant one is how Hussen is getting along with his provincial counterparts. Hussen wastes a lot of pixels patronizing his opponents, but he never mentions the important issue: the STCA.
To understand the STCA, imagine, if you can, that you are a refugee claimant. You arrive in the USA, and realize that it is looking increasingly like the newly hard-hearted immigration authorities will deny your claim. You decide to try a more welcoming country: Canada. You pack your bags, board a bus, and make your way north.
And here you face a choice. If you cross at the Rainbow Bridge, you’ll be sent back to New York within a day or two. Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement says that you get only one shot at claiming refugee status, and you have to do it wherever you land first. That’s the USA. No do-overs.
But, bizarrely, if you decide to cross into Canada at a place that is not a ‘port of entry’ (through a farmer’s field, say), the STCA does not apply, and you are free to have your case (re)heard in Canada. The STCA simply doesn’t cover the possibility that people might walk across. I’ve read it, and it sure looks like the authors of the agreement simply forgot our long, undefended border. You can literally hike through this loophole.
Tens of thousands of people have done just that. It’s very far from a crisis, but it is causing problems.
In his column, Hussen says, basically, ‘No big deal. We’ve got this’:
Let me be clear: those who do not qualify for Canada’s protection are not allowed to stay. We’ve been clear about this in our outreach, both at home and abroad. For more than a year now members of our government, from the prime minister on down, have been bluntly reminding people that the asylum system is not a free ticket to Canada.
I’m inclined to believe that we do, in fact, got this. I trust our civil servants to assess claimants fairly, and I know we can afford to duplicate the work of our American counterparts. No big deal.
Hussen and I part ways on what follows, though:
Attempts by Conservative politicians to distort and mislead on this point are irresponsible. Like they did during the last federal campaign, they are playing to the politics of fear…. It is time for the misleading, divisive, and dangerous political rhetoric to end.
I think Hussen is saying that Conservatives are racist. At the very least he’s saying that the PCs are facilitating racism in a cynical political ploy.
First of all, I doubt it. Second of all, ad hominem. (That’s Latin for ‘cut that crap out’.)
Conservatives have legitimate complaints, though Hussen never mentions what he’s doing about them:
- Border staff say the backlog is causing misery, and wait times to hear refugees overseas are increasing. Very few claimants in Canada are being processed quickly, and a hearing now takes about 2.5 years.
- The STCA has a loophole. The Conservatives say that the whole border should be considered a port of entry. Maybe it should.
- There’s a case that provinces and municipalities shouldn’t have to spring for this. And shelters are full.
Reading Hussen’s article, you’d think the PCs are dog whistling their rabid base. You’d never know that Canada is failing the very people he sincerely wants to help: refugees, both in Canada and abroad, seeking asylum.
Ahmed Hussen should recognize an obvious fact: friction creates sparks. He will have better ideas if he debates, and never dismisses, his opponents.