John Ivison: Unilateral regulatory changes could be answer to Canada’s border problems

Interesting series of suggestions from former immigration officials and Conservative staffers, some more well thought out than others (Ivison and I spoke briefly regarding this option).

But fundamentally, I am unconvinced that unilateral approaches, without US cooperation or at least acquiescence, will work. Will the US accept back those refused asylum seekers? And if not, then what.

Not to mention the likely legal challenges that will emerge. After all, the government lost one Federal Court decision regarding appeals to negative refugee rulings and unclear whether an appeal would have changed that decision:

In his State of the Union address in 1995, Bill Clinton said the U.S. is a nation of immigrants but also a nation of laws. It is wrong and self-defeating to permit abuse of those laws at the border, he said.

In his recent interview with the National Post, Justin Trudeau sounded more concerned with rationalizing the surge of migrants on Canada’s southern border than regaining control of the flow of asylum-seekers crossing from the U.S.

He offered no new ideas on how to stop those entering Canada illegally between official ports of entry and suggested the new arrivals will be an economic boon for the country.

“The fact that we have extremely low unemployment, we’re seeing labour shortages in certain parts of the country, (means) it is a good time to reflect that we are bringing in immigrants who are going to keep our economy growing,” he said.

The government has paid lip-service to modernizing the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. that states migrants claiming refugee status must make their claim in the first “safe” country they arrive in – Canada or U.S.

A loophole in the pact with the Americans means it does not apply between official points of entry.

But there has been no progress in actually closing that loophole. The Trudeau government appears to have thrown up its hands in the face of American intransigence.

But Canadians’ faith in an immigration system that is legal, secure and economically-driven has been shaken. There is disbelief that the federal government can do nothing to take back control of Canada’s borders.

With good reason. There is no question that the political and legal environment has limited the government’s room for manoeuvre. But it is also true that the Liberals have not shown the will to reinforce the integrity of the refugee system. For example, once elected, the Trudeau government decided not to appeal a Federal Court decision that ruled it was unconstitutional for the government to strip asylum-seekers from countries designated as “safe” from appealing negative refugee rulings.

James Bissett was head of Canada’s immigration service and is a former Canadian ambassador. He suggested that by passing new regulations under the current Immigration Act, the government could act unilaterally and prevent applications for asylum from people residing in a “safe” country (apart from citizens of that country).

“Designating the U.S.A. a ‘safe’ country and passing an order-in-council accordingly would stop the flow across the border. I don’t see this as a violation of the Safe Third Country agreement, but if it is, then we should unilaterally end the agreement,” he said. “But I’m afraid the government doesn’t want to stop the flow and hopes a large portion of the population will agree to keep the flow coming.”

Andrew House, a lawyer at Fasken and a former chief of staff to successive Conservative public safety ministers, called Bissett’s idea a “sound approach” but said that there is “virtually no possibility” of it being adopted by the Liberal government that dropped the legal appeal on refugees.

Howard Anglin, Jason Kenney’s former chief of staff when he was immigration minister, agreed that building on the existing designation of the U.S. as a safe third country would be legally possible but would likely face major practical problems. While the 1951 Refugee Convention ruled out asylum shopping, the U.S. is unlikely to take back claimants who don’t have legal status in the States, he said.

But Anglin said Canada could at least pass a regulation making anyone with legal status in the U.S. (either temporary or permanent) ineligible to claim asylum. It could include anyone who has been denied asylum in the U.S., after having gone through its asylum process.

“There is some risk the U.S. might consider this a unilateral expansion of the Safe Third Country agreement, and thus a violation of it, and that they could become difficult in administering it on their end, or even cancel it altogether,” he said. But, despite the likely outcry from refugee lobbyists, he said most Canadians would understand why Canada should not encourage asylum shoppers.

Andrew House was more enthusiastic about another of Bissett’s suggestions – that those who cross illegally be brought to an official port of entry and have their case examined there. House suggested that this could be done without abrogating the Safe Third Country agreement.

“There is no sensible reason why Canada would not choose to view the geography in imminent proximity to a port of entry as the port of entry.

“The language in the STCA is clear: ‘country of last presence’ means that country being either Canada or the United States, in which the refugee claimant was physically present immediately prior to making a refugee status claim at a land border point of entry.

“Consider the geography of many Canadian ports of entry – they are not right on the border, they’re often set back several hundred metres. And yet we deem the ‘country of last presence’ to be the U.S., not Canada. Why doesn’t Canada choose to interpret the STCA in such a way that a person attempting to cross 100 metres to the left of a port of entry is simply apprehended, brought to the port of entry and processed per the intended operation of the STCA – that is, turned back to the U.S.?”

If Canada is to live up to its aspiration to be a nation of laws, it’s high time it started exploring some of these regulatory changes. The lack of action smacks of a clash between the administrative will and the political won’t.

Source: John Ivison: Unilateral regulatory changes could be answer to Canada’s border problems

John Ivison: Trudeau sounds resigned to his inability to solve Canada’s border-crosser problem

Interesting and nuanced commentary, including recognition by the Prime Minister in terms of the limitations:

Justin Trudeau appears to have given up hope of reducing the flow of people crossing from the United States illegally to claim asylum, and is test-driving fresh rationalizations on why a migrant surge might not be such a bad thing. The new line from the Prime Minister is that the flow of asylum seekers may prove an economic boon for Canada.

“The fact that we have extremely low unemployment, we’re seeing labour shortages in certain parts of the country, (means) it is a good time to reflect that we are bringing in immigrants who are going to keep our economy growing,” Trudeau said in a pre-Christmas interview.

The statement came in response to a question about a contention by his predecessor, Stephen Harper, that an immigration system that is legal, secure and economically driven will have high levels of public acceptance, while the “irregular” migration phenomenon has made the system less secure and less economically driven.

It is clear there are labour shortages. A Business Development Bank of Canada study in September found four in 10 small- and medium-sized companies struggling to find new employees. But an orderly immigration system aims to match the skills of newcomers with the demands of employers. The free-for-all at the border is a triage situation. The only thing economically driven about it is the desire of the migrants crossing illegally to have a higher standard of living than they had in their country of origin.

Who can blame them? But it’s no way to run a country.

To claim this abuse of process will help the economy to grow is the latest attempt by the Trudeau government to justify its loss of control over the Canada-U.S. border. In November, Bill Blair, the border security minister, tried to sanitize the situation by pointing out that 40 per cent of migrants crossing illegally are children, suggesting that Canada is merely living up to its human rights obligations.

Neither argument can rationalize a situation where the integrity of the immigration system is being violated.

Trudeau pointed out that the Liberals have injected extra resources ($173 million in budget 2018) to ensure that everyone who arrives in Canada, even if they cross between official border crossings, is given a full security screening. “There are no loopholes or shortcuts, in that our immigration system continues to apply to everyone who arrives in this country,” he said.

This is true. The flow of migrants, mainly from Nigeria and Haiti, is costing the federal government a pretty penny — $340 million for the cohort of migrants who arrived in Canada in 2017, according to a November report by the Parliamentary Budget Office — not to mention straining provincial resources (the PBO estimated a cost of $200 million each for Ontario and Quebec). Such generous provision has attracted yet more asylum shoppers — year-over-year numbers suggest more people crossed illegally into Canada between January and September this year (15,726) than in the same period last year (15,102).

The endless appeals process means there is a massive backlog that is likely to require reform to reduce.

But at least the government has some control over the process once migrants have claimed asylum. When it comes to reducing the number flowing across the border, the Liberals appear accepting of their impotence.

Blair’s mandate letter gave him the lead role in talking to the Trump administration about “modernizing” the Safe Third Country Agreement, which states migrants claiming refugee status must make their claim in the first “safe” country they arrive in — Canada or the U.S.

A family from Haiti approach a tent in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, stationed by Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as they haul their luggage down Roxham Road in Champlain, N.Y., Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.

A loophole in the pact with the Americans means it does not apply between official points of entry.

But there appears to have been little progress on closing the loophole since public safety minister Ralph Goodale met then-homeland security secretary John Kelly in March, when they agreed to “monitor the situation” at the land border. Blair visited Washington in November to meet homeland security officials and his office says talks are “ongoing.”

They are likely to remain so.

No matter how much money the government spends trying to process asylum claims, a solution requires cooperation from the Trump administration — and that has not been forthcoming.

Even under Obama, there was no interest in extending the Safe Third Country Agreement to anyone crossing from the U.S. — a move that would increase the number of asylum claimants south of the border. There is likely to be a similar lack of concurrence about joint border enforcement patrols to stop people crossing in the first place.

But the agreement is currently as useless as a pulled tooth. There can be few issues of greater importance in the cross-border relationship and the point should be made forcefully in Washington whenever the Americans want something.

Canada’s consensus on immigration is in jeopardy, as economic migrants ignore this country’s laws and its borders.

Trudeau sounds resigned to being bound in an insoluble quandary. The upshot is that he is trying to promote an uncontrolled migration system as one that is not only orderly, but is of net benefit to Canada.

It is going to be a tough sell.

Source: John Ivison: Trudeau sounds resigned to his inability to solve Canada’s border-crosser problem

Andrew Coyne: Andrew Scheer steers hard to right on UN migrants pact

Some good contrasting articles from Andrew Coyne and John Ivison on the Conservative opposition to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, with Andrew Coyne’s, in my view, being the stronger.

Campbell Clark also, correctly I think, how the Conservatives are playing this as a wedge issue, similar to M-103 on Islamophobia, and possibly to counter Bernier, who will be attending a rally organized by the far right on Saturday on Parliament Hill:

Starting with Coyne:

Since he became Conservative leader, it has been a matter of speculation: how far would Andrew Scheer go to pander to the populist-nationalist right, specifically on the matter of immigration?

His predecessor had pulled in both directions at once, one minister building bridges to immigrant communities even as another was blowing them up. But candidates who had courted the pop-nats during the leadership race had not attracted many votes. Perhaps their moment had passed.

But then came the influx of asylum seekers crossing our border. After that came Maxime Bernier’s dramatic departure to found his own party, the one-time libertarian wonk rebranded as an immigration skeptic. And the question returned: how far would Scheer go to keep  from being outflanked on the issue?

Well now we have our answer: as far as it takes. Exploiting Liberal discomfort over the border-crossing issue was one thing. But with the Conservative leader’s embrace of far-right fear-mongering over an anodyne UN agreement on immigration, we are deep into the fever swamp. It is disturbing and frankly embarrassing to see.

The document in question is the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Negotiated and drafted over a year and half, the text was agreed to in July by all but one of the UN’s 193 countries, the lone hold-out being the United States. It’s to be formally adopted later this month.

That so many countries saw the necessity for such an agreement is in recognition of the international dimensions of the issue, especially as migration has expanded in recent years. With so many people on the move — some 258 million now live outside their country of birth — there is a pressing need for states to work together. If countries attempt to deal with the pressures of immigration by dumping migrants on each other’s doorsteps, no one’s interests will be served.

Accordingly, the compact sets out a few basic principles to guide states’ actions, with the aim not just of facilitating “safe, orderly and regular migration,” but “reducing the incidence and negative impact of irregular migration.” That’s right: the agreement is as much about reducing immigration as it is facilitating it, specifically by addressing the “structural factors that hinder people from building and maintaining sustainable livelihoods in their countries of origin.”

Among the 23 “objectives” are such not-terribly-shocking ideas as that states should “collect and utilize accurate and disaggregated data as a basis for evidence-based policies,” that they should “ensure that all migrants have proof of legal identity and adequate documentation,” “facilitate mutual recognition of skills, qualifications and competences,” and so on.

Some are admittedly a little more contentious. Maybe not everyone believes states should “provide access to basic services for migrants,” or “establish mechanisms for the portability of social security entitlements.” But here’s the thing. Suppose Canada, or any country, does not live up to these or any other of the agreement’s objectives. What happens then? Answer: nothing. The agreement is entirely and explicitly non-binding, non-enforceable, and non-justiciable.

This point is made at several points in the document. “The Global Compact is a non-legally binding cooperative framework,” it says, whose “authority rests on its consensual nature.” How does it affect national sovereignty? Not at all: “The Global Compact reaffirms the sovereign right of States to determine their national migration policy and their prerogative to govern migration within their jurisdiction in conformity with international law.” It could not be any clearer.

And yet in the months since it was agreed upon, the compact has become one of those bizarre objects of fascination among the conspiracy-minded, in which it has been elevated into a fiendish plot to dictate immigration policies to national governments, if not to eliminate them altogether. As in previous such episodes, what begins on the outer fringes of debate migrates inward: from racist websites to the right-wing press to opportunistic political leaders.

Toronto Sun columnist Candice Malcolm [MALCOLM: The UN Migration Compact – the details are truly worrisome] handily sums up the theory in one breathless sentence: “This dystopian UN plan seeks to erase borders, destroy the concept of citizenship, undermine the rule of law and circumvent state sovereignty.”

It seeks, she claims, “to make immigration a universal human right,” while blurring “the distinction between refugees and migrants.” After all, doesn’t it say right there in the preamble: “Refugees and migrants are entitled to the same universal human rights and fundamental freedoms”?

Yes it does. And in the next sentence says: “However, migrants and refugees are distinct groups governed by separate legal frameworks. Only refugees are entitled to the specific international protection as defined by international refugee law.” The compact is a statement of broad principles, not a body of law.

And yet there was Scheer on Tuesday, claiming the agreement could “open the door to foreign bureaucrats telling Canada how to manage our borders.” The Conservatives, he said “strongly oppose Canada signing” the compact and would “withdraw” Canada from it if elected. To which I suppose the best answer was supplied by Louise Arbour, UN envoy for international migration and former Supreme Court of Canada judge: “There’s nothing to sign. It’s not a treaty.”

Still, Scheer would put us in select company in rejecting the compact: not only Donald Trump, but the right-wing nationalist parties in Europe, such as now govern Hungary, Austria and Poland. I had not thought I would ever see the Conservative Party of Canada among their number, but you learn something new every day.

A final note: on one of the agreement’s objectives, that urging states to “(stop) allocation of public funding or material support to media outlets that systematically promote intolerance, xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination towards migrants,” the critics have a point. The threat to press freedom is obvious.

But the answer to this concern is not to give public funding to media outlets — on any side — not to pander to hysterical fears about open borders and shadowy world governments.

Source: Andrew Coyne: Andrew Scheer steers hard to right on UN migrants pact

Ivison urging caution:

The late Christopher Hitchens called conspiracy theories the “exhaust fumes of democracy” — the unavoidable result of large amounts of information circulating among a large number of people.

The latest conjectural haze drifting in from the fringes of the political spectrum is that the United Nations’ agreement on migration, which Canada is set to sign in Morocco next week, will see this country lose control of its borders.

The Rebel’s Ezra Levant called the UN’s global compact on migration “dangerous” — “a done deal cooked up by unelected bureaucrats with no regard for national sovereignty.”

Andrew Scheer, the Conservative leader, said his party strongly opposes Justin Trudeau’s plan to sign Canada onto the compact, saying it will open the doors to foreign bureaucrats to direct immigration policy. He was specifically concerned about an objective in the compact that deals with how media report on migration issues. The section calls for an effort to eliminate “all forms of discrimination” in public discourse about migration issues — which, if enforceable, would be an existential threat to The Rebel.

After question period on Wednesday, Scheer asked for unanimous consent for a statement that urged the government not to sign the compact and which blamed the UN for the torrent of refugees that has crossed into Canada from the U.S. Not surprisingly, he did not get it.

For now at least, Scheer’s fears are overdone. The potential limitations on media reporting, for example, are not enforceable. Chris Alexander, a former Conservative immigration minister, pointed out that the compact is a political declaration, not a legally binding treaty. “It has no impact on our sovereignty,” he wrote on Twitter.

Trudeau made the same point on Wednesday, as he boasted about Canada’s “global leadership” and its adoption of “open policy.”

It’s hard to find anything particularly offensive in the compact — it says refugees and migrants are entitled to universal human rights; that countries should improve co-operation on international migration to save lives and keep migrants out of harm’s way. It is explicit that it is not legally binding and the sovereign rights of states to determine their own migration policy is re-affirmed.

Still, I remain unconvinced that Canada should sign on. The compact also says that states should “determine their legislative and policy measures for the implementation of the global compact.” The very act of signing creates an expectation that the signatories will take action. It’s not nothing.

We have heard in the past about UN declarations being merely “aspirational.” As it turned out, they have become much more than that.

Take the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was also sold as a non-binding, aspirational document.

When it was introduced in 2006, the Harper government opposed the declaration’s 46 articles, on the practical grounds that previous court decisions had referenced the work of UN bodies and used them to interpret the laws of Canada. One article in the draft version could have been interpreted to mean military activities could not take place on land that had traditionally been Aboriginal.

The late Jim Prentice, who was then Indian Affairs minister, said the declaration was inconsistent with Canadian law and refused to sign. The declaration only received the Canadian government’s unqualified support in 2016 under the Trudeau government. The new prime minister had already agreed to “fully adopt and implement” the UN declaration, even though his justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, called it “unworkable” and a “political distraction.”

Whatever your views on the declaration, it is beyond dispute that it is not merely an “aspirational document.”

In fact, it is now the law, after NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s private members’ bill was passed by the House of Commons last May. The bill required that Canada’s laws be consistent with the declaration.

In the coming months and years, legislation and judicial interpretation will determine whether Canada’s existing jurisprudence on the duty to consult is sufficient to meet the UN declaration’s requirement on the need to secure “free, prior and informed consent” in any given area of policy. Critics argue that the passage into law of the declaration gives Indigenous Canadians rights not enjoyed by other Canadians.

What was presented as a nice thing to do to be onside with a global consensus has now evolved into a situation that could yet result in legislative gridlock, if the declaration’s provisions on the “rights of self-determination” are taken at face value.

The global compact’s intentions may be pure, but there will be consequences to its adoption that could over time impact Canada’s ability to set its own course on migration.

It won’t erase the border but it could erode sovereignty on immigration. You don’t have to inhale the exhaust fumes of the online conspiracy theories to believe that signing the UN global compact on migration is not a great idea.

Source: John Ivison: The UN’s global pact on migration sounds nice — but don’t sign it

Lastly, Campbell Clark on the politics and similarity with M-103 tactics:

The Global Compact for Migration is the new motion M-103, held up by anti-immigration right-wingers as a scary monster that is going to radically change Canada even though it won’t do much of anything at all.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer stepped out on Tuesday to warn, wrongly, that the Global Compact, a document negotiated by many countries under UN auspices, would force Canada to cede its sovereignty and cede influence to shadowy “foreign entities.”

In fact, the Global Compact – which aims to promote international co-operation on migration flows – is a vague, non-binding document full of long-winded, gobbledygook claptrap that includes a few worthy principles and a couple of dumb ideas. But it won’t force anyone to do anything.

So if Mr. Scheer had opposed the signing of Global Compact on the grounds that Canada shouldn’t put its name to long tracts of big words that don’t have any clear meaning just to make people feel good, he would have deserved a nod of respect.

But the warning the Global Compact will put Canada’s sovereignty in imminent danger is fantasy.

This is the kind of fabricated freak-out we saw in 2017 with M-103, a Liberal MP’s motion asking the Commons to condemn Islamophobia. The motion sparked conspiracy theories – fuelled by the online site the Rebel – that it would restrict free speech, provide “special privileges” to Muslims or somehow lead to sharia law.

It was bunk, because such parliamentary motions don’t lead to anything other than a study. The motion passed, a parliamentary committee issued a bland report last February – and sharia law was not imposed.

Now, the same angst machine is working on the Global Compact for Migration. The Rebel argues it is dangerous, Maxime Bernier, Leader of fledgling right-wing People’s Party, complained about it on Tuesday morning. Then Mr. Scheer followed.

The thing is, the Global Compact is a mess of muddle verbiage, but it is not going to cede immigration policy to the UN or anyone else.

“There is no duty on Canada to implement, enact or enforce anything,” said James Hathaway, a Canadian who is director of the University of Michigan’s program in refugee and asylum law. The compact not only explicitly says it is non-binding, it is also not a treaty, Prof. Hathaway noted. It signs up countries for a discussion process. “No government has to do anything here other than show up for meetings.”

Of course, it’s reasonable to ask whether there’s much real point to the 16,600 words of bureaucratic blah-blah. It is supposed to encourage things such as sharing data on migration. The signatories say they hope to “minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin” – you know, like poverty – but there are no firm commitments.

Some of the criticisms seem to be based on a misreading of the document itself. The Rebel’s Ezra Levant decided that approving references to “regular migration” meant that the compact aims to make mass migration normal and permanent. But regular migration refers to orderly flows of migrants through official border crossings and legal methods – as opposed to irregular migrants. Mr. Bernier echoed Mr. Levant’s words.

One commentator argued that the compact muddies the divide between refugees and migrants, but as Prof. Hathaway noted, it explicitly separates the two. Another commentator alleged it establishes new human rights for migrants, but it doesn’t.

There are flaws: circuitous language and dumb stuff. There’s a section on “promoting independent, objective, and quality reporting” on migration, including cutting off public funds to media outlets that “promote intolerance, xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination towards migrants.” Canada certainly shouldn’t want state re-education of the media to be an accepted notion in such documents.

It is worth asking whether this loose collection of words is worthwhile.

Chris Alexander, the former Conservative immigration minister, who tweeted that Mr. Scheer’s warnings were factually incorrect, also opined that there is nothing wrong in setting out some principles for dealing with migration. Prof. Hathaway said there were some ideas in it that made it “a little bit better than nothing.”

Mr. Scheer has every right to think it’s worse – full of misguided notions. But no, next week’s signing won’t give the UN control over Canada’s borders.

Source:     To right-wingers,the Global Compact for Migration motion is a sign the sky is falling again Campbell Clark December 5, 2018     

John Ivison: Budget officer finds illegal migrants entering via a ‘loophole within a loophole’

The loophole, allowing those in the asylum process who arrived as irregular arrivals to sponsor their relatives during the determination process, should be relatively easy to close, in contrast to the provision in the Safe Third Country Agreement that it doesn’t apply to those not arriving at official border crossings, which would require highly unlikely agreement with the Trump administration:
While a politician may wish something to be true, simply saying it in the House of Commons does not make it so.

Bill Blair, the newly minted minister for border security, made a claim about the refugee system in question period Thursday that cannot be supported by the available facts.

“The system is working,” he said.

He was responding to questions about a new report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, which pegged the cost of “irregular” — for which read “illegal” — migration at $340 million for the cohort of migrants who arrived in Canada in 2017-18 – a cost-per-migrant to the federal government of $14,321. (That does not include provincial expenses, which Ontario claims come to around $200 million. The PBO estimated a similar amount for Quebec. The federal government has reimbursed the provinces a total of $50 million.)

Technically, Blair is correct. The refugee system is working — in much the same way the Russian military’s Antonov Flying Tank worked during the Second World War.

In that case, the plane could leave the ground and drop a tank by parachute, albeit without crew, fuel or armaments. It worked. It just didn’t work well — and the project was rapidly abandoned.

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., advises migrants that they are about to illegally cross the border from Champlain, N.Y., and will be arrested, on Aug. 7, 2017. Charles Krupa/AP

The federal government should adopt a similar approach and go back to the drawing board.

The PBO report is revealing, and not just for the cost estimates. In fact, it emerges in a footnote the costs are likely more than $14,321 per migrant — Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada estimates the number at $19,000.

But during its investigation, the PBO team elicited some interesting responses from government departments that show how bizarre the migrant story has become.

Another footnote revealed that Canada Border Services Agency officers have identified a phenomenon where one claimant enters Canada illegally and acts as an “anchor relative” for other family members. Those family members can then enter at a port of entry and not be considered illegal migrants. (The PBO asked for data but CBSA said it is not currently being tracked).

But think about that for a minute — a practice Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel has called a “loophole within a loophole.”

This means a migrant can cross into Canada from the U.S. between official entry points, avoiding the Safe Third Country Agreement that would have otherwise made them ineligible. (The agreement between Canada and the U.S. states that migrants seeking refugee status must make their claim in the first “safe” country they arrive in — either Canada or the U.S.)

Once a claim has been made, the migrant can access Canada’s generous welfare system as he or she navigates the asylum claims process that gives them multiple hearings and appeals. In the meantime, they can effectively sponsor other members of their family, who can then arrive as regular migrants — also avoiding the Safe Third Country Agreement.

Blair tried to sanitize this blatant abuse of process by pointing out that 40 per cent of migrants crossing illegally are children — postulating that this is a question of humanity and human rights obligations.

But due process should work both ways, and in this case the integrity of the system is being violated.

The anchor relative provision does not just apply to nuclear families but to parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces.

The obvious solution is to close both loopholes in the Safe Third Country Agreement — amend it so it applies between official points of entry, and more tightly define who migrants can bring in.

But there appears to have been little progress in persuading the U.S. to change an agreement that sees people it clearly does not want within its borders effectively deporting themselves.

There are other reforms that could be undertaken. Experts who have looked at the system talk about the “failure of finality” — the endless appeals process that effectively gives migrants a new hearing at the Refugee Appeal Division if their claim is rejected by the Refugee Protection Division, and still another one at the Federal Court if the appeal fails.

The Liberals have done little beyond what they do best — throwing money at the problem. In response to the new arrivals, budget 2018 allocated $173.2 million over two years to “manage the border.”

But the PBO report gives lie to Blair’s claim the “system is working.”

In the 2017-18 fiscal year, the Immigration and Refugee Board had capacity to hear 24,000 claims. During that period there were 52,142 new asylum claims, of which illegal migrants represented 23,215. The system was flooded with claims beyond its capacity, creating a backlog of 64,929 cases.

More than half of the refugee claims were made by irregular migrants from Nigeria and Haiti. That is not a dog-whistle for swivel-eyed racists, or “fear-mongering,” as one senior Liberal put it. It is a fact.

They are flooding from those countries because word has got out that the Canadian system can be gamed with great ease — that an entire family can set up in the Great White North for the cost of a plane ticket from Lagos to New York City and a bus ride to the Quebec border.

Canada has seen similar surges in refugee claims before. In 2010, the Conservatives introduced visa requirements for Mexicans and Czechs, after a flood of bogus claims. The intake of refugees fell from 25,783 in 2010 to 10,227 in 2013 and the backlog halved. For the 2017 calendar year, claims were at 47,427 and the backlog was of a similar magnitude.

If the system was working, as Blair claimed, it would be fast, fair and final.

Currently, it is the very opposite — sluggish, arbitrary and inconclusive.

Source: John Ivison: Budget officer finds illegal migrants entering via a ‘loophole within a loophole’

And John Ibbitson on the potential electoral implications of the costs:

The problem of people crossing the Canada-U.S. border illegally and then seeking asylum just became a bigger headache for the Liberals, one they emphatically do not need less than a year before the next election.

The situation at the border appeared to be improving. In 2017, more than 20,000 asylum-seekers crossed illegally into Canada from the United States. In the early months of 2018, the flow was actually increasing, compared with the year before. But then the numbers started to taper off – at least on a year-over-year basis. Ottawa seemed to have things under control.

“There is a challenge, but it is not a crisis,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale insisted in July.

But if the numbers aren’t increasing, the cost sure is. In a report released Thursday, the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that handling the claims of asylum-seekers cost the federal government more than $14,000 a case in the last fiscal year, will cost almost $15,500 this year and will cost $16,700 next year. By that time, taxpayers will be doling out $400-million a year to handle these claims and to provide the migrants with health care.

As the Tories quickly pointed out, the accumulated costs will be more than $1-billion by the end of the next fiscal year.

“Justin Trudeau’s failure to address the crisis he has created has real consequences for Canadians,” Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said in a statement, “and this report brings those consequences into sharp focus.”

These sums don’t include the cost of sheltering, feeding, clothing, educating and otherwise caring for the needs of these asylum-claimants, which are largely borne by provincial and municipal governments, and which has set the Ontario government back an estimated $200-million.

It gets worse. Asylum-claimants who cross the border illegally are overwhelming the tribunals established to hear refugee claims, creating a current backlog of 65,000 cases. It will take about three years to handle the claim of someone arriving this year. Next year, the backlog could stretch to four years.

Each individual claim is unique. Each person seeking asylum in Canada has a story to tell, and that story can be heartbreaking. But, on its face, most of the people crossing into Canada illegally from the United States appear to have a weak case.

Last year, many of the migrants were Haitian citizens who feared being forced to return to Haiti by the Trump administration. To be blunt, that’s not Canada’s problem.

This year, many of the claimants were Nigerians who obtained a visa to enter the United States and then headed straight for the border. These appear to be economic migrants, whose claims for protection as refugees should not be accepted.

What will happen next year? Will a fresh crop arrive at our border seeking asylum – Latinos who fear deportation from the United States, or nationals from Caribbean or African countries seeking a chance for a better life? Will the ever-lengthening wait times for hearings, which allow asylum-seekers to stay in Canada, convince more and more migrants that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain – including free health care – by crossing the border illegally? Or will the numbers drop down below 2017 levels? No one knows.

What we do know is that the problem of people crossing the border illegally corrodes confidence in Canada’s immigration and refugee system. This country’s future well-being depends on a robust intake of immigrants to compensate for a low natural birth rate. If people conclude that bogus refugee claimants are gaming the system, they could lose confidence in the entire program, which would be a disaster for Canada.

None of this is lost on the Conservatives, who will accuse the Liberals of failing to secure the border – which is, it must be said, one of the core responsibilities of any sovereign government.

Of course, the Tories have no good explanation for how they would handle things if they were in charge. But that may not matter. The opposition mantra will be: The Liberals can’t get a pipeline built. They can’t balance their budget. They can’t even secure the border.

Not a pleasant narrative for a governing party to confront in an election year.

John Ivison: Neither left nor right should politicize Canada’s immigration system

Naive to expect that parties will not politicize immigration and related issues.

The question is how they do so, what language they use, and the extent to which and how they virtue signal and practice identity politics.

The major parties largely stay within reasonable bounds. Bernier, as Ivison notes, does not:

The personal pronoun is best avoided, even by opinion columnists. In this instance it is necessary, to provide some context.

I was in a sombre mood on Remembrance Day, having posted a tribute on Twitter to three generations of my family who wore a uniform so I didn’t have to.

As I scrolled through the flotsam on my feed, I came across a tweet by Maxime Bernier, the former Conservative leadership candidate who recently broke away to form his own party. He was lamenting the case of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman who spent eight years on death row charged with blasphemy and who, after being acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court, is now at risk of extra-judicial assassination.

Bernier was quite rightly decrying the “barbarism” on the streets of Karachi. But he twisted his condemnation for his own political ends, calling for the need to “protect our society” from a threat that patently does not exist on the streets of Canadian cities.

“Radical multiculturalism is the misguided belief that all values and cultures can co-exist in one society. They cannot,” his tweet said.

The tweet came across as a transparent ploy to attract support by espousing views which, if sincerely held, he kept to himself for 15 years as part of a government that regularly expanded the number of immigrants coming to Canada from countries like Pakistan. The fact that he expressed such intolerance on Remembrance Day amplified its effect.

Some time later, I came across a video of two Eritrean children who were new to Canada and were discovering the sheer delight of their first snowfall. With Bernier’s comments still disturbing my mood, I rattled off a tongue-in-cheek retweet: “This is the kind of extreme, radical multiculturalism we’ve been hearing about. Clearly, a grave threat to our way of life.”

My comment touched a nerve, going viral with about 10,000 people “liking” it. Some people got into the spirit of it: “They are going to take our spots on the toboggan hills — I’m afraid there won’t be enough snow left for the rest of us,” wrote Rudy Reimer, not entirely seriously.

On reflection, perhaps it sullied something that should not have been politicized. “Too bad you had to use such a happy, carefree occasion to take a political swipe at some conservatives who have a genuine concern over Canada’s immigration policy,” Eric Nissen responded.

Many, many people criticized me for glibness, and, in turn, federal immigration policy, accusing it of importing “criminals and terrorists.” The father was probably busy making a bomb, one brave individual wrote behind the cloak of a ridiculous pseudonym.

The 2019 election will be won by the party that can best address the anxieties voters are feeling about the affordability of housing, wages and the cost of living. But as this little incident highlighted, deep political cleavages over cultural diversity are hardening as the consensus over mass immigration comes under increased pressure.

The nation is split on the issue as never before in recent memory. Research by Abacus Data suggests there is a 55-45 per cent divide between those who think immigration is a net positive versus those who think it is a net negative.

Conservative voters are most concerned — 63 per cent agreed with the statement that immigrants are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and healthcare. But so did 32 per cent of Liberal supporters and 42 per cent of NDP voters.

The divisions and anxieties may not be as sharp as in the U.S. and parts of Europe, but Canada is not immune from the culture wars.

I’m an immigrant but I have concerns about the risks of the system being politicized. The Liberal Party is intent on raising the proportion of family-class permanent residents and refugees because it plays well in certain ridings.

There are also legitimate concerns about the integrity of the system as migrants seeking a better life stream across the Canada-U.S. border. The number of Nigerians claiming refugee status in Canada surged by 300 per cent in the first six months of 2018. Further, there very real worries that the models used to set immigration levels in the coming decades have not taken account of artificial intelligence and its impact on labour markets.

But these are not the concerns we are hearing from Bernier. “We must start pushing back against this politically correct nonsense that is destroying our society and our culture,” he said in a speech in Calgary last weekend.

Is our society being destroyed? Is Remembrance Day under threat? It didn’t seem that way on Sunday, as millions of Canadians paid their respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifices for our freedoms.

Bernier was using ultrasonic messaging, playing on a prospect frightening to many Canadian-born voters: that they will end up as a minority population in their own country.

Canada has long been said to suffer from a range of neuroses, from separation anxiety to an inferiority complex. But the real fear for many in English and French Canada in 2018 is that “the elites” are ignoring their concerns in favour of protecting the rights of minorities. Gains for immigrants are seen as losses for the native-born, who already see themselves as being under financial pressure.

There are racists and fascists out there — I spent a busy morning blocking them on Twitter. But most people who feel unease at higher immigration levels don’t see themselves as racist. Many could be persuaded to reassess, if our leaders could articulate a vibrant Canadian cultural identity that benefits from newcomers.

We certainly need a rallying call more convincing than Justin Trudeau’s contention that “there is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada” — the world’s “first post-national state,” as he told the New York Times Magazine.

The former is demonstrably untrue, the latter gibberish.

It requires real leadership to articulate and promote the consensus that still exists over cultural diversity. Canadian identity is built on hockey, maple syrup, snow and lumberjacks. But it goes beyond that, as Shane Koyczan noted in his wonderful poem, We Are More.

Canada is “an experiment going right for a change,” he wrote.

“We are an idea in the process of being realized,
We are young,
We are cultures strung together,
Then woven into a tapestry,
And the design is what makes us more
Than the sum total of our history.”

Amen to that.

Source: John Ivison: Neither left nor right should politicize Canada’s immigration system

John Ivison: Will the Canadian consensus on immigration fall victim to Liberal bungling on border-crossers?

Ivison on the Michelle Rempel’s critique of the Liberal government’s immigration policies and approach and their communications challenges.

Federal immigration minister Ahmed Hussen’s announcement last week that Canada will increase its immigration target to 350,000 by 2021 seems designed to flush out the Conservatives.

With Maxime Bernier’s fledgling party promising to cut the number of permanent residents arriving in Canada from the current target of 330,000 next year to around 250,000, there is growing pressure on the Conservatives to follow suit.

The party’s immigration critic, Michelle Rempel, admits it might be the politically expedient thing to do. “If I was taking the easy route, I’d just say ‘Cut immigration’ … But the reality is we have to reform the system. It isn’t working by any metric,” she said in an interview.

Rempel said she is desperate to avoid what she called an “Americanized” debate about immigration levels.

“What Bernier doesn’t understand is that for the people looking at his party, there is only one number that is sufficient — and that’s zero,” she said.

An August survey by the Angus Reid Institute set off alarm bells that the consensus that has characterized Canadian attitudes towards immigration for the past four decades is in danger of shattering.

The poll found that the number of respondents who felt immigration levels should stay the same or be increased, which has registered at over 50 per cent for forty years, had fallen to 37 per cent. Half of those surveyed said they would prefer to see the federal government’s 2018 immigration target of 310,000 new permanent residents be reduced.

Rempel said the consensus is under pressure because the Liberals have bungled aspects of immigration policy like the “irregular” border-crossing file.

“The consensus is not breaking down, but the public is looking at what is happening with the asylum seekers and they don’t think the social contract criteria are being met,” she said. “The debate shouldn’t be about numbers but about the process by which we set those numbers.”

It’s clear that immigration will be one of the key battlegrounds in the 2019 election. The Conservatives would seek to close the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement that allows people to enter Canada illegally from upstate New York, and expedite the removal process of those people whose refugee claims were rejected. Rempel admits there is also pressure coming from within her own caucus to put a number on what immigration levels would be under a Conservative government.

“But I’m not going to treat this like an auction for votes,” she said, noting that on the Syrian refugees issue, her party had pledged to admit 10,000, which persuaded the NDP to raise its commitment to 15,000 and the Liberals to trump them all with a promise to admit 25,000. Yet, as she points out, unemployment rates among Syrian refugees remain stubbornly high more than two years after most arrived.

“It’s irresponsible to set a target without ascertaining how much it will cost to adequately process the huge backlog of asylum seekers,” she said.

Unlike many other centre-right parties, the federal Conservatives have long been pro-immigration. In 2015, levels remained at a historically high rate, with 271,833 new permanent residents landing in Canada.

During the Harper government’s term of office, 2.8 million people arrived as permanent residents in Canada, mainly from countries like the Philippines, India, China and Pakistan.

The mix was heavily weighted towards those chosen for their skills and education levels— in 2015, 63 per cent were economic class migrants, 24 per cent arrived under the family reunification program, and 13 per cent were refugees.

The consensus is based on a broad recognition that Canada’s worker to retiree ratio — 4.2:1 in 2012 — is set to decline precipitously to 2:1 by 2031.

It is widely understood that a decade after they arrive the labour force participation rates for immigrants is comparable to those who were born in Canada. And it is accepted that immigrants and the children of immigrants are generally better educated that the Canadian-born population (almost half have a bachelors degree, compared to one quarter for the latter).

But the complexion of the immigration system is set to change. The mix planned by the Liberals will by 2021 see economic class migrants fall to just 51 per cent of the total of 350,000, with family reunification numbers increasing by more than one third to account for nearly 30 per cent of the total and refugee numbers rising by 44 per cent to reach 19 per cent of the total.

[Note: The levels plan shows that the percentage of economic class immigrants is essentially flat at 57-58 percent, compared to the low 60s during the Conservative government).

The increased number of family members admitted into the country is likely to play well in ridings with large immigrant populations — as it did in the 2015 election.

But irregular migration is not playing well with anybody — particularly not immigrants, who see asylum-seekers as queue-jumpers, nor Quebecers, who are bearing the brunt of the refugee tide.

The government has allocated an extra $440 million to improve processing and settlement programs, and an additional $173 million specifically to manage irregular migration levels. A further $50 million has been given to provinces to pay for temporary housing for “irregular” migrants.

But as Rempel pointed out, throwing money at the problem does not make it go away. “The issue for many people is that they see higher numbers (of illegal migrants) at Roxham Road, and the higher social costs, and say we should reduce numbers,” she said.

Rempel is trying to hold a line that is under pressure from “open borders” policy on the left and “closed borders” policy on the right.

She needs to sharpen her messaging, if she is to succeed in persuading Canadians this is not just a numbers game.

But it is a line worth holding.

The debate over immigration in Canada has not descended into bigotry and resentment because it has worked for four decades. As Stephen Harper noted in his recent book, Right Here, Right Now: “Make immigration legal, secure and, in the main, economically-driven, and it will have high levels of public confidence.”

But public support is on the decline thanks to illegal migration, porous borders and an increase in the proportion of non-economic migrants.

Rempel’s argument is that Trudeau has lost the “social license” to increase immigration levels and only the Conservatives can restore it. Whether that can be done without giving a number on entry levels remains to be seen.

Source: John Ivison: Will the Canadian consensus on immigration fall victim to Liberal bungling on border-crossers?

John Ivison: Maxime Bernier launches people’s party but he’s an unconvincing populist

Good commentary by Ivison on the shallowness of Bernier’s thoughts on immigration and his new party, the People’s Party of Canada:

Maxime Bernier is set to reveal details about his new party, including its name Friday in Ottawa.

In an interview in his Parliament Hill office late Thursday, he admitted he has registered the People’s Party of Canada but that he also likes the Citizens’ Party.

Whatever Canada’s newest party ends up being called, some of its traits are already clear, and others will become less opaque after the press conference.

It is apparent, for example, that Bernier will oppose corporate welfare in all its forms, as he has done so since he told a bicycle factory owner in his riding of the Beauce, Que., that as Conservative industry minister he would not support quotas on cheap Chinese bicycles because it would increase the price of bikes for all Canadians.

We know that Bernier will advocate for an end to the cartel of supply management for dairy and poultry — a system he argues is unfair and regressive for low-income earners. This has been another Bernier staple for more than a decade.

“People are fed up of politicians who say one thing one day and another the day after. What I’m looking for is doing politics like I believe. People like authenticity and I think I have the courage of my convictions and am authentic. That’s why people like what I’m doing,” he said.

But when we discuss the murky topic of what he calls “extreme multiculturalism” there is a sense that Maxime Bernier is not as authentic as he would like you to believe.

He makes much of the fact that he is not looking to promote policies simply to win votes. “I’m very different from other politicians,” he said.

But elected officials tend not to be that distinct from one another — the business of reaching for power contorts them all in similar fashion.

On the diversity issue that sparked such controversy when he suggested on Twitter that there should be limits, Bernier’s thinking sounds muddled. He denies he’s playing the race card, invoking dog-whistle politics or engaging in the same nativism that resulted in him lampooning former Conservative leadership rival Kellie Leitch as a “Karaoke Trump.”

But when I suggested his references to “diversity” led many people to assume he is referring to people of colour, his denial ends up sounding like an affirmation.

“They are misinterpreting what I am saying. When I talk about diversity, I am talking about diversity of opinion, diversity of values, diversity of what you believe,” he said. “I’ll give you an example, if you have two people coming to Canada and one of them wants to kill Jewish people and the other one doesn’t, are we better to have two people who believe in different things or two people coming to Canada who don’t want to kill Jewish people?”

A charitable interpretation is that Bernier is musing aloud, that he hasn’t really thought it through and the example quoted came to him in the moment.

I remind him that in the Conservative leadership platform that will form the basis for the new party’s policies, he described tolerance for diversity as a “Canadian value.”

“I still believe that,” he said, before adding quickly, “I don’t believe in mass immigration.”

The leadership platform advocated the admission of 250,000 new entrants a year — a figure in line with the Harper government’s average intake.

Yet, the Trudeau Liberals have increased the level to 310,000 this year, a number the Conference Board of Canada said will help sustain long-term economic growth, given the rapidly aging population and low birth rate. The number is high by historic levels but reflects that the number of deaths will outpace the birth rate by the 2030s.

On the one hand, Bernier says he believes in immigration in line with the economic needs of the country but, on the other, says the rate should be reduced from the target that many economists believe will help drive growth.

The reasons are not clear.

“I believe in unity also — sharing the same values. Diversity is good. This country is built on diversity and people coming from different religions and points of view,” he said. “But what I’m asking is that the people coming to Canada share our Canadian values — respect for rule of law, equality of men and women, the tolerance of diversity. What I’m asking is that if you come to Canada, you must share our Canadian core values.”

I ask him if he thinks there is a problem with integration of immigrants, given studies suggest employment, earnings and language outcomes between second-generation visible minority groups and whites with Canadian-born parents are negligible; that the children of immigrants learn Canadian values, social norms and official languages through schools, friends and neighbourhoods, all of which makes Canada a model for integration. Is he focusing on a non-existent problem?

“I’m saying we must question this extreme multiculturalism — people who come must integrate and yes, you’re right, they are doing (that). The history of immigration in Canada is great, it’s very positive. The change has happened under the Trudeau government. People who come here have more points if they speak English, they have more points if they speak French, so we have a system and the system was working for the last half century. The Trudeau government changed that in this mandate. I’m saying we must go back to what we did in the past.”

Trudeau’s track record is certainly wide open to criticism. This year just 57 per cent of immigrants will come from the economic class, compared to 63 per cent of the 260,411 entrants in the last full year of the Harper government (28 per cent will be family class, compared to 25 per cent in 2014, while 14 per cent are set to be refugees, in contrast to just 11 per cent four years ago).

The changes to increase family unification numbers by 20,000 people a year were transparent electoral bribes to immigrant communities in the suburbs.

But Bernier hasn’t made the thoughtful policy case for reversing those changes. Instead he has made vaguely illiberal noises that attract the kind of fellow travellers who do not respect the values the leader of Canada’s newest political party claims to espouse — equality, respect for the law and tolerance of diversity. Anyone who has followed Maxime Bernier’s career over the past decade or more knows it is just not him. Authentic? Not so much.

Source: John Ivison: Maxime Bernier launches people’s party but he’s an unconvincing populist

Andrew Coyne: We have a problem with border crossers — but this is no crisis, John Ivison: The Liberals’ Band-Aid solutions won’t fix asylum seeker problem

Good and balanced analysis:

Bowing to the opposition parties’ demands, the Commons Citizenship and Immigration committee will hold special hearings this month on what Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel is calling the “border crisis.”

The notion that there is a crisis on the border — that Canada is being inundated by a tide of asylum claimants crossing the border in defiance of our laws — has been heard with increasing frequency in recent weeks, coinciding with the election of Doug Ford’s Conservatives in Ontario.

Last week’s meeting of federal and provincial immigration ministers broke up in acrimony over the issue, with the feds’ Ahmed Hussen decrying the Ford government’s use of the term “illegal border crossers” as “not Canadian” (Liberals prefer “asylum seekers”) while his counterpart Lisa MacLeod accused him of bullying her. Followed by the usual performative outrage online — he called her un-Canadian! she called them illegal! etc.

All of this mounting fury, while the number of people claiming asylum after crossing the border between regular ports of entry — the neutral and factual description — is in decline.

In June, the Immigration department recorded just 1,263 “RCMP interceptions” — for that is what happens to them after they cross — less than half what it was in April and barely a quarter of the rate last summer.

Still, the 10,744 such interceptions so far this year is two and a half times the number recorded by this point last year. Perhaps the rate will continue its recent decline. But even if the year-end total were the same as last year’s, it would still be considerably higher than has been the norm in recent years.

That’s a problem, no doubt. The monthly rate may be declining, but the accumulated total of more than 30,000 claims over the last 18 months is by all accounts putting a strain on refugee services in Toronto and Montreal. The growing backlog of unprocessed claims, moreover, now at about 43,000, leaves claimants waiting months or years to have their claims assessed: unpleasant for them, costly for taxpayers.

But a crisis? What distinguishes this from any of the many other pressing problems on the public agenda? What, in particular, justifies the kind of massive media coverage and opposition hyperventilating the issue has received?

It is, of course, entirely proper that the opposition should ask questions of ministers, and criticize the government’s response to the surge in claims as inadequate, botched or worse. It may even be fair to suggest the government shares the blame for precipitating it, notably via the prime minister’s notorious “Welcome to Canada” tweet.

But you can tell a lot about what a politician is up to by how much emphasis they put on an issue. It isn’t that what they are saying about it is necessarily untrue: it’s the lack of proportion, the fevered pitch, the exaggerated stakes.

It was perfectly legitimate, for example, for Dalton McGuinty to disagree with John Tory’s proposal to extend public funding to religious schools in the 2007 election, though the proposal would have affected roughly 50,000 of the province’s two million schoolchildren. But to elevate it to the central issue of the campaign, as if the province would dissolve into civil strife if it went through? That’s where the demagoguery lies.

So what is it about the prospect of roughly 60 asylum seekers a day crossing our border that is cause for such uproar? Yes, they are crossing “illegally,” even if the charge is stayed pending the hearing of their asylum claim: Liberal delicacy on this point is not helpful. That’s obviously not something we should wish to encourage.

But on the scale of illegal acts, doing an end run around a border post to get your asylum claim heard in Canada, rather than the United States — especially in its present state of mind — ranks somewhere between a traffic offence and listing a dubious expense on your income tax return. People shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it, and they aren’t: the first thing that happens after they cross the border is they are arrested.

They aren’t dodging any “queue,” because there isn’t a queue for refugees. You plant your feet on Canadian soil, you have a right to have your claim for asylum heard, period — not just under UN treaties to which we are a signatory, but under the Canadian Constitution. But that’s all you have a right to: a hearing. If your claim doesn’t stand up, you’re deported to your country of origin.

If that’s taking too long, that’s a good argument for spending more money on the process for assessing claims. It is not an argument for the kinds of wild, blunderbuss measures being tossed about, most of them illegal, unworkable or both: building a fence along one short stretch of road in Quebec, for instance, when claimants have 8,000 kilometres of border to choose from.

Or — the Conservatives’ favourite — declaring the entire border an official port of entry under the Safe Third Country agreement, as if we could impose our definition on the Americans, under an agreement we begged them to sign. Or “just sending them back” — as if, again, we could force the Americans to take them. To say nothing of the legal and moral implications of doing so.

To say nothing, again, of the logistical impossibility of patrolling an 8,000-km border. Right now, claimants willingly surrender at the border, even having crossed it illegally, because they know they’ll get a hearing. Were we somehow to deny them that — by invoking the notwithstanding clause, say — you’d have a lot more people arriving surreptitiously: not just crossing illegally, but living here illegally.

Sometimes, it is true, you have to do desperate things in a crisis. But this isn’t a crisis and, if it were, these wouldn’t solve it.

Source: Andrew Coyne: We have a problem with border crossers — but this is no crisis

John Ivison focuses on the IRB, the lengthy and almost indefinite processes and delays in removals for those found ineligible , and the recommendations of the Yeates report on possible solutions:

The Liberal government didn’t create the problem of floods of asylum seekers crossing the border illegally. Donald Trump did that when he signalled the U.S. would allow temporary protected status on significant migrant populations from countries like Haiti to expire.

But the Liberals can be fairly blamed for making decisions that have exacerbated the problem — and for fomenting the issue for political ends.

Gerald Butts, the prime minister’s principal secretary, tweeted on the weekend: “Enough is enough. It’s time to stand up to this divisive fear-mongering about asylum seekers. Let’s not allow the alt-right to do here what they’re doing elsewhere.”

But pointing out failures in the system is not an act of partisanship – it’s certainly not an invocation to bash people already on the bones of their arse. The numbers don’t lie and, by every metric, the system is under more pressure now than when the Liberals came to power.

The government is touting the fact that there were just 1,263 border crossings in June — “the lowest since June, 2017.” But 10,744 migrants arrived in the first six months of the year – more than enough to outpace the budgeted processing capacity.

The Commons Citizenship and Immigration Committee met Monday and agreed to produce a report on “irregular” (more correctly “illegal”) border crossings by Aug. 3, and to invite the ministers of immigration (Ahmed Hussen), public safety (Ralph Goodale) and families, children and social development (Jean-Yves Duclos) to appear.

Hussen boasted Monday the government “has a clear plan for managing asylum seeker pressures,” as the city of Ottawa suggested it will support Toronto and other municipalities facing temporary housing pressures (many migrants are housed in two college dormitories that they have to vacate before classes start). Toronto said it needs around $90 million; the federal government has, to this point, offered $11 million.

But whatever is offered is a Band-Aid – and a Band-Aid does not constitute a plan.

Before all sides engage in more pointless partisan point-scoring, they should sit down and read a report on the refugee system already made public.

Neil Yeates, a former deputy minister of citizenship and immigration, produced an independent review of the system that was released in April. It makes stark reading. The refugee determination system, he said, is “at a crossroads,” dealing with a surge of claimants that it is ill-equipped to manage. If not tackled promptly, a large backlog will build that will take years to clear.

The nearly 50,000 claims made in 2017 were mostly from people avoiding the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. that would likely have rendered them ineligible. By the simple act of crossing between ports of entry, they have been able to access Canada and its generous welfare provisions.

But sudden surges in migrant numbers is not a new problem.

The government made significant reforms between 2010 and 2012 to address a similar increase. The Balanced Refugee Reform legislation was aimed at making sure bona fide claimants would be approved more quickly and failed claimants removed just as judiciously.

The goal was a system that was “fast, fair and final.”

Alongside the imposition of visas on Mexicans and Czechs because of concerns over bogus claims, there were structural changes that allowed public servants, rather than political appointees, to be the first level decision makers at the Immigration and Refugee Board’s Refugee Protection Division. There was also an increase in operating funds that allowed for the elimination of the backlog within two years. Stable funding was put in place to facilitate a system that handled 22,500 claims annually.

The numbers between 2010 and 2017 are instructive.

In 2010, before the changes, there were 52,023 pending cases; the intake was 25,783; and the output was 34,260.

In 2013, the corresponding numbers were 22,544; 10,227; and 21,091.

By 2017, those numbers were 47,209; 47,425; and 23,102.

A more streamlined system saw the backlog cut in half and bogus claimants dissuaded from trying to enter Canada – only 10,227 people claimed asylum here in 2013.

Since then, the backlog has more than doubled and claimants quadrupled, as visas were waived for Mexicans and Romanians, and floods of Haitians and Nigerians were attracted by word that the Canadian system is a push-over.

Part of the reason the backlog went down was that failed claimants were actually removed. In 2012/13, 14,490 failed claimants were returned to their country of origin. In 2016/17, that number was just 3,892.

The result is a refugee population that “significantly exceeds the funding capacity,” in Yeates’ words. “Resourcing and prioritization of refugee removals are not fully at the level envisaged under the reforms,” he said.

Hussen is right to say that providing asylum claimants due process is not a choice, “it’s the law” under the UN Convention on Refugees and the Charter of Rights.

But due process should not be indefinite. Yeates talks about a “failure of finality” that creates a “pull” factor for asylum seekers, increasing the likelihood they will find a pathway to stay in Canada.

He is critical of the Refugee Appeal Division, which was never intended to provide a new hearing for failed claimants. If they are refused at the appeal division, would-be refugees can then proceed to the Federal Court, meaning “final is a distant goal,” according to Yeates.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says the government “has a clear plan for managing asylum seeker pressures.”

If the system is not reformed to make it faster and more final, there clearly needs to be a significant increase in a budget that has averaged around $216 million in the past five years.

Hussen said there is a plan, but Yeates points out “there is no contingency framework to increase capacity.”

Any report by the immigration committee should lean heavily on the Yeates report, which suggests dozens of technical reforms that might improve the situation, such as creating a new agency to recommend an annual plan, establish operational performance targets and confirm forecasts. The plan should be tabled in Parliament, Yeates suggested.

But no amount of bureaucratic tinkering will compensate for lack of political will.

The government must get serious about removing claimants, particularly from countries that don’t normally produce refugees.

Alternatively, it must admit that it accepts the idea of the refugee system being used by people seeking a better economic life and allocate hundreds of millions of dollars to increase the capacity of a system creaking under the challenge of dealing with twice as many people as it was designed for.

Source: John Ivison: The Liberals’ Band-Aid solutions won’t fix asylum seeker problem

Two different takes -John Ivison: With another apology, Trudeau tries to right — and rewrite — the past, Emma Teitel: Formal apologies may be most useful not for the oppressed, but for the clueless

Interesting contrast between Ivison, going back to Pierre Trudeau’s position, and Emma Teitel’s greater recognition of the value. Starting with Ivison:

In the early 1940s, Pierre Elliott Trudeau flirted with politics that, in the words of his esteemed biographer John English, were “not only anti-war and anti-Liberal, but also clandestine, highly nationalist and, at least momentarily, separatist and even violent.”

In a speech in support of a nationalist candidate in a Montreal by-election, Trudeau minimized the German threat and, according to Le Devoir, said he feared “the peaceful invasion of immigrants more than the armed invasion of the enemy.

“Bring on the revolution,” he concluded.

It should be noted the immigrants he feared in Montreal in those days were mainly Jews.

None of the above reflects well on the current Prime Minister’s father. But as English noted, Trudeau was party to the kind of half-baked plotting that was common in the basements of middle-class houses in Montreal — plots that no-one ever dreamed of acting on. “This was the spirit of the age,” said English, in his peerless book Citizen of the World.

Perhaps at some future date Trudeau’s actions will be used as a pretext to remove his name from Montreal’s airport or from the high school in Markham, Ont., that bears his name. The spirit of today’s age is a revisionism that never ends — the application of today’s mores to periods in history when ethics and standards were very different.

In isolation, Trudeau senior’s comments are shocking. But thankfully they do not stand in isolation. Separatism, revolutionary politics and racism were not his legacies. Quite the contrary.

His comments were made in the context of the time and place in which they were made — and they were decidedly unexceptional for the era.

Yet the current Liberal government is encouraging this impulse toward “presentism” — by changing the name of the Langevin Block that houses the Prime Minister’s Office in Ottawa (named after Hector-Louis Langevin, a Father of Confederation and strong proponent of the residential school system) and through its apparent attempt to break the world record for official apologies.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that he looks forward to offering a formal apology on the floor of the House of Commons for the turning away of a boat full of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939 — the result of a “discriminatory ‘none is too many’ immigration policy.”

Make no mistake, the decision to turn away the MS St. Louis, with its 907 German Jewish passengers, is a stain on Canada’s history. A historic injustice was done and it should be held in the collective memory to guard against a revival in anti-Semitic sentiment.

But does a formal apology really ensure those mistakes are not repeated?

Arguably, an apology allows the government to turn the page and hope everyone forgets the inconvenient past.

Are they sincere? At one point during question period on Wednesday, Trudeau blustered that he would not apologize for Canada “swaggering” on the world stage. That would seem to be about the only thing for which he is not apologizing.

The MS St. Louis mea culpa will be the fourth delivered by this prime minister. We have already had formal apologies for the Komagata Maru incident, in which another ship carrying Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus was denied entry to Canada in 1914 because of the immigration laws at the time; to residential school students in Newfoundland and Labrador; and to members of the military and federal public service who were persecuted because of their sexual orientation.

It is hard to escape the feeling that political expediency is at work for the Liberals; each apology was targeted at a key political constituency — Sikh, LGBTQ, Indigenous and Jewish Canadians.

That is not a partisan point — Stephen Harper made apologies to Canada’s Chinese community for the imposition of a head tax, which looked electorally motivated, and to its Indigenous population for residential schools, which was perhaps less so.

History exists in context and should not be rewritten or tampered with to suit political ends.

This was recognized by the current prime minister’s father, who in 1984 resisted pressures to apologize to, and compensate, Japanese Canadians who were interned and stripped of their property during the Second World War.

“I do not think the purpose of a government is to right the past. It cannot rewrite history. It is our purpose to be just in our time,” he told the House of Commons.

Prophetically, he worried that once the government started down the path, there would be no end to the apologies and the compensation demanded.

“I know we’d have to go back a great length of time in our history and look at all the injustices,” he said.

Pierre Trudeau, more than most, appreciated that it is often the spirit of the age that is responsible for injustice — and that apologies do not erase iniquity.

Source: John Ivison: With another apology, Trudeau tries to right — and rewrite — the past

Teitel focusses on the educational value of such apologies:

Since its release in 1970, many people (married ones especially) have taken issue with the signature line from the hit movie Love Story: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” But I imagine the person most constitutionally averse to this notion is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a man who says sorry more often than a Canadian tourist in a crowded airport.

Where his Prime Minister father, the late Pierre Trudeau, wasn’t a fan of state-issued apologies, our rueful leader appears quite comfortable doling them out.

The PM has made a series of official apologies addressing various historical wrongs since he took office in 2015. Two years ago, for example, he issued an apology for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which hundreds of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu passengers were unjustly turned away at the Canadian border. Their Japanese steamship returned to India, where 19 passengers were shot and killed upon arrival and many others imprisoned.

Last year, the PM issued an apology to survivors of Canada’s residential schools. He also asked the Pope himself to apologize for the church’s role in operating the notoriously exploitative, abusive institutions. (Unfortunately, the pope declined).

And just this week the PM announced plans to formally apologize on behalf of the Canadian government, in the House of Commons, for the tragic incident of the MS St. Louis in 1939, when Canada refused asylum to the more than 900 Jewish German refugees on board. The MS St. Louis was forced to return to Europe, where 254 of its passengers were later murdered in the Holocaust.

“When Canada denied asylum to the 907 German Jews on board the MS St. Louis,” Trudeau said in a recent statement, “we failed not only those passengers, but also their descendants and community. It is our collective responsibility to acknowledge this difficult truth, learn from this story, and continue to fight against anti-Semitism every day, as we give meaning to the solemn vow: ‘Never again.’ I look forward to offering this apology on the floor of the House.”

Unfortunately, not everybody is looking forward to hearing it.

Many critics of the Prime Minister, some of them Jewish, are a little annoyed by the prospect of a staged mea culpa that will address a tragic event whose victims are, by and large, not around to receive it. Some of these formal apologies are, after all, rather bizarre, because the people saying “I’m sorry” are so rarely the wrongdoers and the people saying “I forgive you” are rarely the wronged. As a result, they can come off as cheap and hollow, even to the ears of the people you think might appreciate them most.

Here’s Sally Zerker, whose Jewish, Polish ancestors were denied visas to Canada in the 1930’s, writing about the prospect of a government apology for the MS. St. Louis tragedy in the Canadian Jewish News last year:

“It will not bring back my relatives, or offer me any solace. Instead, it will whitewash a government that did nothing to help the Jews who were fleeing the Nazis and ignored the type of anti-Semitism that was endemic in Canada until the 1970s. Ultimately, it is nothing but a shallow, empty, meaningless act. An apology can’t right this wrong.”

But it can publicize it. And this is where I disagree with Zerker and other critics of government apologies. We’re living in a world where the United States government appears allergic to facts and routinely winks at white supremacists. A world where the leaders of the women’s march, arguably the largest feminist movement on the continent, can pal around with horrendous anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan and retain their status as heroines of an intersectional movement.

A world where, according to the Anti Defamation League, anti-Semitic hate crimes — from violent assaults, to Jewish kids being harassed at school, to vandalism of synagogues — surged 57 per cent last year. Meanwhile, according to a survey released on Holocaust Remembrance Day (Jan. 27) this year, 22 per cent of American millennials haven’t heard of the Holocaust or are unsure of what it is, and two-thirds do not know what Auschwitz is.

All of this is to say that while I agree with Trudeau’s critics that formal apologies are sometimes silly and performative — and perhaps lacking in meaning for some victims and their families — they are also factual and newsworthy. They breathe new life into old wrongs and in doing so they bring awareness to those wrongs.

It’s for this reason that I find it difficult to object to a perfectly harmless government statement that might, even if it doesn’t heal any wounds, inspire an uninformed Canadian to Google “MS St. Louis.”

It’s a sorry thing to say, but formal apologies may be most useful not for the oppressed, but for the clueless.

Source: Emma Teitel: Formal apologies may be most useful not for the oppressed, but for the clueless

John Ivison: Senate amendments to gender diversity bill set to test Trudeau’s feminist principles

Find Ivison overly alarmist here. Requiring companies to have diversity plans but allowing them to set their own targets, with annual reporting, is a reasonable balance between doing virtually nothing and moving the yardstick.

There are likely some changes that may be needed (e.g., size of companies that are covered).

Bu is meritocracy really at risk as Ivison argues? Seem to recall same argument being used each time organizations want to increase diversity:

Are there any limits to how far Justin Trudeau will go to foster diversity and inclusion? We may be about to find out.

While he was in Davos, the prime minister made a big deal about the representation of women on corporate boards.

“Companies should have a formal policy on gender diversity and make the recruitment of women candidates a priority,” he said in his speech to the World Economic Forum.

To this end, the Liberal government has introduced a bill (C-25) to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act, which (among other things) requires companies to place their diversity policy before their shareholders, and if they fail to do so, to explain why (the widely adopted “comply or explain” approach).

Even that level of intervention has some free marketers wondering what business it is of the government to interfere in the running of private corporations.

But the current proposal is tame compared to amendments being proposed by a group of influential senators that will have many executives choking on their Porterhouse steak.

The six senators — Serge Joyal, Frances Lankin, Paul Massicotte, Lucie Moncion, Ratna Omidvar and André Pratte — have written to their colleagues saying they believe the current bill “lacks teeth.”

They would like to add amendments that would force the 270,000 companies incorporated under the CBCA to adopt diversity policies that set numerical goals and timetables on female, indigenous, disabled and visible minority board representation. Companies would have to report their progress not just to their shareholders but, “for the purposes of monitoring,” to the government. Ministers would be required to prepare and publish a report on the data – a clear indication that further corrective action could one day be taken.

“To be clear: our amendment would not set quotas,” the senators say.

Nonetheless, quotas would be set, even if, at this stage, by the companies themselves.

The senators are now rallying their colleagues and if they have the votes, bill C-25 will be sent back to the House of Commons. One source said there appears to be a critical mass of senators in favour of the amendments, which will likely be introduced next week.

At that point, Trudeau will have a decision to make. While the government has not looked kindly on Senate amendments, Trudeau charged senators to use their independent judgment to improve government legislation. He is unlikely to want to shirk what he sees as his moral duty to promote diversity and inclusion.

Carol Hansell, senior partner at the Toronto law firm Hansell LLP, is critical of the bill in its existing form for a number of reasons, principally because it will force companies to hold annual elections of individual directors — the concept of majority voting. She said she believes governance should flow from securities regulation, not corporate statute, which she deems too rigid to respond to changing circumstances.

Hansell thinks the same is true of the diversity issue and that many people would find the imposition of government oversight “objectionable.”

“I think everyone is uncomfortable with quotas. It’s too blunt a tool,” she said.

Even Trudeau shied away from anything that resembled a quota in the legislation. When Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains introduced the bill, he said it would “contribute to an inclusive economic growth agenda” but would not unduly burden business.

The bill was deemed sufficiently benign by the Conservatives that they supported it – pointing out much of it was based on their economic action plan.

The “comply or explain” model has already been adopted by the Canadian Securities Administrators, covering most of Canada’s publicly traded companies.

The dissenting senators point out the results have been unspectacular over the past few years — 14 per cent of board seats are now occupied by women, up from 11 per cent in 2015.

Only 1.1 per cent of board members are Indigenous, 3.2 per cent have disabilities and 4.3 per cent belong to visible minorities.

As a share of the population, all four groups are under-represented (women and girls make up 50.4 per cent of the Canadian population; three per cent are Indigenous; 19.9 per cent are visible minorities and 13.7 per cent report some kind of disability).

Smart companies are moving toward board representation that more accurately reflects their shareholders and customers.

But we are veering into dangerous territory when we reject the notion of meritocracy as a mechanism that merely re-inforces male privilege.

Change is happening before our eyes, even if it is not as rapid as some might like.

But it is simply not the role of government to dictate who should be running the nation’s businesses.

Source: John Ivison: Senate amendments to gender diversity bill set to test Trudeau’s feminist principles