For those who don’t know the definition of a refugee and for the media types who keep confusing the public with one day referring to people as refugees and the next claimants, etc., the UN definition of a legitimate refugee under the UN 1951 Refugee Convention adopted (in Article 1.A.2) is the following:
"refugee" to apply to any person who: "owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it."
This is the one that Canada recognizes and abides by. Note it does not say you are a refugee because you want to find work in another country. It does not say you are a refugee because you want a better life for yourself or your family, nor does it say you are a refugee if you would like to use our social support network or medical programs.
It is there to help people who meet that UN standard, to encourage us to show compassion to those in real need of safety and our help. Canada has always been very generous in doing so.
Back in the 1980s the wait time to process a refugee claimant was five years, often longer. Legitimate refugee claimants had to wait years so that a backlog that had quite a few phony claimants in it could be processed. This put a huge strain on our support systems and was very unfair to legitimate claimants.
In the mid-1980s, it became obvious that many of the claimants reaching Canada had already passed through a safe country where they could have made a claim and been accepted as a refugee or they had already been accepted by another country, yet they were landing here. That was when the safe third country concept was looked at.
When we look at what is happening along our borders today the questions become:
1. Is this person a first time refugee claimant who has not been processed and accepted in another country, if so, if they are trying to enter Canada from the USA, why have they not applied in the USA which is a safe country? Thinking that you do not like the President or maybe he might want to prevent your travel plans does not make you a refugee, see the above definition.
2. Is it simply someone looking for work or a better life? Sorry we don’t need you at this time, make a legitimate application to immigrate to Canada and stop trying to jump the queue. By making a false claim you are using up our resources that should be available to those fleeing for their lives. Immigrating to Canada or working here is not a right, it is a privledge.
3. If they have been processed and accepted elsewhere as a refugee, why are they here? They already have a safe haven and yes the USA is still a safe haven.
Unfortunately there is a loophole in our law. If you cross at a regular border post, you will be turned back. Cross somewhere else along our long undefended border and you can make a claim for refugee status even if you are a complete phony or if you have already been accepted elsewhere. By doing nothing to control the flow or to change the legislation to treat everyone the same as if they crossed at a legitimate border station, the Liberals are shining a spotlight on a way around our rules. We are seen as a country with weak enforcement and a porous border.
That can offer encouragement to some who already have refugee status elsewhere, but regard Canada as the Promised Land to give it a try and get into our system as well. It also offers the potential to all of those looking for work who now know the loophole they need to use and the way to get here so that they can make a false claim. They know that they will be entered into the system and have a chance to work until their claim is heard. When they are called for their hearing they will have plenty of time to disappear and join the estimated 44,000 people that our border agency can’t find. By doing nothing Goodale will also encourage the predators that prey on those looking for a new life, even if it means crossing illegally and becoming one of the estimated 500,000 undocumented people in our country. These smugglers often charge thousands of dollars for their services and lives are often put at risk when using their services.
So for Minister Goodale who prefers sarcastic comments about legitimate opposition demands for action, your side is screwing up big time, now it is time to fix the problem. Enough of the talk points get to work before the trickle becomes a flood and scarce resources available for legitimate refugees are wasted on false claimants. Canadians have always extended a helping hand to refugees in need; you are putting that generosity at risk the longer you allow people to abuse the system.