- by Erroll Treslan

Responding to a Facebook conversation with the Editor on this subject

Anne, first of all, I am assuming that you agree with a country's basic right to control its own borders - correct? [Some believe that the right to immigrate should be unfettered but, although that position is philosophically sound, it is unworkable in practice]

Next let's look at exactly what Ms. Horwath said "I urge you to declare Ontario to be a sanctuary province. In recent years, cities like Toronto and Hamilton have shown tremendous leadership by making local services accessible to all residents, regardless of their immigration status. Now, our province must do the same. We must guarantee that services will always be accessible to everyone in Ontario."

Canadian immigration policy already provides for the following: "Once an individual has been determined to be eligible to make a claim in Canada, as a refugee claimant they may have access to social assistance, education, health services, emergency housing and legal aid while a decision is pending on their claim. In addition, most individuals found to be eligible to make a refugee claim can apply for a work permit once they have undergone a medical examination. It does not matter if the claim was made at the border or at an inland office ...... Except for health services, which are funded by the Government of Canada (Interim Federal Health Program), provision of all these supports is the responsibility of provinces and territories. Municipalities or non-profit organizations also provide some supports." (Source: Government of Canada IRCC website "Claiming asylum in Canada – what happens?") This is one of the most liberal policies to be applied to refugee claimants in the western world. What other services does Ms. Horwath have in mind? She doesn't say.

This meme highlights a dirty secret that Canadian politicians don't like to discuss. We live in one of the most prosperous nations on earth. There are probably hundreds of millions of people who would love to immigrate here for quality of life reasons and easily tens of millions who could qualify for refugee status as it is defined under international conventions. So why do only the ones who can make it to one of our ports of entry (required to be able to claim refugee status) get priority over the others? What about those who attempt to subvert our laws by attempting illegal entry? Should they get to jump the line and, if not, where should they get slotted in comparison to refugee claimants who follow the rules and apply at ports of entry? Of course, it's easy to just ignore these questions with vague "give every one services regardless of their immigration status" but that kind of approach belies a Pollyanish ignorance of the problems. Another wilfully blind approach is to brand anyone who supports a pragmatic discussion about these problems as racist or anti-immigrant.

All Canadians, including indigenous people, are immigrants. Whether we like it or not, we need to make rules about who can immigrate (yes, we have a deplorable history in that regard), how many can immigrate and the rules that must be followed in order to immigrate. Then we must enforce those rules. If any political party thinks the current rules are too lax or too restrictive, they should bring forward their proposed policies for consideration by the electorate. However, Ms. Horvath suggesting that we provide taxpayer paid services to individuals before being found eligible to make a refugee claim (or more services than are currently available to those who have been deemed eligible) simply reaffirms that she has no understanding of the issues. If you take her suggestion seriously, why stop there? Let's just start mailing Ontario social assistance cheques to international refugee camps. I guarantee that you will find far more deserving potential refugees in those camps than the refugee claimants who have sufficient resources to make illegal entry attempts at our borders.





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