So Jason Kenney just wrote a blog in the National Post and, guess what, almost every paragraphs contains misinformation.
Well, that's not a surprise. Since 2009, I've been tracking his disregard for facts. (See an article from April '09, here) and it has really just been impossible to keep up.
One of this minister's most endearing tactics is issuing statements in different languages saying different things to different communities. A fact that the English-speaking mainstream press in Canada can't even begin to explore.
But this time it's a little personal. A few days ago, Jason Kenney wrote a blog in National Post, Canada's right-wing newspaper, defending the newest Conservative immigration bill C-4. In it, he says "Contrary to the propaganda of 'No One Is Illegal' and other radical organizations, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has recognized that this resettlement program is the proper path for genuine refugees, not illegal human smuggling operations."
As someone committed to migrant justice, one part of me is happy that the very words No One Is Illegal are being said in mainstream media, written by a sitting Minister of Immigration no less. This is the second time since winning majority that the Conservatives have done that. See details of the last incident here.
At the same time, I realize that for Kenney this is a means to belittle the mass of opposition to Bill C-4 that includes everyone from Amnesty International to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association as well as the NDP, the Bloc Quebcois and the Liberals. See a partial list of organizations opposing this bill here.
That Jason Kenney is spreading false information about this particular bill is also no surprise. In November 2010, when this bill was first introduced, the Canadian press questioned endorsements from immigrant organizations that appeared within hours of the bill being introduced at a press conference abroad the MV Sun Sea (and not in Parliament). The Canadian press found that many of these organizations either receiving tied funding from the Immigration Ministry or simply did not exist! So, did the Immigration Ministry try to engineer support for the bill before anyone could even read what was in it? Maybe. All I know is that the Harper government was tossed out of office soon after for lack of transparency.
Anyhow, back to the present. The blog post titled 'Our plan to combat human smuggling' by Minister of Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism.
Jason Kenney is writing it because, you see, we the "special interest groups," "misunderstand or misrepresent" what it actually means. And so Kenney, has decided to cut through the hyperbole and speak directly to "Canadians" who, once the "hyperbole and inaccuracies are cleared away, will support the balanced approach the government is taking to address this threat to our generous immigration system."
For the record, under Bill C-4, any group of migrants can be designated "a smuggling incident." Once they have been designated as such, migrants can be jailed for up to 12 months; are denied the ability apply for permanent resident status for five years after they have been granted refugee status; cannot apply on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, for a temporary resident permits or refugee travel documents for five years or longer; are banned from appealing an unfavourable decision and cannot sponsor their families five years. Bill C-4 also gives immigration officers powers to arrest and detain any foreign national or permanent resident on suspicions of criminal activity without proof. To read more about this Bill, see here.
So how in this extremely clear, absolutely hyperbole-free article, does Jason Kenney intend to do make this sound reasonable?
His first claim is that "Canada is the most generous recipient of resettled refugees in the developed world." The idea being, Canada is the nice guy that is under threat from all these outsiders.
The key here is the "developed world." Rich countries like Canada, United States, Europe, Japan, etc. profit from wars, from climate catastrophe, from joblessness and poverty in the rest of the world that force people to move in the first place. Yet, in 2010, when the United Nations was looking to resettle 800,000 refugee in third countries, these developed countries were only willing to take about 80,000 from the United Nations, with a 112,400 refugees taken by them in total. So, where are these nearly 700,000 refugees that the "generous" countries don't take going? To the poorer countries of the world of course. Sounds generous, right?
And what of this United Nations support that Kenney speaks of?
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has warned against the use of terms like "human smuggling" for migration, stating that "the association of irregular migration with criminality promotes the stigmatization of migrants and encourages a climate of xenophobia and hostility against them."
"The most misrepresented element of Bill C-4 is its detention provision," Kenney says. "Temporary detention means that people fleeing brutal persecution will be safe, with access to generous food, housing and medical care while their refugee claims are heard swiftly." In other words, jail is actually a step up for these people.
So, let's talk about immigration detention for a second. On Dec. 18, 1995, Mike Akhinen died from medical neglect at Celebrity Inn in Mississauga, Ont., Canada's infamous immigration detention centre. On Dec. 8, 2009, Jan Szamko, 31, died in immigration detention of heart failure after being denied medical aid. At the coroner's inquest when asked about Jan's death, the border guard on duty replied "He refused to walk. He was not catatonic, but he was not responsive to directives. He was conscious. His eyes were opened. He would turn his head when someone was talking to him. He chose not to communicate." According to the Toronto Star, "no one believed his complaints about chest pains or heeded his refusal to eat or drink over the last two days of his life. His constant moans and groans in a segregated cell yielded no attention." Jan Szamko died of heart failure, probably stemming from a viral infection which led to a lethal level of fluid buildup that compressed the heart, lowered his blood pressure and subsequently shut down his bodily functions. Over two days, he stopped eating, defecated over himself, did not respond to instructions, but was deemed "fit to fly."
Yep, sounds humane.
Next Kenney goes on to say that the five-year ban on sponsoring one's family is because refugees,"if they are able to get status in Canada, can immediately turn around and sponsor their families and, eventually, extended families to come to Canada as well."
As Harsha Walia wrote in the Vancouver Sun, "The number of family class immigrants accepted has dropped by 10,000 since the Conservatives took power. This is a 15% decrease. Despite assuring Parliament that the parents and grandparents visa category would remain stable, Jason Kenney was slashing these visas by 25%. This now means a wait of up to 14 years, while the government collects millions of dollars in sponsorship application fees."
So a five-year ban on top of the 14 years it already takes. And just to be clear that is if they get status, can keep it after being re-assessed after 5 years, and are actually able to raise the financies to bring over their families over in the first place.
Kenney ends his article by saying "Bill C-4 sends the message around the world that Canada will no longer be the world's doormat." The world may not think of Canada as a doormat, but it is realizing the Canadian government for what it is: warring, polluting, thieving, lying scumbags, seemingly with a victim complex.
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