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Hill Dispatches

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Karl Nerenberg has been reporting on federal politics from Parliament Hill for rabble.ca since September, 2011. In his long career, he has won numerous awards as a broadcaster and documentary filmmaker.

'Bogus' claims and 'safe' countries: When will Jason Kenney drop the other shoe?

| November 27, 2012
'Bogus' claims and 'safe' countries: When will Jason Kenney drop the other shoe?

We're still waiting for the other shoe to drop on some of the federal government's big priorities. 

Take Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's refugee reform Bill, C-31, which Parliament passed way back in June. 

C-31 gives the Minister of Immigration unilateral power to declare safe "Designated Countries of Origin." Refugee claimants from those countries would have an extremely rapid hearing process, with no effective right to appeal and would be shipped home as soon as possible. 

The goal, the government has claimed, is to get "bogus" claimants out of the queue quickly and make room for "genuine" refugees, who come not from pleasant and democratic Europe, but from war torn regions such as the Middle East. 

Not that the Harper government rushed to take in Palestinian women and children caught in the deadly cross fire in Gaza. 

Safe countries for victims of crude, old-fashioned racism?

So far, we have heard nothing from Minister Jason Kenney on the Designated County of Origin list, although he did make a fact finding visit to Hungary, not too long ago, that seemed designed to prepare the ground for designating that country as safe.

To a significant degree, C-31 is aimed at stopping the flow of Roma refugees from Hungary and neighbouring former Communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe. 

Over the past few years, Kenney has not been loath to impoliticly denigrate these people as a group, not-too-subtly adopting the racist stereotypes that have endured for many centuries in Europe. 

Not even losing a quarter of their population during the Holocaust has given the Roma much cred in Europe, where they continue to be victims of the most crude and old-fashioned type of race hatred.

Is it possible that his visit to Hungary might actually have given Canada’s Minister of Immigration pause? After his Hungarian trip, his department, after all, did issue a news release in which it expressed concern about attacks on Roma and other minorities by extremist groups.

And earlier in November there was a piece in the New York Times by William Wheeler called “Europe’s New Fascists.” 

Wheeler writes about the current rise of a nationalist and racist Right in Europe, especially in Greece and Hungary. Greece’s Golden Dawn Party has gotten lots of international media attention because of that country’s current crisis. Observers are shocked by the violent and openly racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric of Golden Dawn.

But Wheeler points out that the extremists are much better established and more powerful in Hungary than in Greece. 

'...the Roma have to die and you have to kill them...'

The Jobbik Party is a relative new-kid-on-the-extreme-right-block in Hungary, which has a long history of that sort of thing. But Jobbik has managed to gain a respectability that evaded earlier neo-Nazi groups, and it won 17 per cent of the vote in the last Hungarian election. 

That election result scared the daylights out of the victorious conservative-nationalist Fidesz Party, and has succeeded in pulling the centre of political gravity in Hungary toward the old-fashioned racist Right.

Jobbik dons a cloak of civilized respectability when it suits its purpose. 

But it is a thin cloak, which drops easily.

Wheeler reports that the party’s “true colors were on display at an August rally in the village of Devecser, where a Jobbik member of Parliament delivered the opening address. Subsequent speeches from other groups grew increasingly violent, climaxing in a tirade about ‘how the Roma people have to die and you have to kill them and we have to clean out the country,’ as one witness recalled. The crowd eventually began throwing stones at Roma houses, chanting ‘you will die’ and vowing to return.”

When you put this sort of reportage together with what Kenney might have been able to intimate from a trip to Hungary –despite the efforts of his Hungarian government minders – well, could that be why we have not yet seen a Designated Country of Origin list?

Is it possible that Kenny may be having second thoughts? 

Is it possible that he might be wondering if it is really a good idea to anoint Hungary, and some of its neighbours, such as Slovakia and Romania, as safe “Designated Countries of Origin”?

One can always hope. 

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