rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Hill Dispatches

karl nerenberg's picture
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. 



Im no fan of the Conservatives, but I have got to say that the one policy plank that they have (other than temporary foreign workers) is their immigration policy.

By definition, a "refugee" is someone who is fleeing immediate and imminent danger, seeking "asylum" or sanctuary in a safe country as quickly as possible.

Also by a more technical definition, an "immigrant" is someone who has entered the process to apply by and meet the requirements of a country's immigration system.  An immigrant takes the neccesary steps to research the requirements, try to meet them, and most times, fill out most of the paperwork while still abroad so that when they arrive they are granted "landed immigrant" status and they then begin the process of obtaining citizenship.

These two tracks are designed for entirely different situations.  The refugee is fleeing something catastrophic like war or the rise of a Hitler-style government.  In the latter, the citizen cannot appeal to their government, and may actually detain them for attempting to leave.  War is obvious, civilians caught in the crossfire suffer enormously.  The immigrant has more time.

Our system is being thoroughly abused.  People who could have taken the time to attempt to qualify under normal immigration systems, dont.  They just show up and say they are a refugee.  They stay in Canada for several years filing appeals, and if it looks grim they can just dissapear off the radar, burgeoning the CBSA with people to find in order to enforce deportation orders.  

Take Hungary for example.  While I dont discount the rise of a far right radical group, these people can go to their government for assistance.  Failing that they can use their EU citizenship to go someplace else.  If they really want to come to Canada, they can fill out their immigration applications from Germany or the UK or Switzerland, all really safe places.  These people are not "refugees".  They have every ability to remove themselves from imminent danger, including contacting their own local authorities.  This includes India, China, the Phillipines; all countries where we have large number of immigrants coming from today.

Im not against immigration, but the queue jumping via the refugee system has got to stop.  I am all for going to an Australia style mandatory and automatic detention system for all refugee claimants.  Not talking maximum security prisons, but minimum to moderate security modest accomodations where they have to sit while they wait for their refugee process to conclude.  If they are accepted then they get to walk out that door.  If they aren't, then they get a one way ticket home.  In the meantime, they are in a locked up facility.  If they were really fleeing imminent and immediate danger, being locked up while their claim was processed (even if it took months or years) wouldn't be so bad - much better than getting killed or tortured at home.  If they were looking to come and reunite with their family, or seek out better job prospects; they may have wished to fill out the proper paperwork, because the refugee claimant holding centre is not nearly as nice as the place they left at home.

There are a huge number of illegal refugee claimants on the lam who are under strict orders to leave the country.  Does the CBSA know where they are? Nope.  These people could be involved in criminal matters, acting as part of the underworld economy, be working tax free, or in general not being particularly law obiding seeing as they are on the lam from a deportation order.

From afar, that is the reputation Canada has: the sucker nation.  "Just fly to Canada, claim you are a refugee, and then disappear".  In Australia you cant even fly there without a return ticket in hand with a specific date of return.  If you are staying for several months you need to report in to the authorities if you intend to stay somewhere else.

We have to wake up.  Having a big heart to take in the needy and destitute is nice and all, and we should keep doing it.  But we need to put sharper teeth in place to ensure that people dont just game our system.

Chattering classes think that everything is all right in our immigration system?  Try going to Richmond or Delta in BC.   If you are going to tell me that the Stats Can figure that Richmond is comprised of 38% Asian immigrants or that Surrey/Delta is comprised of 28% South Asian immigrants, I've got the old Port Mann bridge to sell you...


Canada can not be the escape hatch for everyone's problems. There have been serious abuses of our generous asylum policies and their associated social programs.

Incredible. Replace "Canada" by "Germany" or "Switzerland", and you very literally get, word for word, what extremist formations  in these countries (NPD, REP, SVP, Pro-xxx, etc.), and even some "mainstream" parties are spouting.

And it's time for other well-off countries, including EU member states, to look after problems in their own back yards.

Yes, like paying Khaddafi to build camps in the desert, or looking the other way when bona-fide refugees are trapped in squalid dead-ends in Greece or Italy, or virtually keeping those Unmenschen in detention in Germany.

In other words: I understand your problems, but why you do you have to come here? Please move on...

Hungary has indeed taken an alarming turn to the hard right:


But this, and the Roma situation, is NOT Canada's problem. The EU has robust human rights legislation, wealthy neighbors of Hungary (e.g., Germany), and the Nuclear Option of kicking member states out of the union--something that would devastate Hungary's economy. This is something Canada should be leaning on the EU over.

Too many refugee problems have been offloaded on Canada. An example is the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora. These people should have gone to Tamil Nadu, rather than trecking across an ocean to get to Canada. India is the world's largest arms importer, has the world's third-largest air force, and just spent untold billions of Rupees upgrading its nuclear arsenal. And it already has a large Tamil population. This was a problem in India's backyard, and they should have dealt with it--by political/diplomatic means, as well as taking in the Tamil refugees. Nor are well-off countries like Japan and South Korea keen on accepting South Asian, or especially African refugees. Yet nobody is taking these countries to task for the overtly racist shirking of their refugee obligations.

And, with any refugee influx, there are legitimate public safety issues. Canada's immigration system is already doing a very poor job of screening permanent immigrants:



The concerns regarding this wave of Roma refugee claimants are valid:



This is not a question of 'racial' profiling, but an admission of fact: there are concerns specific to certain groups of migrants from certain areas. Another couple of examples:



Canada can not be the escape hatch for everyone's problems. There have been serious abuses of our generous asylum policies and their associated social programs. And it's time for other well-off countries, including EU member states, to look after problems in their own back yards.

Some other reports in the German language from Budapest (with video) and Vienna.

In today's edition of the German "Tageszeitung" there is a report that Jobbik now openly targets Jews.

MP Márton Gyöngyösi demanded to know how many Jews are present in the Hungarian parliament and government, claiming that their presence in national institutions represented a "security risk" in the context of the current Gaza crisis.

Somehow evocative of Poland circa 1968.

I really wonder how the Harper Junta will react to that...

Login or register to post comments