The Tories just put out an attack ad against the Liberals. Other than the obnoxious music which I find terribly distracting, the Tories make four claims in 31 seconds. Let’s talk about them:

1. Canada wants to welcome those who want to build a better future.

Canada has a temporary immigration system. More people come in as temporary workers then as permanent residents. The refugee acceptance rates have dropped 60% just this past year. Over half a million people are living without any immigration status. Living in exploitable conditions, paying in to taxes for a social services system you cannot access is not a “better” future. The only future the Canadian immigration system cares about is the future of corporations maximizing profit.

2. Criminals — read migrants — are targeting Canadian generosity.

First, the generosity thing: In 2008/09, Canada took about 11,000 refugees while Syria, Lebanon and Jordan accepted 885,000 Iraqi refugees between them — this is not generosity. The 11,000 refugees that the Canadian immigration system accepted are out of 45 million displaced people around the world, many of whom had to wait 3-5 years to hear about their application.

Second, this criminal thing: Crossing borders with forged documents is not a crime. It is actually a time-honoured, celebrated, empowering mode for people resisting the imposition of exclusionary immigration controls. Know who else was a human smuggler? Harriet Tubman.

3. Stephen Harper has a plan to stop human smugglers and bogus claimants who jump the queue.

Yes, Stephen Harper has a plan. Its called Bill C-49. Under this bill, any group of asylum seekers can be declared a ‘smuggling incident’. The Tories want to:

1. Jail these people for a minimum of one year

2. Deny them access to health services

3. Deny them monthly detention reviews, allowing migrants in jail a chance to gain freedom only once every 6 months.

4. Be able to revoke people’s refugee status after it has been granted by the refugee determination process

5. Ban applications for permanent residence for five years after gaining refugee status

6. Bar people from reuniting with their families for five years after gaining refugee status

7. Stop people from leaving Canada for five years after gaining refugee status

8. Deny the right of appeal to a rejected refugee claim.

What will this do? It will force people to take even more dangerous routes to find justice and dignity.

4. The Liberals, NDP and the Bloc oppose tougher sentences for human smugglers.

Actually, the Liberals and the NDP both want to jail migrants who cross borders in search of safety and security. Neither party has openly called in to question the notion of human smuggling. The Liberal Party declared that Bill C-49 “masquerades as human smuggling legislation” and “does not adequately target human smugglers,” with Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff stating that the bill “[punishes] the victims, and not the criminals.” But who are the criminals? And what is the crime? Applying for refugee status from within Canada is legal. Crossing borders on fake documents is legal. And there is already excessive sentencing in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act for people declared human smugglers. Neither the Tories, nor the Liberals and the NDP take responsibility for Canada’s role in displacement. The immigration systems all political parties support is one that excludes some people over others and are therefore inherently flawed.

What kind of immigration system do you think is fair? And what would you like me to write about next? Drop a note in the comments section below.


On elections: Canada is a settler state on Indigenous land and has no moral authority to impose a government. Elections are the means by which this colonial project claims legitimacy for its aggressive policies of cultural and material appropriation and murder. Hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people on this land refuse to vote as an assertion of sovereignty. 1 in 25 residents of Canada, undocumented migrants, temporary workers, permanent residents and others without full immigration status cannot vote. Electoral democracy is a sham where certain people make decisions without building consensus or gaining a mandate from their so-called constituents. The transformative change that most people desire will not come from the ballot box. Neither voting nor avoiding the vote are sufficient to create the kinds of worlds we wish to live in.

Syed Hussan

Syed Hussan is an organizer and writer in Toronto working with undocumented and migrant people, in defense of Indigenous sovereignty, and against counter intuitive programs like war and capitalism....