Toews’ Remarks on Bill C-49 Analyzed by Toronto Immigration Lawyer (my analysis in bolded italics)

By Author: Admin | October 23, 2010


Many Canadian lawyers and refugee advocates have already done an excellent job analyzing the  anti-smuggling bill.  My approach is to highlight the implicit messages behind Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ speech introducing the proposed changes.  Those pressed for time need only look at my bolded italics below.  While not advocating or opposing the proposed changes (since changes mean Canadian immigration lawyers will remain busy), I am concerned about the lack of nuance by the Minister of Public Safety in his announcement of bill C-49.  I see it at best as a well-intentioned effort to state that skilled worker immigration is ok, but boat people are not, smuggled people may be terrorists and/or associate with criminals.

This overly simplistic message will inevitably be exploited by right-wing think tanks and more unsavoury groups in Canada.  It will also be echoed by those skilled immigrants, established in Canada, socially conservative, who are ignorant of, or willfully blind to the more oppressive aspects of their former home.

A more nuanced approach would have been to cite other reasons for migration other than asylum or economic motivations.  One reason for cracking down on boat people could be potential environmental disasters resulting from climate change.  However, if there were an environmental catastrophe, such as the forced migration of 50 million in the next five years, according to a U.N. report, the smuggling of boat people would be taken over from the few snakeheads and transformed into something on a grander scale such as inter-state conflict resulting from environmental disaster.

If the scenario described above was cited, a broader base of people would be receptive to these controversial measures. I see the proposed one year mandatory detention surviving all of the debate and proving useful if and when a huge environmental catastrophe and/or war breaks out.

Remarks by the Honourable Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety, Marine Base, Unit 3, 100 Annacis Parkway, Vancouver, BC, October 21, 2010:

Thank you.  Good morning and thank you all for joining us for this important announcement here on the Lower Mainland in front of the illegal migrant vessel, the Ocean Lady.  I am pleased to be here with my colleagues, the Honourable Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and the Honourable Stockwell Day, President of the Treasury Board and of course the regional Minister for British Columbia. (This is a somewhat big announcement, but not so big as to require the Prime Minister to be present.)

Ladies and gentlemen, on Tuesday Prime Minister Harper addressed a number of new Canadians at a citizenship ceremony in Ottawa, welcoming these newcomers into the Canadian family.  I know that Ministers Kenney and Day and myself as well as many other members of the Harper government have done the same at countless other citizenship ceremonies over the last several years. (Stephen Harper likes immigrants. We like them too.  We even attend photo ops with immigrants.)

Canada welcomes thousands of new immigrants and refugees every year through one of the most generous and fair refugee systems in the world. This is a source of pride for our government and a reflection of the generosity of our nation. (Some Canadians also like immigrants. Canadians have an immigration program that accepts a lot of immigrants).

Minister Kenney has recently met with our international partners about the benefits of increased immigration to Canada.  I understand that they discussed ways our nations can work together to combat immigration fraud and crack down on immigration related crimes.  One such criminal activity, human smuggling, was a major topic of discussions in his meetings in France and Australia. (We met with people in France and Australia which have similar problems.  We also talked to people in other countries like India, but we don’t want to mention that).

Minister Kenney has kindly agreed to briefly talk about these efforts and some of the other ways our government is working to improve Canada’s immigration and refugee systems.  We will hear from him in a few minutes but first in August Canadians were given a sober reminder that our country is not immune from organized criminal groups intent on making a profit from human smuggling. (Recently, Canada was the destination of human smuggling.)

The illegal arrival of the vessel MV Sun Sea came less than one year after the illegal arrival of the Ocean Lady, which as I mentioned is here behind us.  The fact that these two vessels reached our shores in less than 12 months clearly demonstrates that human smuggling networks are targeting Canada as a destination and that they believe our generous immigration system can be exploited for profit. (Human smuggling into Canada has happened before.)

Even more recently, in the port of Montreal a sea container was uncovered containing yet more individuals who had participated in a dangerous and illegal human smuggling operation in order to enter Canada.  So in addition to knowing that Canada is a target destination for human smugglers, what else do we know?  We know that human smuggling is a despicable crime that recklessly endangers human lives.  (Human smuggling is bad, but don’t think about the victims who fled persecution with the assistance of a human smuggler.  Human smuggling is without exception, BAD).

We know that jumping the immigration queue is fundamentally unfair to those who follow the rules and wait their turn to come to Canada.  We know that abusing Canada’s generosity for criminal financial gain is utterly unacceptable. (The smuggled persons are motivated to come to Canada for the same official reason as skilled workers: for economic reasons only, except they want to enter Canada faster than the regular skilled workersWe don’t want to acknowledge that some of them may have been persecuted.)

The bottom line is this.  As the Prime Minister recently stated, Canada welcomes and will continue to welcome those who wait their turn to come to Canada in search of a better life.  Such brave and industrious people from around the world have enriched the wealth and culture of our great nation for hundreds of years.  Yes, Canada is a welcoming nation but our government has clearly stated that we will not tolerate the abuse of our immigration system either by human smugglers or by those who are unwilling to play by the rules. (Canada has, and always will like productive, good economic immigrants but not ones who arrive on boats for no good reason, with help from smugglers.)

That is why today our government introduced Bill C49, the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act.  Through this Act our government is cracking down on those criminals who would abuse our generous immigration system and endanger the safety and security of Canadian communities. (Our new bill makes no clear distinction between victims of persecution who arrive on boats or the people who smuggle them; they are all bad for Canada.)

We are providing a strong deterrent for those who are considering using human smuggling operations to jump the queue into Canada.  We are ensuring the integrity and fairness of Canada’s immigration system for years to come.  Under the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act our government is enabling the Minister of Public Safety to declare the existence of a human smuggling event and make those involved subject to the Act’s measures.  (Smuggled people are economic migrants who don’t want to apply for immigration outside of Canada, and this bill will identify them as such.)

It makes it easier to prosecute human smugglers.  It imposes mandatory minimum prison sentences on convicted human smugglers and it holds ship owners and operators to account for use of their ships in human smuggling operations.  Our government is also taking action to ensure the safety and security of our streets and communities by establishing the mandatory detention of participants in human smuggling events for up to one year to allow for the determination of the identity of these individuals, their inadmissibility and their illegal activity. (This bill also proposes changes to laws other than refugee law.  By the way, all people in a ‘smuggling event’ are dangerous so it’s okay to detain them for one year.)

Under the Act our government is also reducing the attraction of coming to Canada by way of an illegal human smuggling operations [sic].  These include measures like preventing those who come to Canada as part of a human smuggling event from applying for permanent resident status for a period of five years, including those that successfully obtain refugee status.  Ensuring the health benefits that participants receive are not more generous than those received by the Canadian public. (We’re hoping the word will be out to potential boat people and smugglers that they’ll be in limbo in Canada for five years even if they were found to be persecuted by a Canadian Refugee judge).

We are enhancing the ability to terminate refugee applications of those who return to their country of origin for a vacation or demonstrate in other ways that they are not legitimately in need of Canada’s protection.  It will prevent individuals who participate in human smuggling events from sponsoring family members for a period of five years. (The five years of keeping refugees in limbo means we’ll be able to take away their refugee status and deport them if we want to.)

In addition, our government is also appointing a special advisor on human smuggling and illegal migration, Mr. Ward Alcock, a special advisor who will coordinate a whole of government response to human smuggling. This is a broad and wide ranging approach to combating human smuggling containing measures to firmly and decisively deal with those who consider testing Canada’s resolve on this matter. (We want to spend big government money on this).

Are these measures tough?  Yes undoubtedly, because in order to make human smugglers and fraudsters think twice they have to be.  But they are also fair, fair to those who legitimately and legally wait or have waited in line for a better life in Canada and fair for all Canadians who rightfully expect that our borders and shores are protected and secure and our generous systems are protected from abuse.  To those who want to jump the queue or to target Canada for criminal gain, the measures have a message and it is clear and direct.  Canada will not tolerate human smuggling. (We like immigrants who come as skilled workers and have done well in Canada.  We already let a good amount of those immigrants into Canada.  Smuggled people use criminals to come to Canada.  Criminals are bad).

If you want to come here, there are fair, legal and legitimate means to do so.  Ladies and gentlemen, these measures will enhance our ability to crack down on those who engage in human smuggling and try to exploit Canada’s generous immigration system.  It will strengthen our ability to protect Canadians from criminal or terrorist threats and they respect our international obligations to provide assistance for those legitimate refugees who need our protection and help to start a new and better life.  (We have a skilled worker program for immigration to Canada. Smuggled people associate with criminals and terrorists.  We prefer refugee claimants to arrive in Canada by plane.)

From coast to coast to coast Canadians want to help those in need or those who genuinely need our protection but that does not make us naïve and it does not make us pushovers.  Canadians want tough but fair measures to stop those who would abuse our generosity from becoming part of Canadian society. (Canadians are nice and have been taken advantage of, and these proposed laws are fair.)

We know that threats exist and that we must remain vigilant.  That is why our government is taking action.  That is why our government has taken the steps it has taken today.  This is what we are going to do in the future.  Thank you and thank you once again for coming. (Unlike those other political parties, we’re tough on crime.)


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