Friday, September 4, 2009

a missed opportunity for both Canada and South Africa

As an update to yesterday's post, I note that Ottawa has decided to appeal the IRB decision. This effectively says that the Canadian official who made the decision does not speak for Canada.

As I noted yesterday, this is likely the correct move when one limits the issue to the merits of this particular man's claim. But just as some South African commentators have described the incident as "a missed opportunity" for their government to acknowledge the concerns of white South Africans, the Canadian government could have set the stage for a more rational refugee policy going forward by snubbing the charges of Canadian malfeasance levelled by South Africa's ruling African National Congress. Under a sensible refugee policy, we simply would not entertain refugee claims from safe countries like members of the European Union. Because we DO entertain any and all claims with a formal hearing and legal rights to appeal, the Canadian government attempted to deal with a (resultant) surge in claims from Mexico and the Czech Republic that was overloading the bureaucracy by adding to (another area of) the bureaucracy in the form of requiring visas, and the associated processing costs, from all Mexicans and Czechs entering Canada for any reason. This latest episode was unsurprisingly just a repeat of the events back in the 90s that led to visa fees being imposed on Chilean visitors to Canada (and, in Chilean retaliation, on Canadian visitors to Chile). Why doesn't Canada have a "safe country" list? Because countries NOT on the list would complain, and at work here is the indulgent collegiality amongst national governments that is a product of a common enemy called domestic challenges to their moral or legal authority. So it is that they satisfy the demands coming from those of their peers who are unhappy that their subjects are exhibiting public interest in escaping from their regimes. To make a not unrelated observation here, the Obama government is now saying that with respect to Honduras it will further turn the financial screws against Zelaya's enemies (that is to say, Hondurans) and will "not support" "the outcome of scheduled elections in November" regardless of whether such elections were fairly and transparently administered sans Zelaya. If Zelaya could be overthrown and elections held because Zelaya contemptuously swung well left of the mandate that was granted to him by his electorate and that was sanctioned by his country's institutions, perhaps the same thing could happen to other powers that be!

Canada admits too many refugees period (50% of all applicants, the highest rate in the world according to a Forbes writer, while Italy admits 16% and France 13%), but a fair place to start in terms of cutting down on the cost to the taxpayer and the abuse of the system would be by summarily rejecting refugee pleas from citizens of safe countries and ignoring the howls of outrage coming from foreign leaders who insist that they ought to be on the safe country list as well because their benevolent government has precluded the possibility of anyone being persecuted in their jurisdiction. Ottawa, in other words, should generally do the exact opposite of what it did in this particular case which was to essentially apologize for a Canadian bureaucrat making the ANC look like the dodgy government it is. Parliament should then go one better and make the most substantive reform: pass a bill citing the notwithstanding clause to assert its discretionary authority over the unelected judiciary with respect to the Supreme Court's ill-advised 1980s decision to grant full Charter rights to every non-citizen who happened to get a foot inside the border.

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