Ter­mi­nol­ogy aside, cross­ings a prob­lem

The Beacon Herald - - OPINION -

The word from Ot­tawa is that we’re no longer sup­posed to re­fer to il­le­gal bor­der crossers as “il­le­gal” bor­der crossers. Thanks, but no thanks. Our word choice works just fine.

On Mon­day, fed­eral Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Ahmed Hussen chas­tised On­tario Pre­mier Doug Ford and his col­leagues for us­ing the term.

“I’m very con­cerned by Pre­mier Ford and (provin­cial) min­is­ter (Lisa) MacLeod re­ally mak­ing state­ments that are dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand when it comes to how they’re de­scrib­ing asy­lum seek­ers,” Hussen said to re­porters in Hal­i­fax.

“These are peo­ple who we have a le­gal obli­ga­tion to give a fair hear­ing to, and so we’re ap­ply­ing Cana­dian law, we’re ap­ply­ing in­ter­na­tional law and that re­quires all lev­els of govern­ment to work to­gether.”

These words were echoed in a press re­lease sent out to the me­dia by the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Refugee Lawyers.

They claim as­sign­ing the phrase “il­le­gal” to any asy­lum claimants in Canada is in­ac­cu­rate and that “the pe­jo­ra­tive con­no­ta­tion as­so­ci­ated with the term ‘il­le­gal’ im­plies these claimants are do­ing some­thing they should not or get­ting away with crimes.”

Here’s the prob­lem in all of this: Those who cross the bor­der il­le­gally are do­ing some­thing they shouldn’t be do­ing, and it’s a crime.

Canada hears all asy­lum claims, even those who cross into Canada through il­le­gal means. That’s where they get a fair hear­ing. Canada is sig­na­tory to a United Na­tions Refugee Con­ven­tion that al­lows for just that.

Le­git­i­mate refugees flee­ing war and per­se­cu­tion are screened from those who may wish to move to Canada for a bet­ter life, and po­ten­tially crim­i­nals and ter­ror­ists.

We have one hear­ing process for refugees, and an­other for im­mi­gra­tion where those who want to em­i­grate here must un­dergo a rig­or­ous ap­pli­ca­tion process.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau a year ago, af­ter cre­at­ing the bor­der cri­sis with his “#Wel­comeToCanada” tweet, was even­tu­ally forced to make that dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion.

“For some­one to suc­cess­fully seek asy­lum it’s not about eco­nomic mi­gra­tion,” Trudeau told re­porters. “It’s about vul­ner­a­bil­ity, ex­po­sure to tor­ture or death, or be­ing state­less peo­ple.”

Those who show up at our bor­ders do have tragic and com­pelling sto­ries. But let’s not kid our­selves all are refugees.

Po­lit­i­cally cor­rect hec­tor­ing about ter­mi­nol­ogy dis­tracts from the broader is­sue: That il­le­gal bor­der cross­ings are un­der­min­ing our im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem.

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