His­tory should teach, not lec­ture

Calgary Herald - - CANADA - John IvI­son jivi­[email protected]­tion­al­post.com Twit­ter.com/Ivi­sonJ

Justin Trudeau’s in­ces­sant con­tri­tion has been tire­some but, to this point, rel­a­tively be­nign.

If you are a gay man or wo­man drummed out of the pub­lic ser­vice, the de­scen­dant of Sikhs turned away on the Ko­ma­gata Maru, a sur­vivor of New­found­land’s res­i­den­tial schools or a mem­ber of the Tsil­hqot’in First Na­tion, which saw six of its chiefs hanged in 1864, the prime min­is­ter’s ren­der­ing of a tear-stained for­mal apol­ogy may have of­fered some com­fort.

But with news the gov­ern­ment will for­mally apol­o­gize for Canada’s 1939 de­ci­sion to turn away the MS St. Louis, a ship car­ry­ing 907 German Jews flee­ing the Nazi regime, Trudeau has gone be­yond merely apol­o­giz­ing for things that hap­pened long be­fore he was born.

This par­tic­u­lar apol­ogy is be­ing used to jus­tify and ex­on­er­ate cur­rent (fail­ing) gov­ern­ment pol­icy on mi­grants cross­ing into Canada from the U.S.

Omar Al­ghabra, the par­lia­men­tary sec­re­tary to the trade min­is­ter, tweeted that Canada must rec­on­cile its pro­mo­tion of hu­man rights glob­ally with mis­takes made at home. “We turned away asy­lum seek­ers with­out giv­ing them due process and dig­nity. We must learn from our his­tory.”

The tweet pro­voked a storm from peo­ple ac­cus­ing him of mak­ing a di­rect his­tor­i­cal com­par­i­son be­tween the Holo­caust and the fate fac­ing to­day’s “ir­reg­u­lar” mi­grants.

Al­ghabra de­nied he was equat­ing the two but his in­sis­tence that “those who don’t learn from his­tory are doomed to re­peat it” sug­gests he sees par­al­lels.

Leav­ing aside the propen­sity of this gov­ern­ment to use se­rial self­flag­el­la­tion as an in­stru­ment of po­lit­i­cal im­age-man­age­ment, this par­tic­u­lar of­fer­ing of re­morse is de­signed to ex­ploit a tragic moral fail­ure by a previous gov­ern­ment to bol­ster support for the ap­palling managerial short­com­ings of this one.

Al­ghabra is, of course, cor­rect that asy­lum seek­ers are pro­tected by the Char­ter. Due process is not a choice.

But nei­ther should it be in­def­i­nite and this gov­ern­ment has made a com­plete mess of man­ag­ing a refugee sys­tem that is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a surge of claimants it is not equipped to man­age.

The Lib­er­als have to take some ac­tion to close the loop­hole in the Safe Third Coun­try Agree­ment that al­lows claims to be made by peo­ple who would be oth­er­wise in­el­i­gi­ble.

But, be­yond the bor­der, the Lib­er­als have made changes that have put pres­sure on the sys­tem.

Visa re­quire­ments for Mex­i­cans and Czechs, im­posed be­cause of con­cerns about bo­gus claims, were lifted.

Since 2013, the num­ber of claimants has quadru­pled and the back­log more than dou­bled, as floods of Haitians and Nige­ri­ans were at­tracted by word that Canada was an easy touch.

The au­thor of an in­de­pen­dent re­view of the sys­tem, former se­nior pub­lic ser­vant Neil Yeates, talked about a “fail­ure of fi­nal­ity” that cre­ated a “pull” fac­tor for asy­lum seek­ers.

A sys­tem with op­er­at­ing funds to han­dle 22,500 refugee claims an­nu­ally is now be­ing asked to process more than twice that num­ber.

At the same time, the num­ber of failed claimants re­turned to their coun­try of ori­gin has fallen by three quar­ters (in 2012-13, 14,490 were re­moved; in 2016-17 that num­ber was just 3,892).

The Toronto Star re­ported Mon­day that only 398 of 32,173 peo­ple who crossed the U.S. bor­der il­le­gally have been de­ported since April 2017.

Most are still wait­ing for their asy­lum claims to be heard. Of the 398 failed refugee claimants, 146 were sent back to the U.S., where 116 have cit­i­zen­ship.

A Global News story about the back­sto­ries of Nige­rian claimants in Mon­treal il­lus­trates why link­ing the St. Louis to the cur­rent mi­grant story is un­con­scionable, par­tic­u­larly if the in­tent is to ma­nip­u­late sym­pa­thy for the 254 peo­ple who ended up be­ing killed.

Global quoted “David” (not his real name), a 74-year-old who has been wait­ing eight years to set­tle his sta­tus in Canada and who wants to bring over his wife and six chil­dren. In the mean­time, he is on gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance.

The re­porter also spoke to “Eric,” who ar­rived in Fe­bru­ary.

He com­plained about herds­men from the north of the coun­try who threat­ened south­ern farm­ers, some­times mur­der­ing them.

That might have been the ba­sis for a de­cent refugee claim but the story re­vealed that Eric, who ar­rived with his wife and two kids, is in fact not a south­ern farmer but a banker who re­ceived his mas­ter’s de­gree in Bri­tain.

A rea­son­able can­di­date for an or­dered im­mi­gra­tion ap­pli­ca­tion he may be; a gen­uine refugee he patently is not.

To sug­gest that all asy­lum seek­ers are in the same dis­mal boat as those who sailed aboard the MS St. Louis is de­lib­er­ately mis­lead­ing.

The de­bate about whether it should be the pur­pose of the gov­ern­ment to right the past will con­tinue.

But there should be no ar­gu­ment about the use of those apolo­gies to fur­ther the gov­ern­ment’s agenda.


A tweet by the par­lia­men­tary sec­re­tary to the trade min­is­ter has been crit­i­cized for its as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween cur­rent asy­lum seek­ers and Canada’s de­ci­sion to turn away a boat full of Jewish refugees flee­ing the Nazis in 1939.


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