Op-Ed: Despite Ministers' claims, Canada's Bill C-49 likely toast

Posted Dec 21, 2010 by Hans Smedbol
Canada's anti-smuggling bill appears to be doomed after the Liberal leader joined the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois in stating that they would oppose the passage of the bill because it is unconstitutional, illegal and against Canadian values.
a typical citizenship ceremony after you ve jumped all the Canadian government hurdles; but don t th...
a typical citizenship ceremony after you've jumped all the Canadian government hurdles; but don't think you can bring your mother any time soon.
Recently as reported in the British journal, The Independent, a small ship carrying Iraqi and Iranian refugee claimants broke up on the rocky fangs of Christmas Island, a small promontory in the depths of the Great South Sea, and belonging to Australia. Many desperate people were drowned in the ensuing debacle, as giant waves crashed unremittingly down upon the breaking ship and her suffering cargo. Rescue attempts managed to bring many to shore, but still it was a disaster for those poor people on the boat.
Our Public Safety Minister and Immigration Minister as was recounted in Victoria's TimesColonist Newspaper, lost no time in putting out their messages to the world about this occurrence. Did they express condolences to the survivors and to their family members for the loss of these refugee claimants on the rocky shores of Christmas Island? If they did, I didn't hear them. Instead they reiterated their same old tired refrain about their best pal, Bill C-49, the one aimed at preventing disasters like this from happening, by increasing penalties on refugees for their temerity in attempting to come here. Supposedly ships like this would be prevented from launching by determined members of Canada's High Commission or the consular staff,who would be preventing refugee claimants from leaving the shores of Thailand, Indonesia, or wherever they might be gathering for the rush to our country. And if you believe this will work, I've got a nice slightly antique bridge in Vancouver, the Lion's Gate Bridge, for sale.
It was very interesting that the only comments made by the Ministers of the Federal Government were the same old tired inflammatory propaganda, which had worked so well before to rouse the sleeping beast of Canadian public opinion to red hot roars of rejection, and "sink the boat", and....I guess for these politicians, it's a purely pragmatic vote getting stint, say what you know the ignorant bigoted Canadian peasants want to hear, namely that you're being tough on crime, tough on smugglers, tough on refugee claimants (especially if they're brown, or came in a group on a ship openly). That should get them a few votes in the next election. But unlike the image that they are trying to project about this Bill C-49, the truth is somewhat different; it is a vast legalised oppression, in the eyes of people committed to civil liberties and human rights, an oppression of the rights of refugees. Despite the government's assurances about this Bill, it is actually far more dangerous to our civil liberties, to our world wide reputation, and to our commitments to Refugees, which we undertook with the signing of the UN Convention on Refugees, than with which we might be comfortable..
On Tuesday Dec 1, 2010, the Calgary Herald and revealed, identically, that Michael Ignatieff and his Liberal Party(Liberal Press release ) of Canada would no longer support Bill C-49, which purports to crack down on human smugglers and traffickers, and yet in reality is aimed at the refugee claimants who arrive on Canada's shores every day. When perusing the Canadian Parliamentary Record, the Hansard, recently in reference to this Bill, this writer discovered much information that revealed the true duplicity and immorality of our current federal Government. The Conservative Government claims that this bill is aimed at smugglers, and yet there are only five sections in the bill dealing with smugglers, and twelve sections dealing with refugee claimants, and not in a good way.
Shortly after this announcement, I received an answer to my letters to various members of the shadow cabinets of the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party. Even before the announcement by the Liberals, that they would not support the bill as it is, I had received email from my local MP Alex Atamanenko, who stated that the NDP categorically opposed the bill because of its danger to the rights of refugees, and it's lack of teeth in addressing the smugglers. i have those letters saved in my emails for anyone to see if they want, but i didn't want to belabour this story with all the letters. The NDP leader, Jack Layton also kindly replied on December 3rd, and said the same thing as Alex A. did, as well as referring me to an official NDP press release of October 21, 2010, which stated that the NDP are opposed.
Before the announcement, Bob Rae had replied stating that the Liberals were in favour of the purported aims of the bill, although they had issues with details, the same details that annoy the NDP, and the Bloc, not to mention many Canadians, annoy most of them to the point that like the NDP and the Bloc, they now entirely oppose the bill.
After the formal announcement by the Liberal party, that they are opposed, I received a letter from Michael Ignatieff's office which now stated that they too were opposed to the Bill for the same reservations that the other two parties had expressed.
What were the Conservatives thinking when they introduced this immoral, and possibly illegal act, that they knew wouldn't pass the scrutiny of our court system, and that would have been challenged immediately by the law organisations representing immigrants and refugees. Were they hoping that the three opposition parties would oppose the bill, and then they could blame them for being "soft on smuggling", or were they hoping that the opposition parties would cave in to avoid an election.Then when the bill would be passed, the Courts would immediately reject it as unconstitutional and illegal, with the Conservatives now blaming the Courts for being "soft on smugglers". Whatever their plan was, they most certainly knew that this act would not fly, because it is against the law, and against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Nevertheless they drummed up widespread support of their immoral views and actions, through constant propagandising efforts, in which they lied openly about the status of the refugee claimants who had recently arrived in Canada, as well as libeling and slandering the reputations of the captains and crews of the ships who brought them. These propagandists claimed that the refugee claimants, such as the 500 or so Tamils who had recently arrived were "jumping the queue", when they know full well, that there is no queue for refugees. They show up, we register them and process them, in whatever order they show up, no matter how they show up.
It is also well known that refugees may not have the correct papers, for many good reasons including that their home government wouldn't give them any, or they were afraid to ask for some due to fear of imprisonment, torture and death. This lack of papers does not make a refugee a criminal as our "Public Safety" Minister, Mr. Toews appears to believe. Merely arriving on a ship with 500 other refugee claimants does not make one a criminal, jumping the queue either. These are all falsehoods perpetrated by a knowing and cynical government, a government, which cares nothing about morality, or legality, so long as they can get their way, and at least if they don't get their way, they'll get more votes for their popularly bigoted views.
To quote the efforts of two writers for the Toronto Star in regard to this issue:
Audrey Macklin Professor, University of Toronto, Faculty of Law and Centre for Ethics
Sean Rehaag Professor, York University, Osgoode Hall Law School and Centre for Refugee Studies
"On Tuesday (Dec 1) the Liberal party joined the NDP and the Bloc in declaring its intention to defeat Bill C-49, the government’s bill on human smuggling. The government insists it will put the bill to a vote anyway.
The decision of the opposition merits praise as a victory for democracy...
....The bill is unsalavageable The provisions that actually address smugglers are largely symbolic — it is tough to “get tough” on smuggling by creating new penalties when the penalty is already life imprisonment. The other main aspects of the bill are unlawful. Once severed, there is nothing left to salvage.
To their credit, the opposition parties’ refusal to support this bill displays no small degree of political courage in the face of the government’s relentless stoking of moral panic and campaign of misinformation.
There is something deeply cynical about a government introducing legislation it knows to be unlawful in order to manipulate the electorate. When we elect politicians to represent us, we trust them to respect the law and the institutions of government. Presenting a bill that is patently unconstitutional violates that trust and abuses the power we confer on government to legislate in our name. No amount of invective hurled against asylum seekers, no deliberate misleading of the public with the falsehood that refugees are “queue jumpers,” should distract from the fact that Bill C-49 is an exercise in public relations, an affront to the rule of law, and an insult to Canadians."
The Conservatives appear in this light, to have been grandstanding the whole time, manufacturing an issue, the refugee "problem", while claiming they're all terrorists, and the ships' captains and crews are smugglers, illegally bringing these "queue jumping" "illegal migrants", constantly raining down the abuse upon people who cannot defend themselves, while positioning themselves as champions of the Canadian populace, who they claimed were getting alarmed by all these "queue jumping" "illegal migrants". Thus they wrapped themselves in the Canadian Flag, claiming to be simply representing the wishes of their constituents, when in reality, they had lied and propagandised to those very constituents, fanning the flames of xenophobia, and exclusionism.
All in all this Conservative Government has a lot to answer for in the way of human rights and civil liberties, not to mention plain politeness. Compassion for others would be nice as well. But that would be way too much to ask.
I have said before, and I will say again, this Bill is bad; bad for refugees, bad for those who help them come here, bad for Canada's reputation among the nations, bad for each and every one of us because this bill dehumanises us all, while dehumanising the desperate people who arrive on our shores, in different ways, seeking an asylum from the tortures, imprisonment and death that they had faced in their home countries. Treating them as criminals simply won't do. Canada should be a leader among the nations when it comes to human rights, and rights of the downtrodden, including refugees, if only to live up to our own inflated image of ourselves as a great country.
To do otherwise is unthinkable.