Canada's border control system is working
Conservative politicians have been peddling false information to stoke fear when it comes to those seeking asylum in Canada. It is time for the misleading, divisive, and dangerous political rhetoric to end, and to set the record straight.
The fact is that Canada has a strict and efficient immigration and border-control system — one that ensures both compassion for people seeking refuge and protects the safety of Canadians.
The Conservative charge that the recent flow of asylum seekers into Canada began after a tweet by the prime minister is not only false, it’s ridiculous. Governments around the world are facing significant challenges in dealing with a dramatic global increase in refugees, and Canada is not immune to this challenge. 2017 was a record year, with more than 68 million people displaced globally. This has been the trend for a decade, yet Stephen Harper’s Conservatives still chose to cut $390 million in border funding.
Our government has since reinvested in border operations to address increased flows, ensure that everyone is submitted to a thorough security check upon entry and that claims are processed as quickly as possible.
Let me be clear: those who do not qualify for Canada’s protection are not allowed to stay. We’ve been clear about this in our outreach, both at home and abroad. For more than a year now members of our government, from the prime minister on down, have been bluntly reminding people that the asylum system is not a free ticket to Canada.
Attempts by Conservative politicians to distort and mislead on this point are irresponsible. Like they did during the last federal campaign, they are playing to the politics of fear.
Despite Conservative rhetoric, seeking asylum isn’t illegal — in fact it’s a human right long enshrined in international law. Refugees aren’t criminals. And xenophobic language suggesting they are has no place in this country.
We created laws to protect the most vulnerable because we haven’t always gotten it right — in 1914 we sent back the steamship Komagata Maru, where many of the 350 South Asian refugees aboard were killed, or imprisoned. In 1939, we turned away the MS St. Louis, a boat with over 900 Jews from Germany. Many of whom died during the Holocaust.
Those are shameful incidents in our history — times when we failed to live up to the humanitarian values Canadians hold dear. And our government will fight to uphold these laws to protect the world’s most vulnerable.
We must always remember that people who are seeking asylum in Canada don’t want to leave their homes — they’re being forced to run. They’re people doing what any of us would do in their situation — they’re protecting their families by going someplace where they can be safe.
For decades, that safe place has been Canada. Most recently, Syrians fleeing the civil war in their home country have come here to be safe. Before them, it was Tamils fleeing the civil war in Sri Lanka. Before that, we welcomed the Vietnamese boat people who fled following the Vietnam War. And long before that, people fleeing the war in Europe.
All of these groups have made our country a better place. Today, they’re our neighbours, our friends, our coworkers, our doctors and our kids’ teachers. And they are some of the most thankful, patriotic and passionate Canadians you will ever meet.
I know this because I am one of them.
I was born in Somalia. I was just 16 years-old when I fled the country to escape the civil war. I arrived here alone — but Canadians opened their hearts and their home to me. Twenty-three years later I was elected by the people of York South-Weston. A little over a year later, I became Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
That’s all because our country has immigration and refugee laws that offer hope to good people who are doing what any of us would do in their circumstances: finding a safe haven for their families. At the same time, we are strictly, firmly and fairly enforcing the clear rules by which those laws are upheld.
Our government will continue to manage this situation with compassion, respect for the rule of law, and common sense.
Ahmed Hussen is the Liberal MP for Your South-Weston and the minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.