Heather Mallick: Liberal government: peaceful, good and above all orderly
This huge country welcomes immigrants. We need them to keep Canada young and we know that. But Ottawa’s new moves to strengthen laws that inadvertently allowed “asylum shopping” are welcome.
Canada is finally catching up to the global speed of change, as our southern neighbour, governed by primitives, is not. Around the world, climate change brings fire, flood, drought, crop failure, painful cold, intolerable heat, and violent storms, all of which are making millions flee to safety. But where?
Canada’s motto is “peace, order and good government.” A good government does something individuals can’t do. It prepares for chaos. Should the Conservatives win election by courting climate ignorance and spite — they’ve already used images of dark-skinned migrants to implant racism — they will kill carbon pricing and huddle in the basement, far from the wind and the rain. They will freeze out refugees fleeing war. They will weaponize quiet racism and make us more American, just as Doug Ford is trying to do. Will they succeed?
Meanwhile, Ottawa is changing building codes so homes can better withstand that wind, that rain. It means better-designed buildings, tougher roofs, triple-pane windows, basement backflow preventers, a friendlier concrete mix, and yes, carbon pricing for a shaky future.
And it means creating a path for legal migration and a fair hearing for migrants who appear to be a profitable Conservative racism flashpoint, or so Andrew Scheer thinks, standing with yellow vesters on Parliament Hill.
The scenes at the Canada-U. S. border were unsettling. Thousands of people crossing along dirt paths through the trees? It seemed muddled and unplanned-for, and it was.
As months passed — more than 40,000 people have made the trek since 2017 — it looked as if “order” was being smudged and we don’t like that. Canada is a rule-of-law country, as Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says. We are organized. We collectively agree to stay that way.
There was nowhere to house the irregular migrants and not enough judges to cope with the casework amid the existing backlog. Ottawa gave out little information and the media was unable to give Canadians a portrait of who they were and what particular hell they were fleeing. Troublingly, they were resented by some new Canadians who arrived by traditional means. Racism starts with brush fires like that.
The new hopefuls were unable to make a public case for themselves and the secrecy didn’t help. It was unsettling to see them deliberately misusing a kindly 1985 law that hadn’t dreamed of global chaos and now seems as dated as swag curtains.
Under the new plan, asylum seekers at unauthorized crossings instead of official border points will get a speedy hearing with an immigration official rather than a lengthy process before an independent tribunal.
The new rules won’t let them make a refugee claim here if they made similar claims in other countries. But only a small minority fit into that category. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says many of the others had valid U.S. visas.
Why had they not travelled directly to Canada where a full independent refugee hearing was guaranteed?
According to the Globe and Mail, the new rules will also mean that claimants arriving from an information-sharing Five Eyes country, which includes Britain and the U.S., will not get any hearing. Talks with U.S. officials about border rules continue.
Another change: Canada is going to track travellers leaving the country, not just those arriving. It means snowbirds and permanent residents fiddling with the rules, people outstaying visas, deportees, and criminals can be tracked more easily.
It’s an attempt to cope with an unpredictable world in orderly fashion, prepared for anything from wildfires to terrorist attacks. Immigration rules, infrastructure repair and data-gathering are necessary in a dangerous world made more frantic by Trump.
If I could sum these government plan-ahead efforts in one object, it would be the backflow preventer, a plumbing device to prevent a lake in your basement. This sensible metal device — its pipes and nozzles make it look like drug paraphernalia — will save you from stormwater catastrophe.
It’s a climate change knick-knack. Ottawa thinks every home should have one. Peace, plumbing and good government, that works too.
Heather Mallick is a columnist based in Toronto covering current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @HeatherMallick