Canadian Immigration in the Year Ahead
Canadian immigration policy will likely come under considerable scrutiny in 2011. Most political pundits predict that Canadians will be going to the polls next spring to elect a national government and if that happens Canada’s approach towards immigration is certain to come up for debate.
There are at least two major immigration items that political parties will have to take a position on and it will be interesting to see which party’s banner voters line up behind. In fact, the electioneering has already begun.
The first point of contention is a piece of legislation recently introduced by the current Conservative government entitled “Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System”. While nobody argues with the title’s intention, the opposition parties have announced that they will not support the proposed law in its present form. The Liberals have stated that the legislation “isn’t tough enough on smugglers and instead targets their victims”. They have a point here as the law would permit Canadian immigration authorities to detain genuine asylum seeking men, women and children for up to a year. Truth be told, there is very little likelihood that the new law, if passed, would survive a court challenge because it does seem to contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Conservatives, of course, know this but will probably continue to push the bill forward because it is consistent with the “tough on crime” message that resonates so well among their political base.
The second controversial issue pertaining to immigration involves a recently leaked memo indicating that the Canadian and U.S. administrations are on the verge of signing an agreement to put in place a North American security perimeter. Most everyone would agree that, in theory, a deal to strengthen continental security while easing the flow of goods and people within the perimeter is a positive objective. However, in exchange for a promised thinner border Canadians will want to know the cost in the terms of sovereignty, privacy and immigration policy. The deal so far is light on the details. The possibility of Canada giving up sovereignty to the U.S. in a secretly negotiated border security deal has opposition parties wary and we can expect to hear a lot more on this topic in the coming weeks and months.
The one thing that I would hope for is that the arguments for and against the political positions taken by each party be made in a civilized manner. There are, however, a lot of strong feelings associated with immigration and given the rhetoric of election campaigns, civil debate is probably too much to ask for. So for now, in the lull before the storm, I take this opportunity to wish all of you a warm and happy holiday season and a healthy new year.