Canada's Immigration and Refugee Policy
Surrey, Vancouver, Oct. 17, 2010
Balwant Sanghera President,
Punjabi Language Education
Since the arrival of the latest boatload of Tamil refugees, Canadas immigration and refugee policy has again become a hot topic. Terms like human smuggling,
asylum seekers, jumping the queue, etc have been thrown around. This latest development has prompted the formation of a lobby group, which calls itself Centre for Immigration Policy Reform. It has some very high profile people as its members. These include two former diplomats-James Bissett and Martin Collacott- and Derek Burney, chief of staff to former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and former Canadian Ambassador to Washington. This lobby group would like to have an open dialogue on Canadas immigration and refugee policy.
Canada is well known and respected around the globe for its policy of inclusion, openness and compassion. Immigrants built this country. As such, immigration is an integral part of Canadian history and culture.
However, unfortunately, some unscrupulous elements do abuse our generosity.
There is no doubt that in view of some of the recent developments, our immigration and refugee policy needs to be stremlined. Consequently, a nationwide dialogue on this issue will be quite appropriate. In the post 9/11 era, Canadian security must also be taken into consideration. As such, we need to be more careful about the people who want to call Canada their home.
In this context, our refugee determination system needs a major review. We must put more effective mechanism in place to distinguish between bogus and genuine refugees. Perhaps we should work with the United Nations in pre selecting genuine refugees who are in dire need of a safe haven like Canada. Also, there may be some other extenuating circumstances when we may have to provide asylum to those in need. What is needed is an efficient and fair process. We need to speed up the process so that the decisions can be made within months rather than years.
Also, we need to streamline the appeal process.
This should discourage phony refugees to use/abuse the system for years at end. Once a person is deemed to be a genuine refugee he/she should me welcomed. However, those who dont make the cut should be shown the door immediately.
It is rather unfortunate that some high profile individuals are using this occasion to bash Canadas immigration and refugee policy. They would rather stop all immigration, which will be a disaster. Let us not forget that a large number of former and recent immigrants and refugees have made Canada proud. The names of Adrian Clarkson and Michale Jean come to mind.
Both of these distinguished Canadians came as refugees with their families. Similarly, there are a number of other distinguished Canadians who came either as immigrants or refugees who have made their mark not only in Canada but also at the international level.
In view of this, to consider stopping immigrants and refugees from coming to Canada will be like throwing the baby with the bath water. Certainly, a review or reform is overdue and needed. However, on the whole, Canadians can be proud of our policy of inclusion and compassion. This is what makes Canada a great
role model for others.
(Richmond resident Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and
Community Activist. He is a recipient of the Order of British Columbia and one
of Top 25 Canadian Immigrants for 2010))