September 20, 1999
Reexamining The System - THE COMMENTARY
By Joseph Planta
This piece is a reexamination of the situation this summer when our coastline was the subject of scrutiny, because of a number of ships spotted near Canadian shores. I first looked at this issue during the last week of July and took the position that these individuals, on the first boat, should have been sent back the moment they landed in Canadian waters. I was then made aware of certain provisions in our law, and thus in the 3rd week of August reneged on my previous opinion and took the stance, that these individuals had to be given a fair hearing in front of our refuge process. Not only is that the law, but it is also the right thing to do.
Many people, feel, and Iím saying people of every political stripe and every nationality, that these individuals are straining our system and overstaying our welcome, by taking advantage of our system and jumping the queue. That argument isnít a fair one, simply because we as Canada subscribe to The United Nations charter on refugees. Where it says, as a member, we must be willing to provide refuge for those who seek it, of course those who are eligible. Now, when people retreat to the den of complacency and prejudice, by saying we should throw these people out, they are doing a disservice to the laws of the land. I hardly think anyone who doesnít want other people jumping the queue, because it isnít fair, and at the same time wants them thrown out because of that, they have utterly no regard for the rule of law.
It is also very easy to assume that these people are involved in, or will get involved with illegal activity. I think that, as well as the argument that itís costing our system a lot, are simply two arguments of convenience. Iím sure if I took a poll of British Columbians, or Canadians in general, for that matter, theyíd want these Chinese migrants thrown out. But, the arguments of convenience are dead wrong. To assume these individuals are to go into illegal activity, is to assume that anyone who is bald is a member of a Neo-Nazi organization. To say that these individuals are costing precious resources, is wrong, because they arenít. It cost a hell of a lot more to do Mr. Chretienís recent cabinet shuffle or his appointments to the Senate, than it cost to sort through these migrants.
People who say, the Chinese that came on our shores over the past two months should be thrown out immediately, for reasons like, they are or will tax the system, or that they are sympathizing or participating in illegal activity, are oblivious to the real issue at hand. People like John Reynolds, Reform Party MP or Jeremy Dalton of the BC Liberals who say these people are criminals are also dead wrong. Not only is it wrong to make such an accusation, it is wrong to brand people before a proper investigation has taken place. For that, Iím truly ashamed to be Canadian. We canít do anything, but complain and harp about these migrants already here or those who may or may not come, until the laws of this land change.
I am of the personal opinion that people seeking refuge in our country should do so in means other than sailing on decrepit ships. The disdain of such individuals who have such ignorant biases, will not be satisfied until the rule of law is changed in this country. We have laws in place, that say we are obligated to give these people a fair and just hearing. Let that happen, and if our lawmakers will decide, let them change the law. Until then, put this damned news story to rest.
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