Canada’s Immigration Policy Does Not Come as Advertised

Canada’s strong voice on immigration has both positive and negative implications

Canadian immigration has been the subject of a lot of attention, especially in contrast to bigoted rhetoric and shameful behavior of the Trump administration.

Canada easily comes across as a more welcoming and more functional multicultural society in comparison to the United States.

In an era where Western politics are becoming ever more divided between those who favor an open society and those who favor a closed one, the Canadian government has opted to back an openorientation.

During the 2015 federal election campaign, the Liberal party promised it would offer refuge to 25,000 Syrians, upon winning government. It did so – and more. Canada has received almost 50,000 Syrian refugees over just two years, a notable humanitarian accomplishment in such a polarized climate where public opinion is more vocally xenophobic, even in Canada.

Viewed cynically, there is a line of thinking that would accuse Trudeau and the Liberals of taking advantage of the refugee crisis to appeal to voters at home and boost Canada’s image abroad. Others would say opening our borders to just 50,000 is far too low for a rich country with a historical capacity to introduce newcomers.

The Syrians have not been welcomed seamlessly; there have been various procedural glitches, as should be expected. As it stands, there does not appear to have been any significant lashing out against the wave of Syrian newcomers. Kellie Leitch, the Conservative leadership candidate most akin to running a platform of Trumpism, was handily defeated in an extensive field of aspirants.

The most identifiable issue in Canadian immigration policy today has nothing to do with Syrian refugees, but Haitian asylum seekers. Over the summer, thousands of Haitians living in Florida made the journey north to illegally enter Canada, in search of refugee status.

One might argue the exodus was spurned on by Canada’s self-congratulatory rhetoric on our welcoming of immigrants.

In fact, Haitians were drawn to enter Canada at the behest of fake WhatsApp notifications, advertising Canada as a final destination for Haitians living in Florida without U.S. citizenship.

In August, Mr. Trudeau dispatched one of his MPs to Miami to alert Haitian communities that their search for refuge in Canada would ultimately be met with deportation: “If they come irregularly to Canada, the risk is they are going to go back, in about six months, a year, a year-and-a-half, they are going to go back to their country. And if after a few days, let’s say 30 days, they don’t go back by themselves, we are going to deport them and if we deport them, the door is completely closed for them and their family.”

When an individual or a family applies for refugee status, in order to be accepted, the applicant cannot simply be looking for a better economic life than was offered in their home state. Refuge is offered on the condition that the applicant’s state is no longer in a position to protect its citizens. The Canadian government does not consider Haiti unable to protect its citizens.

The problem is not that Canada should welcome these immigrants without vetting, it is embedded in Canada’s current rhetoric and voice on immigration. Canada’s immigration policy has not undergone a significant overhaul since the previous government. Thousands of Syrian refugees were accepted, but that was an exception to the existing policy. In broadcasting a highly embellished version of immigration policy, when Canada has not actually expanded the policy to accommodate more refugees is unfair. It gives unfounded hope to asylum seekers around the world who will apply for refuge in Canada and be rejected. It also provides the impetus for scams such as those that brought thousands of Haitians to Canadian borders. It would be advisable to tone down the rhetoric so as not to disillusion more people.

Mark Townsend