Friday, April 27, 2012

Immigration changes are long overdue


LORNE GUNTER
FIRST POSTED: 

Two-thirds of refugee claimants who come to Canada ultimately have their applications turned down.
For claimants arriving from developed countries such as the U.S. and Europe — who some years make up nearly half of our claimants — the rejection rate is upwards of 90%.
Given those two facts, is it really all that awful that federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced last Wednesday that Ottawa would be scaling back the health benefits claimants receive while waiting to learn their fate?
Kenney explained that beginning in June, Ottawa will no longer foot the bill for prescription drugs, dental care, eye exams and glasses or “mobility devices” such as canes, walkers or prosthetics for citizens of other countries who are in Canada awaiting a refugee hearing.
Kenney’s reasoning? “We do not want to ask Canadians to pay for benefits for … refugee claimants that are more generous than what they are entitled to themselves” through their provincial health plans.
He added the move is also aimed at “taking away an incentive from people who may be considering filing an unfounded refugee claim.”
Our benefits are so generous that lots of refugee claims are nothing more than bogus attempts to skip the lineups for regular immigration and cash in. Many claimants are benefit shoppers rather than victims of persecution.
To hear the opposition talk, you’d think Kenney had implemented mandatory flogging of claimants.
New NDP leader Thomas Mulcair called this week’s benefit cuts “scandalous behaviour.” Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Bob Rae maintained this was nothing more than an attempt to “whip up hostility to refugees.”
Huh!?
How is it hostile to legitimate refugees to want to keep claim-jumpers from clogging up the system?
Indeed, if Kenney can reduce the number of bogus asylum-seekers, isn’t that good for true refugees? If there are fewer bogus claimants gumming up the system, won’t that help those with legitimate claims get heard faster and find safe harbour here sooner?
Kenney has long believed (and quite correctly) that if his department can reduce the number of claimants who arrive in Canada by weeding out those unlikely to be successful before they even leave their own countries, then our refugee system will be better able to protect those who truly face discrimination, persecution or even death in their homelands.
To this end, in the past three years he has also increased the number of countries from which visitors to Canada require visas. This permits foreign-based Canadian diplomats to identify potential sham claimants before they even board a plane headed here.
Kenney has also changed federal policy so that claimants arriving here without proper documents — such as the boatloads of Tamils and others who periodically pop up on the West Coast in rust bucket ships run by human smugglers — must wait in secure camps or barracks while their applications are vetted.
Formerly, they were allowed to disperse into the general population while awaiting adjudication. From there, it was almost impossible to locate and deport them if their claims were rejected, which so many ultimately were.
Kenney is aiming at reducing the time it takes to get refugee decisions from almost two years to just 60 days. And he would like to see the appeal process for failed claims reduced from six levels to just three or four and the delay time cut from nearly five years to just 12 months.
All of this outrages the New Dems and Libs, as well as immigration and multiculturalism advocates. But is it really all that outrageous that Canada should want to be a true asylum rather than a doormat?