Re: Faith in immigration must be preserved, by David Marsden, Opinion, Jan. 22.
Where do I start with David Marsden’s recent column?
In the social media age, we are all able to have our own platform to express our thoughts and opinions.
As managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate, Marsden has one more platform than most. However, columns must be factually accurate, and the words used to express editorial opinions must be chosen with care.
Marsden has failed in his duty to both these things, and in so doing, is contributing to the rising anti-immigrant sentiment in Canada by spreading the politics of intolerance, fear and division.
First, the facts. As Marsden surely knows, but fails to acknowledge, immigration in Canada is governed by a mix of international and national laws. Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”
Grounds for such protection were first established in 1951 and 1967 respectively, and included protection from persecution based on race, caste, nationality, religion, political opinions and social groups.
Protections based on gender and for sexual minorities were added in the 1990s.
On this basis, Canada is legally obligated to consider the case for asylum of any person entering our country, whether at regular or irregular border crossings. And while considering the validity of such claims (through health and security checks, document checks, etc.), Canada has an obligation, both moral and legal, to provide the basic necessities for these claimants.
Those whose claims are deemed valid will be allowed to stay in Canada.
Those whose claims aren’t will be required to leave. But everyone deserves due process under international law.
Marsden also says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “is allowing thousands of people to simply walk across the border we share with the United States without resistance,” and describes asylum seekers as “trampling across the border.”
What would Marsden and others critical of Canada’s approach have us do, build a wall? Use tear gas? Separate families like the U.S. is doing under President Donald Trump?
Surely not. Such an approach is neither morally nor legally right.
People will find ways to cross and we must give them due process when they do.
Marsden also doesn’t discuss why irregular border crossings into Canada are on the rise.
Many factors are involved, most of which are outside Canada’s control and can instead be attributed largely to recent changes to U.S. laws that make minorities feel threatened.
Under Trump, some people of colour and those with different faiths no longer see the U.S. as a safe place.
That’s the unfortunate reality. Some of these same people see Canada as a much safer alternative, and with the Canada/U.S. border being the longest undefended border in the world, and then add in the international Safe Third Country agreement, and voila, many people are crossing into Canada at irregular crossings because they feel they have no other choice.
I also take issue with Marsden’s choice of deliberately inflammatory language throughout the column to try to support his argument that immigration in Canada is under threat.
He describes irregular border crossers as having “trampled across the border,” showing “disregard for Canada,” and uses words like “cheapen,” “pander,” “abandoned a thoughtful approach” and “allowed all comers” to describe Canadian immigration policy.
Language like this is inflammatory and is meant to anger without informing.
He cites no research to back up his claims or to lend any validity to his view that faith in immigration is being “cheapened” by considering the legal claims of asylum seekers.
Words and phrases like these are meant to divide, and to feed into the anti-immigrant sentiment that is growing in Canada and around the world. I expect better from a professional journalist.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t address Marsden’s comments about the recent high-profile case of Canadian asylum granted to Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, the 18-year-old Saudi woman famous for using Twitter to draw attention to her plight.
He asks, “was she the most likely to invest and create job opportunities, or contribute to our country’s cultural or intellectual wealth?”
That question has no bearing here.
The only question Canadians need ask is this: was al-Qunun in grave danger if she was returned to Saudi Arabia, a country with an abysmal human rights record (especially for women)?
Unequivocally, yes. None other than the United Nations Refugee Agency determined that al-Qunun’s claim for asylum was valid. On that basis, Canada offered it.
Such a brave woman will undoubtedly add much to our country, as Marsden demands above, but her right to asylum here is self-evident regardless.
Marsden is new to the Red Deer Advocate but he has had a long career in journalism, according to his profile on the Advocate website.
As such, I hope that in future, he will be more careful with his fact checking and his choice of words when expressing his thoughts.