Opinion: Canada must protect its border

When a hospital emergency ward tends to patients seeking help, it usually strives to assist those in greatest need – a practice referred to as triage.

Canada’s system of admitting afflicted newcomers should share the same goal. The Trudeau government, knowing loose immigration laws are a magnet for a sizable bloc of voters, has jettisoned such compassion in advance of this fall’s election.

It has revoked a policy put in place by Stephen Harper’s government that recognized not all refugee claimants experience the same desperate conditions. It distinguished between asylum seekers from so-called safe countries such as the United States and those fleeing strife-stricken parts of the world.

The idea was to streamline a congested system that neither serves applicants nor Canadians. The applications of asylum seekers from 42 nations that do not normally produce refugees, and display respect for its citizens, were to be accelerated.

Their claims were to be heard within six months and weren’t subject to the same appeals other applicants enjoy.

Such claimants could also only work in Canada for six months and weren’t eligible for the full range of health benefits available to other refugees.

The measure seemed a reasonable attempt at discouraging abuse of Canada’s compassion. Presumably, people with an imagined grievance wouldn’t be as likely to seek the generosity of Canadian taxpayers if they knew their case would be dealt with swiftly.

More importantly, the country’s efforts could be focused on continuing our unparalleled reputation for opening our arms to those in need.

Trudeau’s earlier decision to turn a blind eye to irregular asylum seekers crossing the border between Canada and United States by land never did meet this test. It has eroded the principle of a sovereign nation controlling its own borders.

Now, the government is treating an asylum application from an American in a hissy fit over Donald Trump’s presidency the same as it handles the case of someone arriving from a country where true oppression exists.

Today, Americans amount to the third largest number of so-called refugees. The numbers will only grow larger.

The Harper policy was well intentioned, but sadly, it didn’t lead to a speedier handling of asylum-seeking cases. But neither has Trudeau’s management of immigration.

The Canadian Press reports refugee claims have tripled over the past four years.

In 2015, the year Trudeau was elected, there were approximately 16,000 asylum seekers. Last year, there were 55,000 claimants, most of them younger males, and many of them from the United States.

Canada will always welcome those in need of shelter. It’s what we do. It makes us stronger.

But further clogging up the immigration system, all the while allowing people to walk across the border unchecked, doesn’t help anybody.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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