Academic journal article Refuge

Wonderous Strange: A Reply to the Myth of the Evil Refugee

Academic journal article Refuge

Wonderous Strange: A Reply to the Myth of the Evil Refugee

Article excerpt

The article entitled "Reforming the Canadian Refugee Determination System" advocates for a return to policy-based refugee decision making which cloaks political whims in the robes of immigration officials. In proposing an increase in Canada's resettlement of persons found to be refugees abroad by immigration officers, a restriction on inland claims through quotas, enhanced safe third country designations, and a withdrawal by Canada from the United Nations accession to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Collacott appears to advocate for the creation of a Canadian fortress state, immune from the tedious task of allowing the free flow of asylum seekers through our borders and a determination of asylum claims in an open, fair, and impartial manner. At the heart of this article is an apparent belief that the fundamental right to life, liberty, and security of the person, as entrenched in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is the due only of Canadians. Foreign nationals have no such rights, at least on Canadian soil, and can be dealt with in any fashion deemed politically expedient by the ruling government.

The historical record of the conduct of the government of Canada in its treatment of foreign nationals has been anything but admirable. The case of Manickavasagam Suresh springs to mind. Without the intervention of the Ontario Court and then the Supreme Court of Canada in Suresh v Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, (1) Manickavasagam Suresh, my client, would have been detained in Sri Lanka, tortured, and in all likelihood summarily executed. The policy of the government of Canada in that case, as argued by lawyers for the Department of Justice, was that torture was an acceptable consequence for a person such as Suresh, found to have engaged in raising funds for a terrorist organization while in Canada. Canadian government officials at first attempted to deport Suresh and avoid court intervention by obtaining so called assurances from their Sri Lankan government counterparts that Suresh would not be tortured upon return to their country. Our government believed that a promise from a regime which routinely tortured and murdered its enemies would be enough. When the Ontario Court in reviewing the evidence of the Sri Lankan government's conduct quickly dismissed these assurances as implausible, the Canadian government then argued that torture would somehow be an acceptable consequence for someone like Suresh. In invoking section 7 of the Charter, the Supreme Court of Canada decided that a risk of torture to this foreign national was not justifiable and stopped Suresh's deportation. In doing so, they relied on a previous decision of the Court Collacott seeks to have somehow erased from history, the Singh decision of the Supreme Court. Suresh is alive today because Madam Justice Wilson and three of her fellow judges in Singh (2) approved the principle that protections of life, liberty, and security of the person in section 7 extended to citizens and non-citizens alike.

I fail to accept that most Canadians would approve of a system which allows our government to deliver a victim to a foreign power to suffer the most grotesque treatments imaginable, merely because the person concerned was not born or nationalized in Canada. The following is a recitation of the practices of the Sri Lankan government into whose hands our government sought to send Suresh:

   Methods of torture included electric shock, beatings (especially
   on the soles of the feet), suspension by the wrists or feet in
   contorted positions, burning, and near drownings. In other cases,
   victims are forced to remain in unnatural positions for extended
   periods, or have bags laced with insecticide, chili powder or
   gasoline placed over their heads. Detainees have reported broken
   bones and other serious injuries as a result of their mistreatment.
   There were no reports of rape in detention. (3)

It bears mentioning that prior to the Second World War, Canadian officials had conducted themselves deplorably in their treatment of Jewish refugees seeking asylum in Canada from Nazi Germany. …

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