That’s the general tenure of the positive media coverage the Harper regime has earned from the announcement this week that several thousand more Canadians will have their citizenship wiped away by the mighty pen of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. The reporters love it. So do the crowds. Over at the CBC, where the comments section usually is at least modestly balanced (still crazy, but full-spectrum crazy, not Sun Media crazy), support for Kenney appears to be basically unanimous.
There’s nothing like illegal immigrants, it seems, to send our country into a foaming, irrational rage. That quote was the first sentence in the Globe & Mail’s fawning praise of Kenney, and it typifies the quality of our national media. I didn’t “earn” my Canadian passport. The majority of my readers didn’t “earn” their passports. Most of the Globe’s editors probably didn’t earn their passports, and Jason Kenney didn’t earn his either. So don’t give me this nonsense.
More to the point, it’s frankly astonishing that the government could announce it was exiling 3100 citizens of this country without raising a peep of at least apprehension from the national media. I’m not defending fraud here. Fraud should be identified. But are mass revocations really the best way to do it? And do you really trust this government to do it without being require to go to court and prove their case?
Let’s not forget what’s going on here. We’re taking the solemn word on this of a man who spent his formative years crusading as an anti-abortion activist at a religious school in California and who has, in just the recent past, ordered political critics barred from entering the country, staged bogus citizenship ceremonies for the benefit of the news media, and argued that he doesn’t have to allow Canadian citizens — genuine ones, mind — back into the country because as a Cabinet minister he is above the law. This is the man you’re trusting when he says that he’s satisfied that 3100 Canadians acquired their citizenship fraudulently.
What rot. I’ll bet Kenney can’t even name, off the top of his head, all the people who are about to be subject to his revocation orders. Go ahead, Jason. Try. Here’s a hint: if you can’t do it, there are too many. We’re talking about people’s lives here. There is no acceptable margin of error.
Second, and mainly because the immigration law was never intended to be used for purposes of mass deportations, Kenney will not even be following the normal due process that the government has to follow when someone is accused of committing a crime. They don’t have to find the person in question. They don’t have to bring them to court. They don’t have to present any evidence of fraud in front of a judge.
Instead, as soon as the Cabinet signs off on the order, the government will send a registered letter to the last known address of each person on the list. If they don’t hear back within 30 days that the person has retained a lawyer and filed suit in court to challenge the order, that’s it. Goodbye, citizenship. It’s not even guilty until proven innocent when it comes to citizenship revocation: the government doesn’t even have to present evidence of your guilt in a public forum unless you get the letter in time, get to the courthouse, and force them to.
It seems that, in the present case, the government will not even be announcing the names of those so targeted. CBC (at that link) claims that even the Cabinet orders authorizing the revocations do not name the individuals who will be subject to them. That sounds kind of unlikely to me, but if it’s true, it makes the matter even more disturbing. Am I really to believe that the government of Canada has the power to strip me of my citizenship without arresting me, without charging me, without presenting evidence against me, and without even naming me?
Third, although none of this is good, there are some steps that the government could take to assure Canadians that it is not targeting innocent people in this matter:
- What percentage of the people targeted are living in Canada? Previously, Kenney has argued that mass revocation of citizenship is necessary because many people who don’t even live in Canada have obtained citizenship papers through fraud. So far, Kenney has chosen to conceal from the public how many of the people he has targeted are actually living abroad.
- What process has the government followed to ensure that everyone who has been targeted is actually guilty? This one should be an obvious point. So far, nada.
- How many mistakes have been made in the past? Last July, the government kicked off its current wave of exiles with an announcement that it would revoke 1800 citizenships. What happened in those cases? How many filed in court to protest the decision? Were there any who turned out to be innocent? What was the error rate?
- How many people are tasked with tracking down bogus citizens? Citizenship and Immigration apparently has about 5000 employees. They say they’ve identified 11,000 suspected cheats so far, of which the 3100 named so far are just the second batch to come (after the 1800 announced last year). How many civil servants are involved in this escapade matters, because we need to know how seriously the government is treating this, and how careful they’re being.
We also need to hear how long these people have been living in Canada. Did these people get their citizenship while Jason Kenney was in office? If so, it would be an admission of spectacular incompetence and inexcusable negligence, so it’s unsurprising that he wouldn’t want to admit it. Did they get their papers years ago? Did they all “buy” their citizenships through bribery, as Kenney has implied to the press, or are many of them guilty of lying on their application papers? What sort of a profile do the targeted people fit?
This is a government which has proved incapable of managing a work order as simple as a few hundred new trucks for the army, which has repeatedly proved unable to prosecute (or accept responsibility for) blatant acts of electoral fraud and illegal lobbying, and has publicly confessed that it lacks the managerial skills necessary simply to process the backlog of applications its own austerity policies have caused to build up in the Employment Insurance and immigration offices. It has argued in federal court that its ministers are above the law, and it has made similar statements to Parliament, on those occasions where it wasn’t blatantly lying to Parliament. It has intervened in border security cases to block political critics from entering the country, and it has pilfered tens of millions of dollars from the border security budget to create an infrastructure slush fund for the personal riding of the current President of the Treasury Board (the department responsible for ensuring that all government money is spent appropriately).
And now you expect me to believe, without any evidence, without even any names, but purely on official say-so, that this government has found 3100 Canadians who committed fraud and will therefore be stripped of their citizenship?