May 18, 2016 • No. 15 | PDF Previous Issues
The Presentation of Canada as a Refuge
In typical Liberal divide and rule style, the much-touted apology of Trudeau to “the Sikh community” is another example of using the experience, pain and suffering of one community to cover up and perpetuate the same that is happening to those considered “others” today.
The cover-up is not only of what is happening to that community but to many others, which means to Canadian society itself. In this way, Liberal divide and rule uses the part against the whole in the name of the well-being of both the part and the whole. This includes the promotion of the chauvinist notion adopted during the Cold War period of Canada as a “refuge.” The impression created is that immigrants are not brought to this country for economic and political reasons but out of respect for humanity and diversity. Setting the record straight, Azeezah Kanji, a legal scholar based in Toronto, authored a most pertinent article in the Toronto Star following the April 11 announcement that the Prime Minister will apologize to “the Sikhs” in the House of Commons on May 18.
Azeezah Kanji asks a most appropriate question:
“Will Canada’s Prime Minister 100 years from now find herself apologizing to the descendants of migrants kept out and locked away in the name of preserving the border? Or will our current Prime Minister reform immigration law and policy to protect all those ‘seeking refuge, and better lives for their families'” forestalling future shame and remorse?”
Kanji provides information on the situation facing migrants today, 102 years later.
“Apologies can be a balm for injuries still felt many years after infliction. But apologies can also misleadingly relegate the source of injury to the past, disguising continuities with the present. While the goal of a ‘white Canada’ has officially been abandoned, the treatment of many migrants as dangerous ‘invaders’ persists.
“Migrants are the only population in Canada that can be incarcerated for long periods of time, without being charged or convicted of any crime; thousands are detained every year, including hundreds of children.
“The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act gives the Canadian Border Services Agency broad powers to detain migrants if they believe they are a flight risk, a danger to public safety, inadmissible to Canada on security grounds, or inadequately identified. The vast majority, 94.2 per cent, are detained on grounds other than posing a security threat. Since 2012, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act has also imposed mandatory arrest and detention for all migrants designated as ‘irregular arrivals,’ including children as young as 16.
“The law may appear neutral, but effectively attaches punishment to circumstances commonly connected with migration and asylum-seeking, particularly for the most vulnerable: ‘irregular arrival’ using smugglers; lack of identity documents; fear of deportation to the country one has fled, leading to application of the ‘flight risk’ label. The most recent data made available by the government shows 7,300 were detained in 2013.
“And Canada — unlike many other countries — permits migrants to be detained indefinitely, often in maximum-security prisons. At least 14 have died in Canadian immigration detention since 2000, including Melkioro Gahungu and Francisco Astorga just last month.
“The exclusionary force of the border is also exerted far outside the boundaries of Canadian territory, preventing ‘undesirable travellers’ (in the terminology of the border services agency) from arriving in Canada at all. Such ‘undesirable’ migrants are ‘intercepted’ at airports or at sea long before they reach Canada, allowing the state to deny them the Charter rights owed to people physically present on its territory. The border is transformed into ‘something more malleable and movable,’ explains law professor Ayelet Shachar, ‘which can be placed and replaced . . . in whatever location that best suits the goals of restricting access.’ Between 2001 and 2012, Canada intercepted over 73,000 migrants offshore, many of whom were likely refugees.”
On the occasion of Trudeau’s apology in the House of Commons, and all the hype which will accompany it on the part of the other political parties in the House of Commons and the monopoly-owned media, Renewal Update calls on Canadians to repeat Azeezah Kanji’s question:
“Will Canada’s Prime Minister 100 years from now find herself apologizing to the descendants of migrants kept out and locked away in the name of preserving the border? Or will our current Prime Minister reform immigration law and policy to protect all those ‘seeking refuge, and better lives for their families,’ forestalling future shame and remorse?”
1. “Many migrants are still treated as dangerous ‘invaders,'” Azeezah Kanji, Toronto Star, April 17, 2016.
MLPC Highlights Need for Political Movement Led by the Workers
The Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada (MLPC) is organizing discussions across the country in light of the government’s program on electoral reform to emphasize the need for the working people to develop their own political movement for empowerment.
The MLPC, the name under which the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) is registered for electoral purposes, held a meeting on May 7 at the Party’s Workers’ Centre’ in Toronto addressing the challenges facing the workers’ movement which discussed these questions. A report in TML Weekly May 14 discusses the contributions at the meeting and informs about the government’s program of reforms. The meeting featured contributions from Rolf Gerstenberger, President of the MLPC, Pierre Chénier who is known for his work on bringing to light the conditions of workers and Anna Di Carlo, National Leader of the MLPC.
Anna noted that the Liberal program of electoral reform basically consists of changing the way that votes are counted and translated into seats in the House of Commons. This serves to divide the polity into camps which favour one method of counting votes over another while the fundamental question of the crisis of democracy itself is not even broached. It serves to glorify voting as “the most basic democratic exercise” precisely at a time when the people are saying that voting every four or five years is not enough. The people need to focus on the problem of the party system of government itself and how it works to keep them out of power, and on how the electoral law enshrines privilege and arbitrariness, as illustrated by the methods proposed by the Liberals for consultation and decision-making about electoral reform.
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Anna concluded by pointing out that the objective problem which electoral reforms must address is that of enabling all members of the polity to participate in the decision-making process so that they can exercise control over the direction of the economy and all matters in the social, political, cultural and any other domains. Reforms that do not address this problem should more precisely be referred to as negotiations and renegotiations of the mafia arrangement of the ruling elite to continue to exercise their domination over the electoral and political process and ensure the political marginalization of the people. They have nothing to do with enabling the people to exercise control over the affairs of the society.
A motion has been put forward in the House of Commons by Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef to create a Committee on Electoral Reform to deal with proposals on alternative voting systems.
The Committee is described as “All-Party” but two of the parties in the House of Commons will not be permitted to vote and the 18 registered political parties without seats in the Parliament are not mentioned in the motion or government announcements. Liberal MPs are to have a majority on the Committee, which has already drawn serious objections from the opposition in the Parliament. The motion sets out what the government says are the principles which will be used to evaluate alternative voting systems. It also directs the Committee to invite each Member of Parliament to conduct a town hall on electoral reform in their riding and provide a report on input from constituents. The Committee is also to consult experts, organizations, studies and review models of reform elsewhere. A “national engagement process” will include consultation through written submissions and online tools. The deadline for the Committee to submit its report is December 1, 2016 while consultations from local MPs are to be completed by October 1.
Commenting on the roll-out of the Liberal plan for electoral reform, Anna Di Carlo, National Leader of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada, stated that the MLPC will seriously study what the Liberals are proposing, both the content the government party is putting forward and the process it is proposing to use to consult Canadians. It will involve workers, women, youth and seniors in considering the various questions involved and in deciding how to respond. The MLPC will also elaborate on its own proposals for electoral reform to empower Canadians.
She added that from first glance, there are several worrisome aspects.
“The unequal treatment of political parties is clearly embodied in this first step that the Liberals are taking. It does not bode well. If we limit our consideration to the issue of eliminating the first-past-the-post system, one of the key problems is the marginalization of political parties that do not support the status quo and are fighting for alternatives. This is not just the marginalization of political parties such as the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada, it is the marginalization of the people who hold political views that do not correspond to those of Canada’s ruling elite, particularly the vast number of people who oppose the anti-social neo-liberal agenda. Starting off by not even mentioning the existence of all of Canada’s registered political parties makes a mockery of the claim that the Liberals want to make ‘every vote count.'”
Anna also expressed concern about the time frame set by the Liberals.
“It does not at all look serious. Students will be away from their institutions, so their important collective input will be sacrificed. In any case, five to six months to conduct this kind of study and consultation and make recommendations, including gathering and reporting on the opinions of the people in 338 ridings, is more than a tall order. Anyone harbouring illusions about the Trudeau government actually giving the people a say on electoral reform will be disappointed,” Anna said.
For more information about the government’s plan to change the first-past-the-post system, click here.