Marie Henein, a renowned lawyer and senior partner with Henein Hutchison who achieved some fame (or infamy) for her vigorous and successful, albeit somewhat controversial defence of Jian Ghomeshi, has taken aim at both President Trump and CPC leadership candidate Kellie Leitch in an opinion Piece in the Globe and Mail.
“Acting on facts serves us well, she say, but “Except, it appears, in the current political climate. George Orwell warned about the perversion of political thinking in 1945, when he wrote “… the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome … The most intelligent people seem capable of holding schizophrenic beliefs, or disregarding plain facts, of evading serious questions with debating-society repartees, or swallowing baseless rumours and of looking on indifferently while history is falsified.”
“Last week,” she continue “U.S. President Donald Trump imposed a 90-day ban on nationals from seven countries. With a simple stroke of a pen and no apparent meaningful analysis, consultation or direction to those asked to enforce the ban, people have been excluded from the United States. The rationalization for this extraordinary act is that it is necessary to protect Americans against the terrorist threat. No one would dispute this goal. But let’s put outrage aside for a moment – it rarely gets you to the right answer. It’s the diagnosis here that is wholly missing … [and, here] … In Canada, copycat politicians are waiting in the wings. There are proposals to screen refugees, immigrants and visitors for “anti-Canadian values” – all utterly useless. How do you assess whether someone is “anti-Canadian”? If someone is coming into this country to commit an act of terror, surely they will be devious enough to lie about their “values.” There is no evidence to support the efficacy of extreme vetting much less its need. We Canadians will not be one iota safer a result of hysterical vetting or ill-advis” ed bans.“
“Facts actually matter,” Ms Henein repeats, in case we didn’t get it the first time “In Quebec City, we know the targets of a mosque shooting were Muslim. The person in custody is a Canadian. Anti-Canadian values vetting would not have stopped this. We know that none of the 9/11 hijackers were from the seven countries on the ban list. Neither were the San Bernardino, Calif., shooters or the Garland, Tex., shooters or the Fort Hood shooter or the Orlando nightclub shooter. Many of the recent terror attacks inspired by the Islamic State were carried out by homegrown Americans, not refugees fleeing war-torn countries.“
“These executive orders,” Marie Henein concludes, “are nothing more than cheap political theatre. They are certainly not based on evidence. What they do is successfully divide the public through fear and incitement. Crisis politics and populist policies inflame rather than inform. Banning people doesn’t create jobs and doesn’t make us safer. We deserve more than a politically expedient anti-immigrant tweet. Or bans. Or silly slogans. Or vetting.“
I have taken issue, several times, with Dr Kellie Leitch; not about values ~ I share her view that we need to enunciate and “live” some core values ~ but, rather, about how best to inculcate those values. I don’t think screening refugees or immigrants will work: as Ms Henein says, “If someone is coming into this country to commit an act of terror, surely they will be devious enough to lie about their “values.”” In my opinion, we need to enunciate and propagate our core values to all Canadians, newcomers and “old stock,” alike.
Please note that Ms Henein doesn’t say that we don’t need values nor that we don’t need immigration controls; what she says is that they need to be based on facts, not emotions or blind prejudice. Just a couple of day ago I said that “Our immigration and border control/security systems should remain absolutely and resolutely “colour blind” and oblivious to gender, race or creed, but it should always learn from experience and it, and the rules that govern it, should always be adaptable to changing circumstances and conscious of the fact that we share a continent and many common security concerns with the USA.” In other words we should use facts ~ facts about e.g. crime and welfare rates and abuse of immigration rules ~ not our own, personal beliefs (no matter how sincere) to decide who gets into Canada at all and then to decide how easy it is to become a Canadian citizen. The rules need to be continuously variable, based on observed, proven facts, to meet our, national needs, not those of foreigners (including President Trump, although his opinion matters) or partisan politicians. We have a pretty good, points based, system. The only things lacking are:
- To remove partisan political interference; and
- Assign adequate (quantity and quality) resources to do proper immigration management, including face-to-face screenings.
Refugees are another matter. We, Canadians, are a generous and caring people. We want to help. But, it is not clear to me that the best way to help refugees is to bring them to Canada. Refugees are those who are fleeing their homes in fear of live or limb … most “belong” in their homes and many want to go back. Too many refugees, especially in the Middle East, are hostages to political disputes, but, that aside:
- The best way to help refugees is to remove the condition that causes them to flee ~ this is also the least likely course for Canada (or anyone in the US led West) to adopt because it means taking punitive military action against sovereign states just because governments abuse their citizens ~ it’s that whole Responsibility to Protect (R2P) thing about which Canada crowed loudly in the 1990s, when “Pink Lloyd” Axworthy was angling for a Nobel Peace Prize, but which iCanada is terrified of doing;
- The second best way to help refugees is to partner, in the regions, with responsible countries like e.g. Jordan to do better at providing refuge near “home.” This is, most probably, less expensive that resettling refugees in Canada but it still involves taking action; and
- The least good ways to help refugees is to settle them in a strange land in which they lack the social and practical skills to succeed. But, it is often the most popular way because it provides the best “photo ops” ~ a critical concern when policy is being made by public relations hacks and flacks rather then by officials.
We need immigrants, we want and should help refugees. We should have both immigration and refugee polices that serve our own, national, vital interests and they should be based on fact, not prejudices.