26 October 2012

Mr. Kenny's arbitrary guidelines

As part of a new bill enhancing the powers of the immigration minister, Jason Kenney has revealed new guidelines he would apply to deny entry to foreign nationals. Currently, visitors can only be denied entry for criminal or national security reasons. Kenny's guidelines would allow the immigration minister to bar:
• People who promote terrorism, violence or criminal activity.
• Corrupt foreign officials.
• Foreign nationals from countries against which Canada has imposed sanctions. 
Consider the first of these: "People who promote terrorism, violence or criminal activity." Former U.S. President George W. Bush and former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair both promoted violence, probably illegally, against Iraq. Should we bar them from Canada? Or how about Barack Obama's assassination by drone—is that violent enough, or criminal enough, to make him persona non grata?

Then there's "Corrupt foreign officials." Russia's government is corrupt from top to bottom. Would we deny a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin? Indeed, there might be quite a few heads of state on this list.

As for denying entry to "Foreign nationals from countries against which Canada has imposed sanctions," why would we not allow Canadians, particularly those who disagree with the sanctions, an opportunity to hear from the other side? This is simple censorship, and has more to do with protecting government than protecting Canadians.

The point here is that the proposed guidelines are highly arbitrary and obviously subject to political whim. Mr. Kenney referred to Florida preacher Terry Jones as an example of the kind of person who should be denied entry. Jones, with his anti-Muslim high jinks, is certainly an undesirable specimen, but why not let him in and if he engages in hate speech, charge him under the appropriate Canadian law. This would not only teach him a well-deserved lesson but effectively discourage other hate-mongers who entertain the idea of visiting our country. And it would be achieved by due process, not by the arbitrary powers of a government minister. Such arbitrariness is to be discouraged, not enhanced.

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