Danielle Smith: Minister Ralph Goodale is wrong about Canada’s refugee claimant system

Border crossing.
Crossing borders, is it easy?. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

There’s nothing wrong with Canada’s immigration and refugee system. Or so says Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

When the system failed by letting in Abdulahi Husan Sharif, the Somali refugee who is accused of stabbing an officer and attempting to mow down pedestrians in a U-Haul on a busy Edmonton street Saturday night. And when asked if it pointed to a problem in our refugee processing system, Goodale said: “There’s no evidence of that whatsoever. The investigation is ongoing, but that conclusion is just not supported by the facts.”

I beg to differ. The entire refugee approval system is in a shambles.

We are supposed to have a Safe Third Country agreement to prevent refugees from country shopping for a favourable ruling. If someone is denied in the US, you would think that would mean they would be denied here too. So then why would Sharif – who was denied status in the U.S. in 2011 – be allowed to enter Canada through a regular border crossing in 2012?

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WATCH BELOW: Questions about how Abdulahi Sharif came to Canada

Click to play video 'Questions about how Abdulahi Sharif came to Canada' Questions about how Abdulahi Sharif came to Canada
Questions about how Abdulahi Sharif came to Canada – Oct 2, 2017

READ MORE: Abdulahi Sharif, accused in Edmonton attacks, ordered deported to Somalia in 2011: U.S. officials

I spoke to Raj Sharma, a Calgary immigration lawyer, who said the only reason he could think of is if Sharif claimed to have family in Canada. When I asked if he would have had to provide proof of that at the border crossing, he said that was unclear. That sounds like a loophole that is begging to be closed. Even if he does have family here, that seems to negate the intent of the Safe Third Country agreement. Besides, why didn’t he apply here first?

Also, how could the U.S. lose track of someone who was supposed to be deported? Turns out, it happens all the time here, too. There’s an estimated 100,000 illegal immigrants living all across Canada.

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To also discover that Sharif was investigated for extremist views in 2015 and nothing was done about it is a further head-scratcher. Why wasn’t his refugee status stripped so he could be deported then? Turns out it’s not that easy to deport someone back to Somalia. They won’t accept them. That makes it easier to understand why Somalia is on the list of countries under the new U.S. travel ban.

This is especially relevant as we face an influx of illegal immigrants from a multitude of countries via the United States at an unofficial border crossing in Quebec. None should be approved on that basis alone – they are coming from the U.S.

Instead, they are taking their chances coming to Canada and it is becoming clear why. Shareen Benzvy Miller, the head of the Immigration and Refugee Board’s refugee protection division, told a House of Commons committee that of the 600 claims processed so far, 50 per cent have been rejected. That means 50 per cent have been approved.

As Sharma points out, that’s going to be like waving the all-clear to any other claimants who would come to Canada by way of the U.S. If you have a 50-50 chance of getting approved, why not give it a shot? The Safe Third Country Agreement no longer exists in any meaningful sense and Canada is woefully unprepared for what could be a deluge.

READ MORE: 32,000 asylum seekers entered Canada, 6,000 work permits awarded, 9 deported: officials

There are an estimated 60,000 Haitian refugees in the U.S. and another 300,000 from other countries that have to leave the United States by the end of January under new policies from the Trump administration. It is not hard to imagine Canada’s borders and processing centres getting completely overwhelmed. And if it takes too long to process these claimants, they could be granted status by default in a few years on “humanitarian” grounds. The notion is once they’ve put down roots, it would be cruel to kick them out.

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Meanwhile, a gay Afghan man who is trying to come to B.C., told the CBC he fears for his life as he awaits approval to seek refugee status after he was outed by the Afghan police. He has a Canadian sponsor and he faces clear danger. He’s trying to come to Canada the proper way, by applying via the Canadian Embassy in Pakistan, but he is estimated to have a 65-month wait ahead of him. His sponsor isn’t sure if he will make it that long. NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan is asking the government to intervene as a matter of urgency.

So we have a refugee system that ignores the Safe Third Country agreement, refuses to deport known security threats, loses track of those who are denied and should be deported, gives priority to the applications of those who come to Canada illegally and grants automatic status if bureaucratic bottlenecks cause lengthy delays. But, it makes legitimate refugees wait as long as five years in dangerous situations before considering their requests.

LISTEN: Raj Sharma, a Calgary immigration lawyer

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Don’t you worry though – there’s nothing wrong with the refugee processing system. I’m not buying it.

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