I'd like to thank the committee for the invitation to speak today. Today I'd like to speak about one of the central concerns of this report, and that is visa policy. In particular, I'll speak about the relationship of visa policy to security.
Visas, as you know, are one of the primary tools in Canada's immigration management regime. Even though the final decision remains with the border guard at the border, visas are an important way that border decisions are processed.
I would argue, and I think we all agree, that neither security nor liberty can be gained in zero sum and that they are not separate. We cannot balance security and liberty. We cannot be free without being secure, and we cannot be secure without being free. Those are both goals at the same time, so the question for me, when it comes to visa policy, is this: how can we make the most secure visa system while retaining our uniquely Canadian version of liberty?
At present, Canada's visa requirements are determined on a country-by-country basis. The Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism makes an individual country report based on a number of factors: growth, migration figures, the security of the travel documents, fraud, rates of refugee claims, and the like. However, these country category visas are blunt instruments. In the words of , the visa
...is a very blunt instrument.... It undermines Canada’s commercial and diplomatic interests. It’s a necessary tool to use in a managed immigration system but you want to only [use it as a last resort.]
To give a clear example of this, I can point to the Czech visa crisis. In March 2009, Canada imposed visa restrictions on Czech Republic nationals because of a large influx of refugee and asylum claims and a corresponding rise in the number of fraudulent claims and the number of abandoned claims. While a large number of these claimants were Roma who claimed persecution by the Czech state, and who indeed received asylum when their claims were processed through the IRB, Canada argued that the large influx led to a greater amount of fraud, and that a visa needed to be applied.
I'd like to note that the proportion of asylum claims did not diminish; it was simply that the number increased.
This led to two kinds of turbulence for the Canadian government. First, it led to a diplomatic perturbation, kerfuffle, tension—I don't know what the appropriate diplomatic language is—and has led to an issue between Canada and the EU because, although Canada is free to impose a visa on the Czech Republic, the Czech Republic, because of the Schengen agreement, is not free to impose a visa back on Canada unless all the EU puts a visa on Canada.
This may seem academic—I'm a professor, so I suppose all things seem academic to me—and it may seem abstract, except that Canada needs the ratification of the Czech Republic and all EU members for the ratification of the comprehensive economic and trade agreement, which is crucial for Canada. The EU is Canada's second-largest trading partner after the United States, and this visa issue is in the way of that ratification.
Second, I would argue that the visa issue puts into question Canada's upholding of its international legal obligations by pre-emptively restricting the ease of mobility for Czech nationals and thus restricting their ability to claim asylum. I'm happy to answer more questions on that later.
To repeat, I think that country visas are blunt instruments, but then we need to ask what the alternatives are. Officials have intimated that there is in the works a “next generation visa program” that will sharpen visas and allow Citizenship and Immigration Canada to reach below the national threshold and make individual assessments based on what we call tombstone data—name, date of birth, place of birth, gender—and on biometric data, including photographs and fingerprints.
First, I would like to know what the plan is, and I hope you will ask that question also, because it is not clear to me. We have heard hints about it, but I don't know what the shape of it looks like, so I'm going to go on what other countries do and ask the question about how this next generation visa could possibly work.
Canada will collect data. What will it compare this data to? There are two primary ways in which the United States and Australia use the data they find in this kind of tombstone data and biometric data recovery: compare it to watch lists or generate profiles. Both of these policies fail. Neither profiling nor watch lists work as a deterrent, either for terror or for asylum—let me be clear. The shoe bomber, Richard Reid, fit every criteria of a profile that you would wish. He even had the beard. He was travelling on a brand-new passport, recently applied for. He was travelling on an international flight without luggage. He had no return plans. He was cross-examined for six hours the first day and seven hours the second day. He still got on the plane and managed to light his shoe on fire. That's because the profile system gets you so far, but because he was seen as a British citizen and therefore not of high risk, that didn't go further. Secondly, Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber, was on a watch list and yet still was not apprehended.
I'd like to tell you the story of a former student of mine from the American University in Cairo, who had the same name as a 9/11 terrorist. One thing we know about the 9/11 terrorists is that they are dead, but that did not stop his name from being on the watch list. My student was unable to attend the model United Nations because his name was the same as that of a terrorist. Now, I'm not saying that there is a large number of such people, but we need to be very careful about the degree to which we inherit other agencies' intelligence. You should be sure that, as citizens of the same country as Maher Arar, we would be particularly sensitive to this.
What we know about the American system for creating their terrorist watch list is that there are thousands of people dedicated to putting names on the list and perhaps a dozen dedicated to getting names off.
It seems to me that if Canada is going to use watch lists, it has two choices: we adopt somebody else's, in which case we inherit their errors without gaining any of our own security, or we use a private watch list, because some of those are available. But the dynamic with those lists—such as World-Check—is that names go on the list and they never, ever come off. Those lists are generated for banks and other kinds of financial institutions that measure risk, not guilt.
It seems that if we use profiling we are at risk, and if we use watch-listing we have a problem, so I would like to pose three questions that I hope the committee will answer during its investigations.
First, what is the plan for the next generation visa? I feel that I'm involved in this area of public policy and I have no idea.
Second, how would it avoid the problems of false positives, false negatives, and the general increased cost?
Third, I hope the committee will ask when the Government of Canada is going to invest in more science and social science investigation so that we can gain data about the efficiency and efficacy of these border security programs. I know of no government program that right now is funding research into the increased efficiency or efficacy of border security programs.
My conclusions would be three. First, without proof that these sharper next generation visa policies can effectively or efficiently target asylum claimants, potential fraudsters, or terrorists, Canada will lose economic and diplomatic advantage for no increased security.
Secondly, the next generation visa will attempt to pre-emptively stop asylum claimants without any process of appeal or justification.
Third, and finally, Canada has no independent, non-governmental policy capacity to evaluate border security strategies. As such, Canada, since 2002, is reacting in terms of its border strategy rather than acting. I think the difference between the shared border accord and the western hemisphere travel initiative demonstrates that clearly.
I'd like to thank the committee again for taking visas seriously as part of border security. I think it's important and it's under-studied.
Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee.
As you may know, I'm a criminal defence and immigration and refugee lawyer here in Vancouver.
I began my career at the Immigration Prevention Centre, in the Montreal region, while I was studying law. That's where I really discovered immigration security issues.
As I speak Spanish, I work a lot with Spanish speakers.
I'll start with an example of one of my clients from El Salvador. He was a police officer in El Salvador. He was involved in the investigation and ultimate incarceration of I think more than 200 gang members. He was hunted down by the gangs and ultimately had to flee, because his country, the police, couldn't provide protection for him.
He came up through the United States, where he was found not to be an asylum-seeker because of some technicalities in the law of asylum in the United States. He ultimately has found a home in Canada. Although he did not become a protected person here, for reasons I won't get into, he hopes one day to become a police officer here.
I think it's important to understand the situation in El Salvador. Why am I talking about a small country in Central America? El Salvador, aside from being a corridor for the transit of drugs, which is directly related to our policies of drug prohibition in Canada and the United States and other places, is also currently in a battle with very powerful gangs. Two of those gangs are Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street. The 18th Street gang refers to a street in Los Angeles, California, in the United States. The Mara Salvatrucha gang also started in the United States.
Why are these powerful forces now overwhelming the authorities and the safety situation in El Salvador? In large part it's as a result of policies of removal and deportation both from Canada and the United States, but primarily in the United States, where we saw gang members being removed back to El Salvador, Honduras, and other countries in Central America, and the citizens like my client who would arrive here and, for example, hopefully one day become a police officer here, would be able to stay.
Now, we have no indication to say that immigrants or people arriving from other countries have a higher rate of being involved in gangs, but for those who are involved in criminality or in other forms of behaviour that challenge security, one of the solutions we use is to send them back. The impact of that in other countries is absolutely devastating. What I'd like to talk to you about today is the fact that it is directly related to Canada's security. It's directly related to a vision of Canada's security as to whether or not we see our security as creating, or whether we even have the ability or the desire to create, a gated community in which we have the illusion of being secure.
In my submission, that's not the vision that Canadians...or that it is a long-term vision. I would submit that, in the end, security is always going to be a trade-off. There is always a trade-off with any kind of security. There is no absolute security and there never will be.
You heard the professor talk about security and liberty. There are obviously other trade-offs as well. This committee has talked a lot about exit controls. Whether or not they could increase security in the immigration system, checkpoints are clearly very powerful security tools. Checkpoints are used in many countries as very powerful security tools, not just limited to borders but throughout the country. In many countries, there are military checkpoints throughout the national territory, and it's a very powerful security tool.
Now, there's obviously a cost associated with that tool. There's a cost in terms of economic costs, there's a cost in terms of time, of inconvenience, and the resulting loss of privacy and freedom that comes with those trade-offs.
But we shouldn't have any illusions...that there's always a trade-off when we're talking about security. So when we talk about imposing exit controls, or when we talk about removing individuals who pose a danger to Canadians, we have to understand that there are trade-offs.
I would hope, and I would encourage the committee, when we're considering Canada's short-term security interests today, that you also consider what our long-term vision for Canada's security is. What kind of world, what kind of Canada, do we want our grandchildren to live in? Do we want to have a gated community where we live behind walls in fear of what's on the other side, in fear of letting people pass through the walls, or in the hopes that in some fictional world we might be able to keep all of the bad people outside the walls?
I'm going to submit to you that this is not a realistic vision, that many of the security problems or the problems we have in our society are inside the walls, and that those we send outside those gates are not going to go away. They do directly affect Canadians in the sense that our friends and relatives live in those countries. Our neighbours' friends and relatives live in those countries, as do your constituents'. I would imagine that you'd be hard pressed, even with the small number of members on the committee, to find a single country in the world where you could send a dangerous individual and there would not be constituents in your ridings affected in terms of their friends and families being put at risk, and their security affected.
Ultimately, although these are complicated questions, I would hope that when we consider the security of Canada we also have a vision for the bigger picture in terms of the impact and in terms of what the long-term vision for a secure Canada looks like.
I am happy to answer questions, but those would be my opening remarks.
Thank you very much for your time.
Madam Chair and honourable members, many thanks for inviting me to share my thoughts with the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
I appear before you as a common citizen deeply apprehensive and concerned about the drift of our country as it changes due to the rate of immigration, which is without precedent among any of the advanced liberal democracies of the west. My expertise, or to the extent my expertise is recognized by this committee, at which I have been invited to appear, is that of a professional academic, researcher, writer, author, and public intellectual of some recognition in this great country of ours. I'm proud and humbled to come before you as an unhyphenated Canadian.
Before I share with you my perspective on immigration, let me state at the outset that I support all measures under consideration that modern technology provides for securing our borders, monitoring those who seek to gain entry into Canada, those who arrive here without proper documentation and claim refugee status, and the legions of those outside Canada who want to come here as immigrants. I believe it is a no-brainer to work towards a more secure Canada and to implement smart cards, biometric systems, and other tools that are available now or will be in the future.
I have no doubt on this matter that were we to have the thoughts of our founding fathers inform us, and those remarkable leaders who have come after them, such as Laurier and King, Pearson and Trudeau, Knowles and Douglas, they would remind us that a constitution agreed upon by a free people to provide for, as John A. Macdonald put it, “peace, order and good government”, is not a suicide pact.
In the small amount of time I have before you, I want to stress upon the first principle behind the immigration policy as it has evolved since the country's centennial year and as it presently stands.
It is needless to remark that Canada is an immigrant country. Our history tells us, as we should know, that it was immigrants from Europe over the past several centuries who built this country. On the whole, they built it well, indeed so well that Canada has come to be an eagerly sought country for people from around the world, including me. Here is the point: at some stage of Canada's historical development since at least 1867, those who built Canada in the early years of its history could have reached an agreement to close the door to immigration, but they did not. They believed the strength of their country would be maintained through a judicious policy of accepting new immigrants from Europe. The key point I want to emphasize, and I have written about this at length in the public media, is that they all believed that immigration judiciously and carefully managed, and I emphasize “managed”, in terms of numbers and source of origin of immigrants should be such that the nature of Canada as a liberal democracy would not be undermined.
It is numbers and the nature of numbers that matter and, given the nature of things, determine how existing arrangements are secured or undermined. Since the open-door immigration policy was instituted around the time of Canada's centennial year, the nature of immigration into Canada started to change from what had been the pattern since before 1867 to around 1960. During the past 50 years, immigration from outside of Europe, from what is generally designated the third world, has rapidly increased in proportion to immigrants originating in Europe.
Furthermore, given the revolution in transportation and the introduction of wide-body transcontinental jetliners that have made mass travel economical and easy, the distinction between immigrant and migrant workers has been eliminated. This means—and it is not simply in reference to ethnicity—that Canada is rapidly changing culturally in ways our political elite, media elite, and academic elite do not want to discuss. The fact that this is not discussed or that it is driven under the carpet does not mean the public is not keenly aware of how much the country has changed in great measure in a relatively short period. If this pattern continues for another few decades, there's the likelihood that Canada will have changed irrevocably, and not necessarily for the better in terms of its political tradition as a liberal democracy.
In terms of the first principle, we need our governing institutions and those individuals we, as Canadians, send to represent us to boldly re-examine our existing immigration policy and rethink it in terms of what it represents and how it will affect the well-being of Canada in the years to come. I do not need to remind you that any policy, however benign or good the intent is behind the making of such policy, is riddled with unintended consequences. History is a paradox. What you intend is not how things turn out in the long run, and not even in the short term. Pick any example you want, think it through, and see for yourself the paradoxical nature of history and how it surprises us by confounding our expectations.
I have at hand a recent publication of Statistics Canada, Projections of the Diversity of the Canadian Population: 2006 to 2031. In other words, this projection affects me and what remains of my life, but more importantly it affects my children, my students, my friends, and my neighbours.
Your views, as our representatives, are critical and will affect all of us. You will be responsible, in terms of our history, if you take your place in these hallowed halls with the seriousness it demands, for the good and the bad that come out of your decisions.
Let me quickly, time permitting, point out from this Statistics Canada publication the following.
One, given the nature of our immigration policy since 1960, the foreign-born population is growing about four times faster than the rest of the population. Consequently, in 2031, there will be between 9.8 million and 12.5 million foreign-born persons compared to 6.5 million in 2006. The corresponding number in 1981 was 3.8 million.
Two, according to Statistics Canada's projections, the population estimated for 2031 will be around 45 million, with 32%, around 14.5 million people, being foreign born.
Three, one more interesting and critical figure is the cultural and religious makeup of Canada in 2031. The fastest growth, according to the report, is “the Muslim population...with its numbers tripling during this period. This increase is mainly due to two factors: the composition of immigration...and higher fertility than for other groups”. The figures are, for Muslims, in 2006, around 900,000, constituting 2.7% of the population, and rising in 2031 to around 3.3 million, constituting 7.3% of the population.
If the level of immigration in Canada is being maintained and defended on the basis of the need to deal with the problems of Canadian society in terms of aging population, fertility rates among Canadian women, skilled labour requirements, and maintaining a growth level for the population consistent with the growth of the economy, then this policy needs to be re-evaluated. We cannot fix the social problems of Canadian society by an open immigration policy that adds to the numbers at a rate that puts into question the absorptive capacity of the country, not only in economic terms, but also, if not more importantly, in cultural and social terms, and what this does to our political arrangement as a liberal democracy.
The flow of immigration into Canada from around the world, and in particular the flow from Muslim countries, means a pouring in of numbers into a liberal society of people from cultures at best non-liberal. But we know through our studies and observation that the illiberal mix of cultures poses one of the greatest dilemmas and an unprecedented challenge to liberal societies such as ours, when there is no demand placed on immigrants any longer to assimilate into the founding liberal values of the country to which they have immigrated. Instead, a misguided and thoroughly wrong-headed policy of multiculturalism encourages the opposite.
It is no wonder that recently German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, among other European leaders and a growing body of intellectuals, have spoken out in public against multiculturalism and the need to push it back and even repeal it.
I have written a book on the wrong-headed policy of multiculturalism, published recently under the title Delectable Lie: a liberal repudiation of multiculturalism.
Time forbids me to discuss this matter in any length, but I would like to leave the following paradox with you.
We may want to continue with a level of immigration into Canada annually that is about the same as it is at present. We cannot, however, continue with such an inflow of immigrants under the present arrangement of the official policy of multiculturalism based on the premise that all cultures are equal when this is untrue. This policy is a severe, perhaps even a lethal, test for a liberal democracy such as ours.
This means we cannot simultaneously continue with both the existing level of immigration and official multiculturalism, and we must choose one or the other for the preservation of our liberal democratic traditions.
If we persist, we will severely undermine our liberal democracy, or what remains of it, compromise the foundation of individual freedom by accommodating group rights, and bequeath to our children and unborn generations a political situation fraught with explosive potential for ethnic violence, the sort of which we have seen in Europe in the riots of the banlieues, the suburbs of Paris, and other metropolitan centres.
In conclusion, I want to emphasize that we need to consider lowering the number of immigrants entering Canada until we have had a serious debate among Canadians on this matter.
We should not allow bureaucratic inertia to determine not only the policy but the existing level of immigrant numbers and source origin that Canada brings in annually. We have the precedent of how we selectively closed immigration from the Soviet bloc countries during the Cold War years, and we need to consider doing the same in terms of immigration from Muslim countries for a period of time given how disruptive is the cultural baggage of illiberal values that is brought in as a result.
We are, in other words, stoking the fuel of much unrest in our country, as we have witnessed of late in Europe.
Lest any member wants to instruct me that my views are in any way politically incorrect, or worse, I would like members to note that I come before you as a practising Muslim who knows out of experience, from the inside, how volatile, how disruptive, how violent, how misogynistic is the culture of Islam today and has been during my lifetime, and how it greatly threatens our liberal democracy that I cherish, since I know what is its opposite.
Sir, we can always do a better job under any circumstances. That's not the issue I'm concerned about.
Until this policy of multiculturalism was introduced, we were a liberal democracy. We are still trying to be a liberal democracy. We have created a situation...and again the Europeans are not confronting it, but we have created a situation here. The implicit premise of multiculturalism is the fundamental philosophical issue we are dealing with. The fundamental premise of multiculturalism is collective identity, because it says all cultures are equal, which is a flatly untrue statement. All cultures are not equal. You cannot equate liberal democracy.
Liberal democracy is not a colour issue, by the way. I think that's where people get confused. Liberal democracy is a fundamental issue premised on individual rights. Historically, a liberal democratic system has best dealt with the vaguest contradictions in bringing about a good society.
We can deal with all the problems that arise by eliminating the argument that we have imported into our own makeup as a society that all cultures are equal. That leads to all sorts of consequences.
That's why I said history is a paradox. We can consider any situation and it is the unintended consequences that flow. I would remind you, and I have written about this extensively, that our late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, during his last visit to these hallowed halls, expressed regrets when he was asked a direct question about his thoughts on multiculturalism as the father of official multiculturalism.
These are footnotes that you can go through.
The paradoxical result has been that we have been stripping away the fundamental rights that exist in a liberal democracy. No right is more fundamental than the right of free speech. We have contorted things and created all sorts of problems. We're going to make even more problems as the numbers grow, because our political institution tries to adapt to those numbers. We try to accommodate those numbers and we are then held to those numbers. That's the nature of politics. It is nothing new that we are inventing, especially in democratic politics.
It's all about numbers. The numbers are going to lead to things evolving in a certain way. We are already seeing the signs of that evolution taking place.
The problem with the Islamic world has been the global challenge that came at the beginning of the 21st century with 9/11. It's not going to phase out so quickly. It's a historical challenge, just as the challenge of communism was throughout the 20th century.
When you raise the question about expenditures, maintenance, health care, and so on, we will need those resources. We will need those moneys. We will need to keep our economy going.
I come back to the fundamental nature of our society. There is that paradoxical relationship between where we are in terms of a multicultural society and a free and open country with the levels of immigration, the numbers. Within a generation the two things will lead to circumstances that I'm inviting you, because we send you here to represent us, to look at. This is not a hypothetical matter. This is a matter of being able to clearly forecast where we are headed. We are headed toward dangerous problems. Europe is already showing us where we are headed.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Mansur, thank you for coming in today.
I for one believe that Canada's multiculturalism is something that Canada and Canadians take pride in. I represent one of Canada's most diverse ridings. It's something that constituents have told me time and again: how much they value our multicultural heritage. Over 90% of my constituents are actually considered new immigrants or immigrant populations. Canada's multiculturalism supports feelings of pride, respect, and connection to one's culture and heritage, which of course furthers newer immigrants' sense of pride in their new home, Canada.
Myself, I am a Canadian of Tamil heritage. As you said yourself, I am not a hyphenated Canadian; I'm a Canadian. But I also value my heritage and feel that it adds a lot to me, to my identity, and to what I will be leaving for my children, my grandchildren, and my community. I know that I have been able to make a bit of a contribution, and I will continue to make much more of one because of that heritage that I understand, know, and am proud of.
Multiculturalism protects one's ability to act in accordance with one's cultural beliefs or practices, but of course within the limits of the law. We know—as in some of the examples that my colleague mentioned earlier—that oppression exists within all cultures and countries. Racism, sexism...these are why we have laws to protect people in our country.
With a history of discriminatory policies like the residential schools, of course, or the Chinese head tax—exclusionary policies—I don't believe this is something we should be doing. This is probably not the direction we want to be heading in with our immigration policies in the future: further exclusionary policies or discriminatory policies like the Chinese head tax.
My question for you relates to what many Auditors General have mentioned. One after the other they have stated that there are serious flaws with how our current immigration laws are administered. Officers have no idea who should be coming to Canada, as they do not have specific or enough information to make an assessment on the admissibility of applicants. Additionally, there is a lack of performance reviews, of guidance, and of training provided to officers who are making these decisions.
Do you have any comments on the Auditor General's recommendations?