Human geography
3 min

Jason Kenney’s hollow words

Sunday was World Refugee Day, and our lovely immigration minister, Jason Kenney, put out a lovely release about how great Canada has been for things like resettling Iraqi refugees and for increasing the number of spaces for resettling people in Turkey, many of them Iranians fleeing persecution for their sexuality.

“I can’t imagine more legitimate grounds for protection than those who are facing potential execution in Iran for their sexuality,” the minister said. “These are people who are clearly in need of protection, and Canada has already received a number of gay and lesbian Iranian refugee claimants through the UNHCR, typically through Turkey.”

Ahem. If Jason Kenney was really worried about refugees who are persecuted for their sexuality, then he would have listened better to the queer groups and other refugee groups who appeared before the immigration committee when studying Bill C-11, which was reforming the refugee process. Kenney was hell-bent on getting the safe country of origin list implemented, a move that would have seriously affected the chances of queer refugee claimants. Now, that was eventually blunted through negotiations with all parties (while Kenney played partisan games by taking swipes at the Liberals once the deal was reached).

While the list was still implemented – albeit in a blunted form – there are still pressing concerns for queer claimants. The biggest complaint is one of timelines – the new law will see that strict timelines are implemented for interviews and hearings for claimants, and experts have said that those timelines are not good enough for most queer claimants and that it will disadvantage them. Not that it matters to Kenney, who is apparently looking for ways to expedite deportations and denying as many claims as he can as “baseless.”

For Kenney to wrap himself up in this rainbow flag of concern for queer Iranian refugees when you take it in the larger context of Kenney’s previous actions of taking a hell-or-high-water approach to the aforementioned provisions in C-11, his personal excision of queer rights from the citizenship guide, and his previous stance and statements on same-sex marriage (like how gays and lesbians could always get married – but to persons of the opposite sex) – it all rings hollow. Sorry, but he hasn’t won any points on this one.

(Speaking of C-11, it’s before the Senate social affairs committee today, and I’ll be there to cover the proceedings).

Otherwise, today is twenty years since the collapse of the Meech Lake Accords, which is being marked by Quebec separatists to name a few. Meanwhile, a new Ottawa-based think tank says the federal government needs to flex its muscles to tear down interprovincial barriers, which flies in the face of Meech’s attempt to give the provinces more powers. There are some compelling arguments for having a stronger federal government – which goes against the Harper ideology of provincial firewalls and a hollowed-out federal government presence.

While the government gives itself an A for “achieving” its aid commitments, actual aid groups are casting a whole lot of doubt, given that foreign aid is being frozen, and they still haven’t lived up to their 0.7 percent of GDP promise.

Michael Ignatieff supports
the west coast oil tanker ban – not that this is a surprise for anyone
who’s paid attention to Question Period in the last two months.

What’s that? Harper is playing politics by not inviting opposition leaders to meet with other world leaders when they visit? You don’t say!

And on that note, there is more grumbling about the way the government is handling the Queen’s visit. It seems that so far, only Conservative MPs have been invited to the Queen’s garden party at Rideau Hall, but no opposition MPs. The PMO says invitations simply haven’t been issued yet, but seriously? It’s the sovereign. They don’t have to be so petty.
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