The federal government announced this month that it’s inviting public input on the future of immigration detention. Canadians who have impeccable citizenship credentials will be invited to weigh in on whether and how people who find themselves on the wrong side of our border with incomplete paperwork should have their habeas corpus rights recognized or abrogated.
Democracy is all well and good, but this is a transparently cretinous and cynical charade. It brings to mind Jean Chrétien’s bluntly apt adage, originally uttered at the turn of the millennium on the subject of a potential referendum on same-sex marriage, that “you don’t let a majority decide on the rights of a minority.”
We have a special stake in this question here in Peterborough because many of those on administrative holds arising from immigration issues are held, by virtue of the grimmest of federal-provincial partnerships, in the provincial superjail in Lindsay, a half hour down the highway. As remote as the issue may seem, our fate is tied, via a major employer in the region, to the fate of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet.
Now, in a perfect world, this process would allow engaged citizens who are not at all ignorant or cretinous to passionately and clearly urge the Canadians government to stop storing people in jail waiting to be deported. In a perfect world, though, the Canadian government would stop of its own volition, or after the immorality and illegality of the current system has been clearly outlined by advocates, or would never have settled on such a system at all.
There is of course no guarantee that any of this will happen, or that citizen engagement on the issue will be even the slightest bit enlightening. Given the election of Donald Trump, a hateful bigot who tapped into xenophobic rage, as President of the United States last year, it is quite conceivable that a majority of Canadians believe that jailing people indefinitely on the basis of where they were born makes perfect sense. So what if they do?
Illustration by B Mroz. Photo courtesy Jobs For Felons Hub.