(This column was published in the North Shore News on Oct. 17, 2001)

 

Refugee controls must change

By Leo Knight

FOLLOWING a month of virtual inactivity and collective navel gazing, the federal government has tabled its new anti-terrorist legislation.

 

Judging from the way the Ministers of Justice and Immigration are talking we should all relax. Everything will be alright.

 

But, frankly it isn't going to be legislation that is going to protect Canadians, it is going to have to be a change in attitude.

 

Just last week Toronto Sun reporter Tom Godfrey broke a story about 50 Afghan and Pakistani refugees being allowed into the country and released by our oh-so-generous refugee process. Many of the supposed refugees had no identification.

 

They were simply believed and released with a refugee kit telling them how to access our medical, welfare and legal systems.

 

The ministry denied the story. But when pressed by Godfrey, a ministry spokesperson said there were 29, not 50, and quibbled about which countries they had arrived from.

 

Frankly it doesn't matter whether there were 29, 50 or two, and their travelling point of origin is irrelevant. They were Afghan and Pakistani nationals without identification. They should be held in detention until their claims can be reviewed and all security screening has been completed. Period.

 

Bad enough this type of thing should happen in normal times, but at a time such as this and in the same weekend as the Prime Minister announced we were joining the U.S. in the war, is unthinkable.

 

Despite all the rhetoric dished out by the government, it's business as usual.

 

Terrorists can enter this country as refugees. They can keep their mission secret by simply flushing their travel documents down the bog in the plane. And we simply let them go on a promise to appear before a review board at some point in time in the future. They then simply get lost in the woodwork and infiltrate into the U.S.

 

This is not to say that all Afghans and Pakistanis are terrorists. But some are. And others are sympathizers. And unless people show up here with official and verifiable documents and can pass a rigorous security check, they should not be let free. This may not seem like rocket science to me and thee, but the concept seems lost on the federal government.

 

o o o

 

Some of the guys who lace 'em up regularly at the North Shore Winter Club have been telling me to take in a Giants game at the Coliseum. The concept of going to watch some quality hockey without having to rewrite the monthly budget was appealing.

 

So, on the weekend, along with friends and their two kids, my good lady wife and I ventured off to a game in the venerable old rink. The game itself was very enjoyable and memories of Canuck games past were plenty.

 

But one thing that was clear is that the management of the PNE still doesn't get it. At the end of the first period, I went off to get a beer for me and some popcorn for the missus. Simple, right?

 

The concession nearest our seats didn't sell beer, so I was directed over to the centre concourse area. After standing in the queue in front of the taps, I was told I needed to purchase a ticket from a longer line right beside where I was standing.

 

Once again in a queue, I struggled to the front to purchase one ticket and then returned to the original line to actually get the beer.

 

Beer in hand, I walked back to the original concession to get the popcorn. Another queue. When I got to the counter, I was told they don't sell popcorn at that concession, only hot dogs, burgers and fries. I was directed back to the centre concourse.

 

Another queue. Popcorn finally in hand I returned to my seat having missed the first eight minutes of the second period. Needless to say, that was the last dollar the PNE got out of my pocket that night.

 

Now it's true that liquor laws in this province are antiquated. But there is nothing in the statute that warrants treating people like that. GM Place and BC Place do it right so why does the PNE think it is still the 1970s?

 

For the Giants to succeed, they need to make the experience fun, inexpensive and family oriented. The club has held up their end. The Coliseum finally has a regular tenant. It's high time the PNE took a look at their creaking old way of thinking.

 

Oh, and maybe do something about the pot-smoking loudmouths every one in the section, including the kids with us, were bothered by, but security seemed incapable of locating.

 

-30-

 

 

 

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